Financial aid that is awarded to students based on merit is called merit aid (or merit scholarships). Unlike need-based aid, private scholarships for high school juniors are awarded to students who achieve certain standards in academics and/or extracurricular activities, or who meet established guidelines.
Can a Junior in High School Apply for Merit Scholarships?
While many private scholarships are only open to high school seniors or college undergrads, there are plenty of private merit awards high school juniors can apply for. Some of these are from nonprofit organizations and private businesses. They are targeted directly to high school juniors, but others are open to candidates in a wide age range.
By securing private scholarships during their junior year in high school, your child can be thoroughly prepared to apply for colleges during their senior year knowing that some of the cost is already covered. Some scholarship recipients even receive “full-ride” awards that cover the entire cost of an undergraduate education (tuition and fees, room and board, and other expenses).
11 Scholarships for High School Juniors
There are numerous scholarships high school juniors can apply for. Here are some great options that are open to most students and don’t require an exceptional academic record or outstanding achievements in athletics or other areas.
Although there are some one-time awards, most scholarships are awarded annually. The application deadline is usually around the same time (e.g. the middle of May), but the exact date may shift slightly each year. It’s essential to verify the application deadline for the year your student will apply. Some awards favor candidates who apply earlier in the application window.
College JumpStart Scholarship
This scholarship opportunity is open to high school juniors along with sophomores and seniors. College undergrads and nontraditional students are also eligible. There isn’t a minimum GPA requirement, and financial need is not considered. Applicants must write an essay showcasing their passion for pursuing their education.
- Award: $1,000
- Requirements: Essay showcasing the applicant’s commitment to education, hard work, and perseverance
- Deadline: Mid-April
“Be Bold” No-Essay Scholarship
Funded by the Bold.org scholarship platform, this award gives $25,000 to a single winner each year. It’s open to all students at any education level, school, and field of study. Plus, there is no minimum cumulative GPA or essay required. The scholarship is given to the “boldest” applicant, as judged by their Bold.org profile. For this award, a “bold” applicant is someone who is motivated and determined. Early applicants have a better chance of winning.
- Award: $25,000
- Requirements: Create a student profile on the Bold.org scholarship website. Recipient is the applicant who shows the most “boldness” (determination, self-motivation, and earnestness)
- Deadline: Early January (applications in earlier windows are favored).
Dear Evan Hansen College Essay Writing Challenge
Open to students in 11th or 12th grade who are located in Brooklyn, the Bronx, Manhattan, Queens, Staten Island, or Westchester, as well as Nassau, Orange, Rockland, or Suffolk counties during the upcoming academic year. This award requires a college-application style essay (no longer than 650-words) that describes how “Dear Evan Hansen” resonates with and inspires you. Essays should be specific, have a clear narrative arc, and adhere to the theme of the challenge.
- Award: $1,000
- Requirements: Each applicant must write a college-application style essay (no longer than 650-words) that describes how “Dear Evan Hansen” resonates with and inspires you. Essays should be specific, have a clear narrative arc, and adhere to the theme of the challenge.
- Deadline: Early May
Doodle 4 Google Scholarship
Open to students from kindergarten through 12th grade, this scholarship award is offered by Google. To apply, students must submit a “Google Doodle” that could be featured on the Google homepage. The winner receives perks and prizes along with the $30,000 scholarship, and their school also receives a $50,000 grant from Google. Each of four finalists receives a $5,000 scholarship.
- Award: $30,000 (plus prizes) +
$50,000 technology package to the winner’s school/non-profit organization +
$5,000 scholarship for each of four finalists
- Requirements: Submit a Google Doodle design
- Deadline: Mid-January
Gen and Kelly Tanabe Scholarship
This scholarship fund is named for renowned education authors and is open to all high school students. The only application requirement is a short essay (less than 250 words) answering one of the questions on the application. Students can also submit a piece on a topic of their choice or reuse an essay submitted for another scholarship, college application, or high school class.
- Award: $1,000
- Requirements: Short essay (under 250 words)
- Deadline: End of July
Prudential Emerging Visionaries Awards
There are several winners of the Prudential Emerging Visionaries Award each year. This scholarship was previously known as the Spirit of Community Award and is open to high school students between 14 and 18 years old. There are 20 winners who each receive a trip to the Prudential headquarters for an Awards Summit along with the scholarship money.
- Award: $15,000 grand prize for one winner +
$5,000 each to other winners
- Requirements: Applicants must submit a well-designed, innovative plan to solve their communities’ financial or societal challenges
- Deadline: Early November
Niche $500 High School Junior Scholarship
Essentially a lottery, this award is given to the winner of a random drawing. It’s open to all high school juniors, and the application is minimal. To apply, students simply have to complete a quick survey on Niche.com. Doing so also allows students to view and apply for other scholarships hosted on the Niche.com platform.
