Experts, teachers, and employers agree that a college degree is a necessity if you want to be successful in the workplace. Unfortunately, getting that degree is more expensive than ever. Many students walk off the college campus for the last time saddled with debt that will take them years to pay off. Scholarship money is out there for the taking, but it’s difficult to know where to start. To make the choice a bit less burdensome, here are 25 of the best college scholarships in the country.
1. Buick Achievers
Every year, American car company Buick gives out a $25,000 scholarship through their Achievers program. Better yet, the scholarship is renewable each year, meaning that a student could conceivably have their entire college career paid for even if they attend the most prestigious university around. In addition to the grand prize, Buick also awards scholarships in the amount of $2,000 to 1,000 other applicants. To be eligible, you must be looking to enter an automobile-related field or intend to major in design, business, or engineering. Awards are given based on each applicant’s financial need, grades, community service, and more.
2. Phi Theta Kappa Honor Society Scholarships
Most scholarships focus on high school students entering college for the first time. Phi Theta Kappa, an academic honor society, helps those students looking to transfer from community college to a full four year school. In conjunction with corporate sponsors, the organization has scholarships ranging anywhere from $1,000 to $7,000. Unlike many awards, this scholarship is not given out by a central organization. Rather, students should look to their own colleges for disbursement funds.
3. KFC Colonel’s Scholars Program
As part of giving back to the community, many of the country’s biggest fast food chains offer academic scholarships to students. KFC, America’s top fried chicken destination, awards up to $5,000 each year to their successful applicants. Eligibility requirements include proof of an entrepreneurial spirit, financial need, and a job. Yep, KFC requires renewal students (those accepting money beyond a single year) to work at least 10 hours per week, though not necessarily for the restaurant.
4. Miss America Scholar
If you’ve ever dreamed of competing in the Miss America contest, you might be eligible for a prize beyond the fabled tiara. Unlike the pageants, however, which are judged on criteria such as beauty and poise, the scholarships are awarded based solely on academic merit. Applicants are requried to submit their transcripts for the previous two years of study. Open only to women, the $1,000 Miss America Scholar Award is given to one applicant from each state.
5. Robert H. Goddard Scholarship
Funded through the National Space Club, the Robert H. Goddard scholarship is given each year in memory of one of the country’s greatest pioneers in the field of rocket science. Open to students who hope to obtain undergraduate or graduate degrees in science and engineering, the scholarship is worth $10,000. Unlike many scholarships, the Goddard award is open only to those who are at least juniors in college.
6. Talbots Scholarship Program
The Talbots Charitable Foundation is behind this award, one of the most lucrative in the country. Each year, the foundation awards up to 17 $10,000 scholarships and one $30,000 prize. Applicants must be women living in either the U.S. or Canada, hold a GED or high school diploma, and plan to attend an accredited college.
7. BK McLamore Foundation
Joining KFC in the quest to finance the best and brightest, Burger King established this scholarship in memory of co-founder James McLamore. To date, the program has given out more than 17,000 awards, making it one of the most prolific scholarships in the country. Award amounts range anywhere from $1,000 to $50,000 and applicants are judged on work experience, GPA, extracurricular activities, and service to the community.
8. Milton Fisher Scholarship
The Milton Fisher Scholarship for Innovation and Creativity is one of the few academic award programs that doesn’t care about your grade point average, your race, your gender, or your community service. Instead, the judges focus on students who can demonstrate innovation and creative thinking. Eligible applicants must either be from Connecticut or New York or be planning to attend college there. Awards include several $20,000 prizes.
9. The American Legion Oratorical Contest
Concerned with spreading knowledge and awareness regarding the U.S. Constitution, the American Legion Oratorical Contest is aimed at high school students under 20 years of age. Local post competitions are held, with winners moving on to the national stage to compete for a grand prize $18,000 scholarship. These competitions are based around speeches concerning the Constitution.
10. Microsoft Imagine Cup
In terms of academic competitions, they don’t get much more audacious than the Microsoft Imagine Cup. Open to students from around the world, the events are designed to encourage participants to create inventions that could potentially change the world. With a total of $300,000 given out each year, the competition is fierce. Projects are judged on a variety of criteria, including viability, team motivation, solution design, and more.
11. The Jackie Robinson Foundation
With the film 42, a new generation of kids were introduced to the story of legendary African American baseball player Jackie Robinson. But his legacy lives on through more than stories; the Jackie Robinson Foundation gives out scholarships of up to $7,500 each year to minority students. Eligible applicants must be minorities graduating from high school with a minimum SAT score of 1,000.
12. Thomas G. Labrecque Smart Start
Created by banking institution J.P. Morgan Chase, the Thomas G. Labrecque Smart Start program is a prestigious scholarship open to NYC seniors. Eligible applicants will be planning to attend a 4 year university in NYC and carry a minimum GPA of 90%. Benefits of the scholarship include a paid internship with J.P. Morgan Chase and a yearly allowance for books and other supplies.
