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4 Great Scholarship Opportunities for Younger Students

Students can find scholarships as early as elementary school for their college journey. Here are four early scholarships to start with and advice to find more!

A common misconception about scholarships is that they’re only for graduating high school seniors about to enter their first year of higher education at trade schools, colleges, or universities; most families don’t realize there are scholarship opportunities for younger students. There are, of course, a great deal of opportunities for high school underclassmen, but there are also incredible opportunities for students as young as five years old from companies, organizations, and foundations. These young students can save any scholarship awards until they reach college age, and families who start the scholarship search early can benefit greatly.

How early scholarships benefit students

Students who explore scholarships at an early age can develop leadership, critical-thinking, teamwork, creativity, communication, and technological skills. Developing these skills during a student’s grade school years will aid them later during the college application and continued scholarship search. They’ll also form the foundation for success for post-college life as that same student seeks internships and employment. More than anything, scholarships acquired during these crucial developmental years can be substantial. Family savings for future college expenses can be redirected to other life expenses for that student, such as purchasing their first home or starting a business.

Private companies, organizations, and foundations have many reasons to create and award scholarships for younger students. They may want to encourage innovation, creativity, or community service. Their mission may be to inspire young people to have a positive impact on their communities through service or encourage them to pursue higher education when they get older. Or they may simply recognize that creating and awarding scholarships can increase the social responsibility efforts of their organization.

Related: 5 Reasons to Start Your Scholarship Search Early

Featured scholarships

The following featured scholarships are just a sample of opportunities that exist for younger students. Let these jump-start your motivation in searching for rewarding opportunities that will lead to a great future, no matter how old you are.

1. “We The Future” Contest

The “We The Future” Contest has various categories for students as young as five years old all the way up to senior citizens over the age of 65. Application submissions (depending on the age of the applicant) can be a poem, holiday card, essay, STEM project, song, PSA, film, or speech. Submissions are due no later than September 17, and awards range from $100–$2,000.

2. Ocean Awareness Contest

The Ocean Awareness Contest is available internationally to students ages 11–18. This opportunity requires creativity from the applicants, as students are asked to submit art or creative communications such as apps, game design, podcasts, visual art, film, music, poetry, or interactive multimedia as part of their application. The contest has deadlines in spring and fall, and awards of up to $1,500 are available.

3. Davidson Fellows Scholarship 

Cited as one of the most prestigious scholarships by U.S. News & World Report, the Davidson Fellows Scholarship is an opportunity for students under the age of 18 to receive awards up to $50,000. Student applications can be submitted in the categories of science, technology, engineering, mathematics, literature, music, philosophy, or “out of the box.” The deadline for next year is February 10.

4. Doodle for Google

The Doodle for Google Competition is open to student applicants in grades K–12. Award recipients can receive up to $30,000, and their school can even receive tech packages valued at $50,000. This competition requires creative submissions in their application process. The  winner’s artwork will also be featured on Google’s main search page in addition to the money prize. The deadline falls in March each year. 

Related: How to Start Your Scholarship Search

Do your research and ask questions

As a scholarship expert, I’m often asked how scholarships for younger students are awarded since they can’t be sent directly to a college. Scholarship winners usually receive the money in one of two ways. Some scholarship award checks are sent directly to the family, while other awards may be distributed in the form of a savings bond that will mature when the student turns 18 years old. All families should thoroughly read all applications and requirements and reach out to scholarship committees with any questions.

Starting the scholarship search process early can transform college affordability for a family. Siblings can work together to search, apply, and help one another to stay motivated in the process. Imagine the freedom for a high school senior who could focus all their energy on the college application process without additional pressure of needing to find, apply, and acquire scholarship awards to fulfill their college dreams. By starting early on the scholarship search, students and their families can get ahead and start building a great financial foundation instead of joining thousands of families burdened by college costs. 

Start looking for awards for students of all ages using the Scholarship Search tool right here on CollegeXpress!

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About Jean O'Toole

Jean O’Toole is an educational consultant and author of the bestselling book Scholarship Strategies: Finding and Winning the Money You Need. Over the past 15 years, she has helped tens of thousands of students in the United States. Individuals collectively have been awarded millions of dollars by applying Jean’s scholarship strategies. In 2008, Jean co-founded Connections101, a company specializing in providing motivational tools for scholarship searching. It is her goal to empower students to design their paths to their future without college debt. Visit for more information, and follow Jean on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.


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