- Award: $500
- Requirements: Submit a scholarship application (winner chosen at random)
- Deadline: Early June
Young Filmmakers Contest
Aspiring filmmakers from third grade through post-graduate school can submit an application to the Young Filmmakers Contest. Submission is free, and the winning films will premier at the One Earth Film Festival. High school juniors have a list of several topics to choose from for their film, which should offer a solution to the environmental or sustainability issue discussed.
- Award: $100 to $1,000 cash prize or scholarship and matching grant, amount determined by age/grade
- Requirements: Create a film between three and eight minutes long that showcases an issue and a solution in one of these topics: wildlife/ecosystems, water, climate, energy, food, transportation, or waste
- Deadline: Late June
American Legion Oratorical Contest
Rather than an essay, this scholarship requires students to prepare and present a speech about the Constitution. There are several assigned topics speakers can choose from. All high school students under age 20 are eligible to compete. State winners receive at least $2,000, and those who advance farther in the national contest can win additional scholarship money.
- Award: $25,000 (national winner)
$22,500 (second-place winner)
$20,000 (third-place winner)
$2,000 (state winners) plus an extra $2,000 for advancing past the first round of the national contest
- Requirements: Present a speech about the U.S. Constitution with an emphasis on citizen duties and obligations
- Deadline: State-assigned deadlines
National Finals are held in April
Voice of Democracy Scholarship
The Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW) organization offers this scholarship to the student who submits the best audio essay on an assigned topic. For example, the 2021-2022 theme is “America: Where Do We Go From Here?” The winner from each state gets a $1,000 scholarship, and the national winner gets a $30,000 award.
- Award: $30,000 (national first-place winner)
$1,000 minimum (state winners)
- Requirements: Submit an audio essay on the patriotic topic chosen by the VFW
- Deadline: Late October
SelectBlinds.com College Scholarship
Innovation is the key to winning this scholarship. Applicants must submit an idea for a new way to use window coverings or a new technology that could improve window coverings. Any format is acceptable (e.g. essay, photos, art, video), and creativity is strongly encouraged. Students must also submit an essay (250-750 words) answering one of several prompt questions.
- Award: $1,000
- Requirements: At least a 2.5 GPA, essay, plus creative submission about new uses for or technological improvements to window coverings
- Deadline: Mid-July
4 Scholarships for High Achieving High School Juniors
If your child gets excellent grades and is near the top of their class, they may be eligible for some of these elite scholarships. A strong application is especially important for competitive awards. School counselors can usually provide some tips for winning as many scholarships as possible.
Named for the 30th President of the U.S., this scholarship is open to high school juniors who have demonstrated academic excellence and an interest in public policy. Though applicants should be passionate about public service, recipients can pursue any field of study. This scholarship is a full-ride award for undergraduate studies, so it’s one of the most competitive merit scholarships available.
- Award: Full ride (tuition, room and board, and other expenses for an undergraduate degree)
- Requirements: Strong academic performance and demonstrated interest in public policy
- Deadline: February
Davidson Institute Fellows Award
The Fellows Scholarship offered by the Davidson Institute is a world-renowned award for students with excellent problem-solving abilities and a desire to benefit society. Candidates must have completed a substantial, college-level project designed to have a positive impact on the world.
- Award: $50,000 (grand prize)
$25,000 and $10,000 (additional scholarships)
- Requirements: A completed project in an accepted discipline: literature, engineering, mathematics, music, science, technology, philosophy, or “outside the box”
- Deadline: Mid-February
Cameron Impact Scholarship
This award is presented to students who are “leaders of the next generation.” Eligible applicants are those who plan to pursue public service and have already shown the ability to make a difference in their community. Other eligibility requirements include a good GPA and strong participation in an array of extracurricular activities.
- Award: Full tuition up to $50,000 per year
- Requirements: Minimum unweighted GPA of 3.7, two letters of recommendation, active participation in community service, and extensive participation in extracurriculars. Applicants must also prove they are motivated leaders
- Deadline: Mid-May (early application)
Early September (regular application)
Gloria Barron Prize for Young Heroes
This award is offered to students who have proven themselves to be leaders in their communities. The money can be used for college or put towards a service project. Applicants can be between eight and 18 years old and must be currently working on a service project (or have completed one within the past 12 months).
- Award: $10,000 (25 winners)
- Requirements: Active participation and leadership on a service project (currently or within the past 12 months). Project must be something the applicant completed of their own volition; mandatory school assignments do not count as eligible service projects
- Deadline: Mid-April
Start the Scholarship Search Early
It’s never too early to start figuring out how to pay for college. Scholarships can significantly lower the out-of-pocket cost of higher education so your child can base their decision on factors besides college tuition.
There’s no limit to the number of private scholarships a student can receive. Encourage your child to apply for as many private scholarships as they are eligible for.
The best scholarship for your child is the one that awards the most money and will likely be from the college itself. The key is to do your research, build a realistic college list, and apply to the right colleges.
In addition to merit scholarships awarded by non-profit organizations and businesses, your student can search for merit scholarships awarded by colleges and universities. To find schools that offer merit scholarships, use our College Insights tool. It can help your child determine which scholarships to work towards while they’re still able to improve their grades and resume.
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