How to Get Scholarships in High School & Help Pay for College

Thursday, January 11, 2024
Scholarships Pay For College

Finding the right scholarships to apply to is difficult. Applying to them is harder. And being accepted by them can be one of the hardest parts of going to college. Everybody wants scholarships. Some people need them. And it is important to keep that in mind when you begin your search for the right scholarships. So, if you’re interested in learning how to get scholarships in high school to help pay for college, then you’re making a very smart investment of your time. 

Scholarships for high school students are among the most popular awards available by grade. Getting an early start in applying for scholarships while in high school can dramatically increase your chances of earning more money to help pay for college. In turn, you can significantly reduce the overall cost of your college tuition. 

Whether you’re a high school senior or a forward-thinking freshman, it’s never too late (or too early) to start pinpointing scholarships worth applying for. 

In this post, we share a few tips to help you find relevant and attainable scholarships to help you pay for college:


Start with FAFSA

For college-bound high school students based in the U.S., the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) is one of the most well-known places to start. By submitting your FAFSA forms, you can see the financial aid you qualify for, including scholarships, federal grants, state grants, campus-based aid, and low-interest student loans. 

Whether through Federal Pell Grants, State Grants, or scholarships, most packages will offer some amount of free aid, especially if you demonstrate financial need. Since grants and scholarships do not require repayment, exhaust these options before applying for loans through FAFSA or other private lenders. The more effort you put forth now in getting all the federal funding you can, the less overwhelming your student loan debt will be after you graduate.


Find Local Scholarships

Unlike some private scholarships in which hundreds and thousands of students are applying for, local scholarships are often far more attainable. A good first place to start is to check with your high school's guidance counselor. If organizations are smart, one of the first places they will promote their scholarship is through counselors in the high school guidance office or career center.

If you haven't visited your high school's guidance office, now is the perfect time. Guidance counselors are often the first to know about local scholarships in your community and are very knowledgeable about the financial aid process. You may not even have to make an appointment to see a counselor, as some guidance offices provide bulletin boards dedicated to showcasing local scholarships available throughout the area. And it never hurts to have an ally to support you through this difficult time. 

Another approach is to try reaching out to state or local agencies. Nearly every state offers local scholarships that are intended for residents only. In some cases, these scholarships may be limited to those attending public colleges or universities, or are only open to students pursuing careers in public service or government. Through state and local agencies, you may also discover scholarship opportunities open to low-income families, minorities, nontraditional students, and students seeking careers in high-demand fields. 


Try Scholarship-Specific Search Engines

Starting your scholarship explorations by just typing the word “scholarships” into Google can be quite daunting. In most cases, you'll end up with thousands of search results, and the vast majority of them will be completely irrelevant. Investing your time and energy using a few online scholarship search engines is much more convenient. You can use these to narrow your search to find the most relevant and attainable scholarships. 

For the last search engine mentioned above, be sure to check out the state-specific scholarships in your local area.


Join Member-based Organizations Like NSHSS

Joining member-based organizations designed for high-achieving students can open a world of possibilities for landing scholarships. Because most of these organizations offer exclusive scholarships only available to members, the chances of winning are dramatically greater.

The National Society of High School Scholars (NSHSS) is the perfect example of one such organization. Members of NSHSS are eligible to apply for scholarships in the areas of academic excellence, entrepreneurship, leadership, literature, medicine, music, STEM, sustainability, visual arts, and much more. In addition to helping you pay for college, the scholarships offered by NSHSS can also help you explore opportunities to study abroad, get involved in summer programs, and even attend graduate school. To get started, learn more about how to become a NSHSS member.

Landing scholarship money for college and taking the time to submit applications is worth the time and effort. With adequate research, you will learn how to make the overall costs of college far more manageable by earning scholarships, grants, and other forms of financial aid. And by joining member-based organizations like NSHSS, you can get a leg up in funding your college education by getting access to scholarships.