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Top 10 Need Based Scholarships for High School Seniors

Some 44 million Americans collectively hold over $1.6 trillion in student debt. It’s official that education loans have mounted to a state of crisis in the United States. Therefore, this compilation of the top 10 need-based scholarships for high school seniors is literally the need of the hour. The cost of tuition has been rising for a while. Likewise, boarding, textbooks and tutoring costs are piling up to quite a hefty sum.

With the global economy in a state of flux, a whole generation of college graduates are finding it difficult to get good jobs and have a steady source of income to clear the debt. In such a scenario, therefore, financial aid, grants, and scholarships are the only source of hope for students to go to college. We have put together this select list of scholarships to help academically strong students to actualize their dream of going to college without the fear of student debt.

Academic scholarships can be categorized based on the type of students it targets. The broadest classification is merit based scholarships and need based scholarships. The difference is that the latter requires the student to demonstrate a financial need in addition to other eligibility criteria. However, that doesn’t mean that the students can slack off on merit. Scholarships are free money which automatically means they are highly competitive. Thousands apply to this list of the top 10 need-based scholarships for high school seniors but only a small percentage win an award. Hence, it is important that students maintain a strong track record in school and outside. Before we dive in, we would like to give you one tip. Winning a scholarship is a function of how timely and systematic you are when you apply for scholarships. So, plan ahead, start early, and move fast.

#1 Daniels Fund Scholarship

Award amount: Up to $25,000 per year of unmet expenses after expected family contribution as per FAFSA (Free Application for Federal Student Aid); renewable for four years

Timeline for Daniels scholarship applications: Oct – Nov of senior year

Daniels Scholarship is a need-based scholarship awarded to about 230 top performing high school students of Colorado, New Mexico, Utah, and Wyoming who wish to pursue an undergraduate degree in the US. The minimum requirements to win the Daniels Scholarship include 3.0 GPA, min 490 SAT Math score and min 490 SAT, Evidence-Based Reading & Writing score of 490, or a minimum ACT score of 18 in each category. Other evaluation criteria are ethics and integrity, honesty, respect for people, loyalty and reliability, entrepreneurial spirit, patriotism and dedication to community, commitment to excellence, and etiquette. Furthermore, candidates must demonstrate financial need. This is a highly competitive scholarship program for which thousands apply. The program notifies shortlisted candidates in January for the interview round. Daniels Scholarships are announced in March. Finally, winners must maintain a high academic track record and exemplary character through college.

#2 The Dell Scholarship

Amount: $20,000 plus laptop, tutoring expenses and textbook credit

Deadline for scholarship applications: November of the senior year

The Dell Scholarship awards need based scholarships for high school students participating in an approved college readiness program. The Dell Scholarship is for low-income students who have at least a 2.4 GPA. Applicants must also be ‘Pell grant’ eligible and driven and motivated. (Note: The Pell Grant is the largest federal grant program open to undergraduates. It is designed to assist students from low-income households.) The Dell Scholarship program focuses more on students who have overcome adversity and faced challenges, and those who have pushed themselves academically by taking rigorous courses. Every year, the program awards 300 Dell Scholarships to students.

#3 Elks Most Valuable Student Scholarship

Award amount: $4,000 – $50,000 per recipient

Deadline for scholarship applications: November of senior year

The Elks Scholarships are need based scholarships for high school seniors planning to enroll in full-time undergraduate study. To win the Elks Scholarship you needn’t be an Elk member. However, you have to demonstrate top notch leadership abilities in addition to strong academics. So, be prepared to submit test scores (SAT/ACT), transcripts, FAFSA information, and essays for the application. The program awards 500 Elks scholarships every year ranging from $1,000 per year to $12,500 per year for four-years. 20 Elks scholarship finalists will be vying for two first-place awards totaling $50,000 across 4 years. Two second-place awards are given worth $40,000 across 4 years. And two third-place awards are given worth $30,000 across 4 years. The remaining 14 finalists will receive awards of $20,000 across 4 years. Finally, the 480 Elks scholarship runners-up will receive fifth-place scholarships of $4,000 across 4 years.

Generation Google Scholarship

Generation Google Scholarship

#4 The Generation Google Scholarship

Amount: $10,000 USD (for those studying in the US) or $5,000 CAD (for those studying in Canada)

Deadline for scholarship applications: December

There are several different categories of Google scholarships. The Generation Google Scholarship is a need-based scholarship awarded to any US/Canada based student (including high schoolers). Students must pursue a Bachelors, Masters, or PhD program in computer science related technical fields at an accredited school in the US/Canada. The Generation Google Scholarship takes into consideration commitment to diversity, equity, and inclusion, demonstrated leadership, and academic performance. Although not a minority scholarship, the program strongly encourages students belonging to certain groups historically excluded from the technology industry to apply. They include Women, Black/African American, Hispanic/Latinx, American Indian, and Native Hawaiian/Pacific Islander. Around 15 high school students and 15 university students win the Generation Google Scholarship every year.

