Never Too Early to Look for College Scholarships

a pile of cash - college scholarshipsIs it ever too early to start searching for college scholarships? Probably not.

Once in high school, if you are serious about college, your scholarship search should begin. You don't need to have any idea of what college you plan to attend, nor do you need to know what you want to study in college, to begin competing for scholarship money.There is no rule that you need to wait until you are a high school senior to start applying for scholarships. While scholarships targeted toward high school freshmen, or high school students in general are for modest amounts of money, they are excellent motivators to keep you working hard through high school and help you build skills needed to get bigger and better scholarships along the way. Here are some scholarship opportunities that ninth-graders should explore:

Students as young as those in 7th grade can win a Young Naturalist Scholarship. Students must conduct original research in biology, astronomy or earth science. Twelve scholarships valued at $2,200 are available.

The Fountainhead Essay Contest is open to all high school students and encourages them to participate in an essay contest on Ayn Rand's novel The Fountainhead. It awards 236 scholarships in amounts up to $10,000.

• The NRA Civil Rights Defense Fund gives $1,000 awards to the students who win its writing contest. Students in 9th and 10th grades are judged separately from those in 11th and 12th, and there are runner-up awards as well.

• The American Legion has several scholarships available, including the National High School Oratorical Contest which is open to high school students (and those in accredited home schools). Students can win up to $18,000 in this speech contest.

• Budding poets should compete in the National High School Poetry Contest. Any high school student can submit an unpublished poem of less than 20 lines for a chance to win $1,500.

• AXA Achievement Community Scholarships offers high school students in every state the chance to compete for scholarships of as much $25,000. Students must show ambition, drive and determination to reach goals; respect for self, family and community; and the ability to succeed in college.

• High School Students interested in media should compete for the Courageous Persuaders Scholarships in which they must create a 30-second TV commercial targeted at discouraging middle school students from underage drinking. Students can win up to $3,000.

• The Holocaust Remembrance Project Essay contest awards up to $5,000 for winning essays.

• The Christophers organization has an Annual Poster Contest for students in grades 9 through 12. Students can win up to $1,000 for the best original poster with the "You Can Make a Difference" theme.

• High school students can compete in the National Peace Essay Contest in which first-place state winners receive $1,000 and are invited to Washington for a five-day awards program.

In addition to applying for scholarship contests as early as your freshman year of high school, you should also realize that what you do this year will weigh heavily on your future college career. If you don't begin high school by taking a rigorous course of study and participating in extracurricular activities, you may find that you already have eliminated your chances of standing out in high school. Scholarships.com recommends sitting down with your high school counselor before your freshman year and putting together a course of study.

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