Types of Scholarships: 10 Common Types for High School Students

Last updated on - January 6, 2024

Types of Scholarships: 10 Common Types for High School Students

Leaving the nest for college is exciting, but the high costs can be a big challenge. According to US News, the average college tuition in the 2023-24 academic year was $10,662 for public colleges and $42,162 for private colleges. And if you add in room and board and fees, you can see how expensive college can be. But don’t worry, scholarships can help you pay for college and achieve your education goals. This blog post will show you the ten most common types of scholarships, with examples to help you find and apply for them.

10 Different Types of Scholarships

1. Merit-Based Scholarships

You should apply for merit-based scholarships if you have excellent grades and test scores. These are scholarships that reward your academic excellence. Some examples of this type of scholarship is the National Merit Scholarship and the Presidential Scholarship. But you don’t need to have high SAT or ACT scores to get merit aid. Some scholarships look at your overall achievements and background, such as your leadership, service, or diversity. For instance, some scholarships are for students with high GPA and outstanding community involvement. Also, remember that there are many types of scholarships awarded based on merit. For example, athletics or artistic scholarships are considered merit-based scholarships as they are based on your talent and skill.

2. Need-Based Scholarships

Need-based scholarships can help you pay for college if you have low income and high grades. One of these scholarships is the Jack Kent Cooke Foundation Young Scholars Program. Need-based scholarships are scholarships that are awarded to students based on their financial need. Financial need is usually determined by the student’s family income, assets, and expenses, as well as the college or university cost of attendance. 

3. Athletic Scholarships

Do you love playing sports? You can get athletic scholarships to pay for college. Many colleges give scholarships to students who are good at sports like basketball or soccer. The NCAA (National Collegiate Athletic Association) awards more than $3.6 billion in athletics scholarships to talented athletes who excel in their chosen sports.

4. Artistic Scholarship

For the budding artists among you, artistic scholarships are your canvas. Whether your talent lies in music, visual arts, theater, or dance, scholarships are tailored to your creative aspirations. For example, the Scholastic Art & Writing Awards celebrates and supports the artistic endeavors of high school students across the country. If you plan to pursue a performing or creative arts degree, the college you are applying to will more than likely offer these types of scholarships meant to attract talented students.

5. Ethnic or Cultural Scholarships

Colleges value diversity and offer scholarships for students from different ethnic or cultural groups. The United Negro College Fund (UNCF) is one of these scholarships. It helps African American students pay for college. You can find more scholarships that match your background and celebrate your culture.

6. Career-Specific Scholarships

As you contemplate your future career, know that there are scholarships aligned with your chosen field of study. For example, the Society of Women Engineers awards scholarships to aspiring female engineers, recognizing and supporting those pursuing careers in STEM fields. Investigate scholarships related to your intended major to find ones that could help offset educational costs.

7. Community Service Scholarships

Colleges and organizations value students who actively contribute to their communities. Community service scholarships acknowledge your commitment to making a positive impact. For instance, the Prudential Spirit of Community Awards recognizes high school students who have demonstrated outstanding volunteer service, providing both financial rewards and the satisfaction of making a difference.

8. Leadership Scholarships

Leadership skills are invaluable, and scholarships exist to reward those who demonstrate exceptional leadership qualities. The Coca-Cola Scholars Program, for example, seeks high school seniors who have shown leadership, academic excellence, and dedication to community service. Showcase your ability to lead and inspire in your scholarship applications to stand out among the crowd.

9. First-Generation Scholarships

If you are the first in your family to go to college, then you could qualify to win a first-generation scholarship. Some colleges and private organizations offer these scholarships to students like you. For example, the University of Michigan has the Kessler Scholar Program that gives scholarships and other help to first-generation college students. To find similar scholarships at other colleges, check with the school's financial aid office or visit their website.

10. Study Abroad Scholarships

For the adventurous souls among you, study abroad scholarships offer a chance to explore new cultures and gain international experiences. The Benjamin A. Gilman International Scholarship supports students with limited financial means who wish to study or intern abroad. Embark on a global educational adventure with the help of this type of scholarship that open doors to the world.

5 Tips to Make Your Scholarship Application Stand Out

There are millions of scholarships out there. However, scholarships are also very competitive, and to win them, you'll need to make your application stand out from the crowd. Here are 5 tips to help you do just that:

  • Tell a personal and compelling story. One of the most important parts of your scholarship application is your essay, where you have the opportunity to showcase your personality, goals, and achievements. To make your essay memorable, you need to tell a personal and compelling story that illustrates who you are, what you have overcome, and what you aspire to do. A good story will capture the attention of the scholarship committee and make them want to know more about you.
  • Tailor your application to the specific scholarship. Another way to make your application stand out is to tailor it to the specific scholarship you are applying for. This means that you should research the scholarship provider, their mission, their values, and their criteria, and show how you align with them. You should also answer the essay prompt or question directly and clearly, and avoid using generic or vague statements that could apply to any scholarship.
  • Proofread and edit your application. A simple but crucial tip to make your application stand out is to proofread and edit your application before submitting it. You want to make sure that your application is free of any spelling, grammar, punctuation, or formatting errors that could undermine your credibility and professionalism. You should also ask someone else, such as a teacher, a counselor, or a friend, to review your application and give you feedback. A fresh pair of eyes can help you catch any mistakes or areas of improvement that you might have missed.
  • Get strong letters of recommendation. Another component of your scholarship application that can make a difference is your letters of recommendation. These are letters from people who know you well and can vouch for your character, skills, and potential. You should choose your recommenders carefully, and ask them well in advance if they are willing to write a letter for you. You should also provide them with relevant information, such as your resume, your transcript, your essay, and the scholarship details, to help them write a specific and positive letter that highlights your strengths and achievements.
  • Apply early and often. The last tip to make your application stand out is to apply early and often. Applying early means that you avoid the stress of missing deadlines, and you also show your interest and enthusiasm for the scholarship. Applying often means that you increase your chances of winning a scholarship, and you also diversify your sources of funding.


There are several different types of scholarships available to help you pay for college, but they are not easy to get. You need to find and apply for scholarships that match your interests, background, and skills.

Each scholarship application is an opportunity to show who you are and what you can do. Scholarships are not just based on your grades or financial need, but also on your contribution and impact in your community. So, when you look for scholarships, don’t limit yourself to one type. Apply for different scholarships and take time to build a strong application. The best applications are usually the ones that win. Happy scholarship hunting!

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