#5 Horatio Alger Scholarship

Amount: $25,000 one time

Timeline for scholarship applications: August to October of the senior year

The Horatio Alger Scholarship is a unique need-based scholarship awarded to high school seniors who have faced and overcame great obstacles in their young lives with integrity. Accordingly, the application has a section on “adversity” that the student must fill out. The eligibility criteria for Horatio Alger Scholarship also includes critical financial need and a 2.0 GPA. Every year, 106 US students pursuing a college degree receive Horatio Alger scholarships.

#6 The Jackie Robinson Foundation Scholarship

Amount: $7,500 annually; up to $30,000 over four years

Deadline for scholarship applications: February of the senior year

The Jackie Robinson scholarship is a need-based scholarships open to outstanding high school graduates planning on a four-year college degree. Apart from the money award, Jackie Robinson scholarship winners also get access to their “42 Strategies for Success Curriculum.” This curriculum guides winners of Jackie Robinson scholarship on professional development and leadership skills. The program gives weightage to community service. Typically, the foundation awards 60 Jackie Robinson scholarships annually.

#7 Jack Kent Cooke Foundation Scholarship

Amount: Up to $40,000 per year to attend a four-year undergraduate program net of other grants and scholarships

Timeline for scholarship applications: August to October of the senior year

Jack Kent Cooke Scholarship is a need-based scholarship open to high-achieving high school seniors. Students must demonstrate unmet financial need and a minimum GPA of 3.5. However, Jack Kent Cooke Scholarship categorically states that their process doesn’t require test scores. Semi-finalists are announced in January and scholarship recipients are announced in April. Around 118 students win the Jack Kent Cooke Scholarship every year.

QuestBridge National College Match

QuestBridge National College Match

#8 QuestBridge National College Match

Amount: Full ride scholarship worth about $200,000 and requiring no parental contribution

Timeline for QuestBridge scholarship applications: From start of the senior year to September

The QuestBridge scholarship is a need-based scholarship open to academically accomplished high school students facing financial hardships. The QuestBridge National College Match connects students with partner colleges who cover the full cost of tuition, room and board without requiring loans or parental contribution. The typical QuestBridge scholarship winner shows academic excellence demonstrated as primarily A’s in the most challenging courses available. They usually include Honors, AP, and/or IB level courses. Recipients must also be in the top 5-10% of graduating class, show minimum SAT score >1280 or ACT composite score >27, evidence of strong writing ability, intellectual spark, and determination through essays and teacher/counsellor recommendations. Over 1100 students get QuestBridge scholarships every year. Some of the top college partners of the QuestBridge National College Match include MIT, Princeton, Stanford, Northwestern and CalTech.

#9 Ronald McDonald Scholarships

Amount: Depends upon local chapter; Most local chapters award a minimum of $1,000; non renewable

Deadline for scholarship applications: January

Ronald McDonald House Charities (RMHC) awards the Ronald McDonald Scholarships. They are need based scholarships for high school students awarded via the RMHC local chapters. However, high school students must have a minimum of 2.7 GPA. Those residing within the geographic boundaries of a participating chapter, enrolling for a 4-year/2-year undergrad program or vocational study in the US are eligible for this local scholarship.

#10 The Reagan Scholarship

Amount: $10,000 scholarship renewable for up to an additional three years; up to $40,000 total

Deadline for scholarship applications: January (winter of senior year)

The GE – Reagan Foundation Scholarship Program offers need based scholarships for high school seniors who plan to pursue 4-year degrees in the US. Applicants must demonstrate a strong academic performance (minimum of 3.0 GPA). They must also show attributes of leadership, drive, integrity, and citizenship within the school, workplace or community. Financial need is also a criterion. By February, 120 eligible semi-finalists are shortlisted. After further documents and an interview, the program awards 20 candidates the Reagan Scholarship. This competitive scholarship program requires an essay, three recommendation letters from community heads, transcripts, etc., as part of the application procedure. Finally, scholarship winners must continue demonstrating leadership and service post winning.

Final Words on Need Based Scholarships

As you may have noticed, this list of scholarships for high school seniors focuses only on pure need based scholarships. However, it doesn’t cover minority scholarships. If you identify with a group that’s considered a minority group in the United States, we have compiled a separate list of minority scholarships that you must consider in addition to these need based scholarships. You can also find out more about the most prestigious national scholarships or merit based scholarships for high school seniors. Finally, if you require expert advice on test prep or how to apply for scholarships, or how to write impactful essays for your scholarship applications, be sure to check the ViTutors platform where you can easily find and hire scholarships experts for all areas and budgets. All the best!

Links for 10 Need Based Scholarships

Daniels Fund Scholarship

Dell Scholarship

Elks Most Valuable Student Scholarship

The Generation Google Scholarship

Horatio Alger Scholarship

The Jackie Robinson Foundation Scholarship

Jack Kent Cooke Foundation Scholarship

QuestBridge National College Match

Ronald McDonald Scholarships

The Reagan Scholarship

Related Articles to Need Based Scholarships

How You Can Win a National Merit Scholarship

Top 10 Merit Based Scholarships for High School Seniors

Top 10 Minority Scholarships for High School Students

The Ultimate Guide to College Board Scholarship Search

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