7 of the Biggest Scholarships You Can Win

Last updated on - February 27, 2023

7 of the Biggest Scholarships You Can Win

The last years of high school can be exciting as well as nerve wracking.

You might be excited about life after high school – pursuing a major you can’t wait to start, gaining your independence and even making new friends.

A you might also be getting a bit stressed out about the price of college.

As you might already know, scholarships are a great way to reduce your college costs. There are two main types of scholarships – merit based scholarships and need based scholarships.

What is a Merit Based Scholarship?

Merit based scholarships are awarded without considering a student’s financial need. These scholarships can be awarded based on your academics, athletic accomplishments, artistic talent or another specific interest (for e.g., pursuing a particular major).

To compete for these scholarships, you might need to have a specific GPA, test score, or demonstrate significant leadership skills and community involvement.

What is a Need Based Scholarship?

On the other hand, need based scholarships are awarded to qualifying students based on their family’s financial status. However, this isn’t the only factor considered. As an applicant, you might be required to demonstrate strong academics, extracurricular involvement, and leadership skills.

If you are applying for a need-based scholarship, you may also be required to complete the Free Application for Financial Aid – FAFSA.

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7 of the Biggest Scholarships

Below, I've compiled a list of seven of the biggest private scholarships you can win. Some of these scholarships are achievement based and others are based on financial need.

In most cases, you will need have good grades, show you are a leader and making a difference in your community. The Dell Scholars program (listed below), is one of the few top dollar scholarship programs that does not require a high GPA. You could qualify with a minimum GPA of 2.4.

1. The Coca Cola Scholars Foundation

Application deadline: Application opens up in August; the deadline is usually in October.
Amount: $20,000

One of the largest scholarships, the Coca Cola Scholars Foundation program, is an achievement-based scholarship. The three areas evaluated are leadership, academics and service.

Scholarships are awarded to graduating high school seniors planning to pursue a degree at an accredited US college or university. Each year, 150 students are selected to receive this $20,000 scholarship.

Applicants must have a minimum overall GPA of 3.0 in high school.

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2. The Gates Scholarship

Application deadline: Application is usually available around July with a mid-September deadline.
Amount: Varies

Another high dollar scholarship, The Gates Scholarship, was established by Bill and Melinda Gates and is available to high school minority students preparing to enter college. Students must have a strong academic record and demonstrate leadership skills.

To be eligible for this program, students must show that their family has financial need. Awards are renewable and can be used to cover tuition, fees, books, and housing. 

3. Dell Scholars Program

Application Deadline: December 1; application opens on October 1
Amount: includes $20,000, a laptop, textbook credits and coaching

Not to be outdone, the Dell Scholars Program is an initiative of Michael Dell (founder of Dell computers). The scholarship is for high school seniors from an underserved population. You must participate in AVID, or attend Uplift Education or an ASPIRE Public School to apply.

Applicants must have a minimum GPA of 2.4 and be eligible to receive Pell Grant as a freshman in college.

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4. Jack Kent Cooke Foundation College Scholarship Program

Application deadline: usually November 
Amount: Up to $55,00 per year; awards are renewable

The Jack Kent Cooke Foundation College Scholarship Program, has to be one of the most generous private scholarships in the country. It is open to high-achieving high school seniors with financial need. 

To be eligible to apply, you must plan to pursue an undergraduate degree and your family's gross income cannot exceed $95,000 per year. You must also have a minimum unweighted GPA of 3.5. 

If you are selected, you'll receive college advising throughout your time in college. You might also be eligible for the internship stipend program and graduate school funding.

5. Cameron Impact Scholarship

Application Deadline: Early Application - in May; Regular Application - September 
Amount: Between $20,000 to $50,000 per year

The Cameron Impact Scholarship is a merit-based scholarship open to high school seniors with a solid academic record (minimum unweighted GPA of 3.7). Applicants must also demonstrate a track record of leadership and engagement in their community.

The scholarship covers the full tuition and other qualified educational expenses. It does not cover room and board. About a quarter of the scholarships are awarded to students pursuing a career in education, nonprofits, government, and/or the military.

6. Davidson Fellows Scholarship

Application Deadline: February 15, 2023
Amount: $10,000, $25,000 or $50,000

This Davidson Fellows Scholarship is looking for student prodigy, inventors, creators, pioneers and the best of the best. The scholarship program is for gifted students, 18 years or younger, who are US citizens and permanent residents. You could apply as an individual or as a team of no more two people.

Each applicant (or team) has to submit an exceptional original project or performance in one of the following areas:

  • Science
  • Technology
  • Engineering
  • Mathematics
  • Literature
  • Music
  • Philosophy.

The students selected as fellows are honored at MIT.

7. Ron Brown Scholar Program

Application Deadline: Early Application - November; Final deadline - January 9, 2023
Application opens in September.
Amount: $40,000 ($10,000 per year)

Finally, Ron Brown Scholar Program, named after the late Secretary of Commerce, Ron Brown, is open to African American students with financial need.

Applicants must be high school seniors with a record of strong academics, community engagement, and possess leadership potential. Scholars receive mentorship throughout college.

Finalists usually participate in a full-expense paid weekend selection process in Washington, D.C.


In summary, these high-dollar scholarships are worth adding to your list. They can be very competitive. However, count yourself out if you meet the eligibility criteria. Remember all scholarships are not based on merit or achievement. Some are based on financial need.  

If you apply and win, your college funding worries could be over. Just ensure you submit a top-notch application packet and essay.

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