13. The Coca-Cola Scholars Program
There are very few institutions as overwhelmingly American as Coca-Cola. While their products have fueled more than a few all night study sessions, they have directly contributed to many a student’s tuition. Based around achievement, the scholarships are given to 250 worthy seniors in high school every year. Of these, 50 of them come in the form of full, 4 year, $20,000 scholarships. Another 200 are $10,000 prizes, making this one of the most coveted awards in academic funding. Applicants must have a minimum GPA of 3.00.
14. Top 10% Scholarship Program
Few state programs have done as much for students interested in going to college as Texas’ Top 10% Scholarship Program. Put simply, the government-sponsored program ensures that anyone who graduates in the top 10 percent of their class is eligible for up to $2,000 in financial aid. Applicants must be planning to attend a public Texas university and be able to demonstrate financial need.
15. Marshall Scholarship
One of the most rewarding opportunities for any young student is the chance to study abroad. Unfortunately, the costs of such an excursion are typically far in excess of what a family can afford. This is where Marshall Scholarships come in. The organization selects up to 40 U.S. students each year to study for a year in the UK at a graduate level university. Travel fees, tuition, and living expenses are all covered. Eligible applicants must have their 4 year degree from an accredited college.
16. Rhodes Scholarship
Possibly the most prestigious scholarship in the world, the Rhodes Scholarship attracts thousands of candidates each year. Successful applicants must be between 18 and 23 years old and be on track to receive their bachelor’s degree on or before the following October. Judges require a college endorsement, 5 recommendation letters, a personal essay, and more. Tangible benefits include a year or two of study at Oxford University in England with full tuition paid. The benefits of having “Rhodes Scholar” on your resume, however, are incalculable.
17. National Merit Scholarship Program
Few organizations give out as much money as the National Merit Scholarship Program. Applicants must have taken the PSAT by grade 11, be an enrolled high school student, and have plans to attend college following graduation. Single payment awards in the amount of $2500 are available, as well as college and corporate sponsored awards which may be renewable each year.
18. Stuck At Prom Scholarship
For high school students who aren’t afraid to get a bit sticky in their quest for funds, the Stuck at Prom Scholarship (offered by Duck Brand duct tape) could be just the ticket. The competition encourages students to design prom dresses and tuxedos from duct tape. While more lighthearted than most scholarships, the prizes are no less real. Students can win up to $5,000 for their design.
19. Dell Scholars
Another example of corporate America giving back, Dell Scholars is funded by the Michael & Susan Dell Foundation. Eligible participants must have been participating in one of the Foundation’s college readiness programs for at least two years, be on track to graduate high school during the current year, and carry a minimum GPA of 2.4. Winners receive $20,000 each year towards their education, making this one of the most lucrative scholarships available.
20. AXA Achievement Scholarship
The AXA Achievement Scholarship awards a single-time prize of $10,000 to one winner from each state. Among these 50 winners, 10 will be eligible for an additional $15,000 and a possible internship with AXA. Eligible applicants will include seniors in high school and college students. Judges award prizes based on academic achievement, demonstration of ambition, community activity, and more.
21. Segal AmeriCorps Education Award
Named in honor of national service pioneer Eli Segal, the AmeriCorps Education Award is designed for applicants who have successfully completed a term of service in the AmeriCorps program. The highest prizes are determined to match the maximum value of the Pell Grant for the year in question. In 2012, that amount was $5,550.
22. Collegiate Inventors Competition
There are countless examples of successful American inventors whose academic achievements may have failed to hint at their true potential. The Collegiate Inventors Competition recognizes that some students need a different outlet to show their stuff. The competition is based solely around invention practicality and awards a top prize of $12,500. The CIC is open to full time U.S. and Canadian college students. Teams are also welcome to compete, in which case at least one member of the team must meet the full-time student requirements. The remainder of the team can be comprised of part-timers.
23. Pell Grant
Without question, the Pell Grant is the most popular scholarship award in the country. Eligible applicants are determined through the use of the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA), a form every incoming college student should fill out. As of 2012, the maximum award is $5,550, with the amount determined by the student’s full-time/part-time status, financial need, and academic plans. Unlike student loans given out by the government, students are under no obligation to pay back their Pell Grant money after graduation. This makes the award particularly tempting for those who would like to embark on their career journey without a significant debt load.
24. Davidson Fellows Scholarship
The Davidson Fellows Scholarship is a competition for those students who can demonstrate the completion of a significant work in the areas of science, technology, mathematics, music, or any of the eligible fields. Eligible applicants are 18 years of age and younger and can stand to win up to $50,000 for their work.
25. Golden Key International Honor Society
The Golden Key Society is an exclusive invitation-only organization with chapters in more than 400 colleges and universities around the world. As the largest collegiate academic society in the world, Golden Key gives out more than $600,000 in scholarship money each year to worthy members. The society’s scholarship page lists current awards and the unique application process for each one.