Since high school is part of the American public education system, everyone can attend for free, unless, of course, you attend a private school. Private schools tend to attract the sons and daughters of privilege, but sometimes private schools run unique programs in specialized areas, and those can and do appeal to talented students from families of modest means or even low-income. That may also be the case with certain public schools that have a niche-direct bent, such as high schools for the performing arts.

Are there high school scholarships available to students who are the exception? Yes, there are a few scholarships available to students at the high school level, but they are far less common that grants and scholarships that enable students to attend post-secondary, non-public education that comes with a tuition price tag.

Most American high school students attend free until they graduate from grade 12. But the cost of going to school isn’t just about teachers’ salaries and building classrooms. For individuals, it’s about buying school supplies, purchasing appropriate clothing, and being able to eat meals like breakfast and lunch to ensure your brain is alert and ready to pay attention. If you and your family are so impoverished that items like books, writing implements and paper pose a financial strain, you may find help in the form of community educational programs that will help you get the necessary supplies for high school. High School scholarships tend to fall into other categories than just needs-based, financial constraints.

Because attending high school is a right and not a privilege, there are just a handful of scholarships available, but they do exist and are primarily geared to unusual circumstances, not the day-to-day high school attendance experienced by the masses. Nonetheless, some high school scholarships are put in place to reward effort, achievement and good character. Here are a few high school scholarships, related information, and their goals and/or eligibility criteria:

• Contests. If you believe you have a special talent or skill in a certain area of study, then there may be a form of scholarship issued as a reward for exhibiting that particular “genius”! For example, there are dozens of contests around the country for essay writing. Subjects range from English literature and science to travel and even pasta ideas! The alternative is contests that require you to make a video based on a specific subject. Many such contest are sponsored by corporations or benevolent organizations, and while some of the prizes are just a few hundred dollars, others are lofty amounts, very much worth the effort.
For example, search engine giant, Google, has a Global Science Fair by which students submit their science projects via video or slide show; prizes can be quite lucrative and are awarded in categories such as mathematics, computer science and chemistry, among many others. State Farm Insurance offers more modest prizes, but very honorable, for high school students interested in volunteering and learning about community service.
Cash prizes can be regarded as high school scholarships and may assist you in improving your studies with extra money for reference materials, school supplies, field trips, transportation to school, and meal programs. The bigger prizes may leave you enough for starting your post-secondary education.

• Foreign Exchange Programs. The programs themselves are not scholarships, but if you qualify for a study-abroad high school trimester, semester or full year, you may qualify for a scholarship to cover your costs. Most of the foreign exchange high school student programs in the Unites States are operated by the non-profit organization, AFS-USA, formerly the American Field Service. You can take your high school studies in one of 40 countries; most students enjoy being billeted at the homes of locals in one of the many nations that participate in inter-cultural learning. If this type of educational adventure appeals to you, but the fees associated with the various locations and costs of travel are prohibitive, you can apply for a high school scholarship directly from AFS-USA.

• Corporate and Charity Support. Some small and even larger businesses recognize the gaps in their ability to find qualified personnel, and will start at the high school level to support students who show early promise and might be receptive to a career in the type of business venture the company operates. In some cases, these businesses may need to fill job descriptions that high school students have never heard of. Not everybody wants to be a fireman! This opens the list of possible future career opportunities for students, and keenly interested individuals may find corporate support in the form of high school scholarships with a promise of work upon graduation from a training program or post-secondary institution.
If you and/or your family are in financial dire straits, your local community charities may be a good place to seek assistance. Some provide just a little help with costs and others provide high school scholarships, but these are almost always based on academic achievement and are geared toward promising students. Organizations such as Rotary Clubs International, Kinsmen Clubs, and other groups, some religious-based, sometimes provide high school scholarships for students who need the financial boost to complete their diplomas and go on to higher education.

If you or one of your classmates in high school needs financial assistance where none seems available, try your hand at fundraising. This could be as simple as a lemonade stand or a battle of the bands concert. Just make sure that by staging a fund-raising event, and thereby creating your own type pf high school scholarship, you are not breaking the local laws and by-laws. Your municipal or regional government should have all the information you need.

Because there are far more scholarships and grants available for college, vocational schools, and universities, high school scholarships involve a bit of creative thinking. If you think you deserve a scholarship for your studies while you are still in high school and have some sort of financial need that goes beyond the basis of public education, then put together a proposal to your local businesses or charities and ask for what you need. If you are truly deserving, you may be able to create a high school scholarship that starts with you and ends up helping other students just like you in the future. Remember, corporations benefit in their business taxes by making certain donations, so you may succeed by guiding them in establishing high school scholarships in your community. Be creative and write a terrific proposal that makes sense!

There are a few special high school scholarships set aside for individuals who had to quit high school before receiving their diploma. This mostly applies to teenage girls who leave to have a baby, or to boys and girls who had to leave high school prematurely in order to work and help to support their families. Perhaps the time has come for these adults to return to high school and complete their diplomas so that they can move on to better jobs or further education. Most high school guidance departments will have information about high school scholarships for returning students.

The vast majority of high school scholarships are applied for in the senior year and are intended to support students who are moving on to post-secondary education of some description. Many of these scholarships are based on academic factors like good grades and top-of-the-class honors, or another type of achievement such as excellence in sports, but some are based on the character qualities of individuals, such as demonstrated leadership skills and mentoring, community volunteering, innovation and ideas, and a commitment to caring for others.

For high school scholarships that are intended to fund post-secondary education, start looking into what’s available when you are still in your junior year at high school and then apply as early in your senior year as high school scholarship deadlines will permit. Remember that most scholarships are merit-based and are a type of reward for excellence; conversely grants are often needs-based and funded by the government or the educational institutions themselves. Neither of these are repayable and that makes them distinct from student loans, which must be paid back over time and create a debt burden.

High school scholarships can either make your high school education less financially strained or assist you in pushing ahead into your college education. The two factions are vastly different, with accordingly diverse types of funding and eligibility criteria, but both are designed to help students who want more out of life. The whole premise of scholarships is to enable anyone with the desire and dedication to enjoy the education that satisfies their needs, be that the simple completion of a high school diploma (for the purpose of work or just personal pride) or going all the way to a doctoral degree. The over-riding concept is fairness and equal opportunity.

Governments, corporations, individuals, foundations, business associations, and charitable organizations all provide distinct types of high school scholarships and grants. As noted, most of those are intended to fund higher education, but some, occasionally smaller amounts, are designed to reward innovation, achievement and upstanding citizenry at the high school level during the high school years. A high school scholarship may be available to you for current or future needs; speak with your guidance office to learn more.

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