It might be surprising to know that high school juniors have the ability to apply for college scholarships. That’s right, you don’t have to wait until senior year to start applying. Certain scholarships are even designated for juniors. It’s even possible to begin applying for scholarships before your junior year.
There are thousands and thousands of scholarship opportunities out there, but it takes significant time to look through and find the ones that fit your qualifications. That doesn’t include the time it takes to fully apply for all of the scholarships that are a good fit for you.
Many scholarships require candidates to meet a certain criteria -- academic record, gender, intended major, extracurricular activities, sports, etc. Applying early gives you more time to comb through and find the ones are relevant to you, because time is of the essence.
Our point is, the sooner you start applying for scholarships, the better. You’ll feel less overwhelmed going into college knowing you have extra money in your back pocket. This can take stress off of applying for more scholarships during your senior year.
What are Scholarships?
This is not a silly question. Colleges send all incoming freshmen a financial award package that often includes a number of different awards, which can be easy to confuse. Once you decide where you’ll be going to college, you can start looking more into your institution’s financial aid.
A simple breakdown of an award package looks like -- subsidized and unsubsidized loans, grants, and scholarships. Subsidized loans will be determined by your college based on how much financial aid you qualify for, and these are better than their counterparts.
The U.S. Department of Education pays the interest on this loan while you’re in school at least half-time, for the first six months after you leave school, and during a deferment period. On the other hand, you are responsible for paying the interest on an unsubsidized loan at all times.
Scholarships are similar to grants, and you can essentially look at them as free money. Scholarships are money that is awarded to you and does not have to be repaid. The only downside is, you are responsible for finding scholarships and applying for them in order to secure that money.
As we’ve said, many scholarships come with their own set of criteria, and you’ll find that most don’t fit your qualifications. However, with time and searching, you will be able to find ones that do! The process can be overwhelming, but the important thing to remember is not to give up -- and starting early will make this process less stressful.
Before setting out to apply for scholarships, it’s good to know what qualifications you possess and what you should be looking for. This will make it easier to quickly eliminate the ones that don’t apply to you.
Ethnicity/Heritage and Citizenship
Certain scholarships are set up by members of an ethnic community and provided to young individuals of that same community. For example, you might find scholarships for hispanic women, Italian men, or black women who intend to study STEM (more on majors later).
You also need to look at citizenship requirements. Some scholarships will be for incoming international students, while others will require you to be a citizen of the United States.
Many scholarships will have requirements for your intended course of study. Certain ones will only apply to students who are pre-med or pre-law, others will be for students who plan to study STEM (Science, technology, engineering, and math). Other scholarships will be for liberal arts students -- history, literature, writing, psychology, sociology, philosophy, studio art, and more.
If you know what specific major you plan to study, then great -- you can easily narrow down the ones that don’t apply to you. If you’re undecided on what you want to study, you might have to look more broadly at scholarships or find ones that don’t have a specific major requirement.
Don’t panic, you don’t need to have a 4.0 to be required for scholarships. Some do have specific GPA requirements while others don’t. Most will require you to have a 3.0 or above, but it is possible to find ones that have no GPA requirement at all.
Keep in mind that certain scholarships come with requirements after you receive the award. For example, if you receive a scholarship from your college of choice, you might be required to maintain a 2.5 or 3.0 GPA to maintain your scholarship for the following semester/year. If you fail to maintain the required GPA, you might not immediately lose your scholarship. This will come down to the rules of your individual institution, you might be placed on academic probation, or lose the scholarship.
Certain clubs or honor societies may offer scholarships only for their members. If you are part of a small group -- your chances to receive the award are instantly boosted. Be sure to make note of everything you’re involved in and if they offer awards for their members.
The same goes for sports -- schools will make athletes offers and give them scholarships to commit to playing for their team while going to school. Division III schools do not offer athletic scholarships and this is because most student athletes will receive a merit scholarship from their institution. If you’re shooting for D2 or D1, you can receive an athletic scholarship and should register with the NCAA Eligibility Center.
Where to Find Scholarships
- State Department of Education
- Membership Based Organization
- Colleges and Universities
- Local Scholarships
- College Board
Scholarships for High School Juniors
The best place to start is to see what is available to you through a meeting with your high school guidance counselor. They should be able to give you a list of scholarships. From there, look at the individual organizations you belong to -- National Honor Society, Spanish National Honor Society, Rotary Club, etc. Last, if you have a good feeling of where you want to attend college, check your future school’s website for available scholarships and how you can become eligible for them.
Celebrate the West High School Art Competition
Amount of Scholarship: $1,500
This scholarship is presented by the Western Governors’ Association and is a regional art competition that asks high school students to create works of art inspired by their home state. The scholarship is available to high school students and home-school students in that age group. Potential recipients must live in the states of: Alaska, American Samoa, Arizona, California, Colorado, Guam, Hawaii, Idaho, Kansas, Montana, Nevada, New Mexico, North Dakota, Northern Mariana Islands, Oklahoma, Oregon, South Dakota, Utah, Washington, or Wyoming.
Crossword Hobbyist Scholarship
Amount of Scholarship: $1,000
Presented by Crossword Hobbyist, this scholarship is awarded to a student who can make the best puzzle. Making a crossword puzzle is incredibly challenging and they ask that students create an original 15x15 newspaper style crossword puzzle. Eligibility and rules can be found on their website.
EngineerGirl Essay Contest
Amount of Scholarship: $500
Presented by the website, EngineerGirl, each year they sponsor a contest for the best 1600 word essay and graphics or artwork that accompanies the essay. The contest follows engineering and its impacts on our world. Contest information and topics are posted in the fall along with a submission deadline.
Jane Austen Society of North America Essay Contest
Amount of Scholarship: $250-1,000
This contest presented by the Jane Austen Society of North America, is open to high school students, college and university students, and graduate level students who are lovers of the life and writings of Jane Austen. The essay topic is determined yearly and includes different essay requirements depending on academic level. Individual academic level requirements are also posted on the website. Money is awarded depending on three divisions -- first, second, and third place.
Persian Scholarship Foundation Recognition Award
Amount of Scholarship: $500
Presented by the Persian Scholarship Foundation, this non-profit organization strives to recognize academic excellence among students of Iranian descent that are studying in the United States. Bonus points for students who promote Persian culture, heritage, and history in the United States through leadership opportunities and activities.
To enter the contest, students must publish an essay or article through their school’s newspaper or a local/national newspaper that discusses themes related to history, culture, literature, or heritage of Iranian people. An alternate topic includes an essay on the achievements of scholars, scientists, and leaders of Iranian descent.
Straight “A” Scholarship
Amount of Scholarship: $2,000
This scholarship by the Munoz Foundation, is available to all high school students, freshmen-seniors with a minimum grade point average of 3.0 and in the Foundation’s Area of Impact. Eighteen tri-state area students, nine women and nine men, can be nominated and recognized to receive the award.
Each of these scholarships represent just how diverse and niche scholarships can be. Topics can be extremely narrow to broad, which is why we suggest looking around to find ones that are best for you. Rest assured, you will be able to find ones that fall into your category of qualifications and interests.