Sep 17, 2011

Four Scholarships for the Price of an Essay

Scholarship opportunities require a little work to find and even more effort to enter. But they can really pay off, and not just in terms of dollars.

By entering scholarship competitions, you demonstrate initiative and desire to support your college goals. If you win or place, you have something tangible to show for the effort. But even if you don’t win, you can benefit from the experience by taking a risk or learning something new.

Here are four scholarship opportunities where the learning can be just as valuable as the award:


  • Joe Foss Institute 2011 Veterans Day Contest. With a top prize of $5,000, this contest requires a student to “adopt” a military veteran, get involved in that person’s life, and write a 1500 word essay describing the experience. It’s not about simply “interviewing” a veteran, but more about commitment and understanding. Entries are due by October 9, 2011, and will be judged on the basis of creativity, theme, clarity of ideas, and basic mechanics. For more information or to download contest guidelines, go to the Joe Foss Institute website.

    AES Engineering Scholarship. This scholarship will be awarded on the basis of a 1000-word essay responding to a specific question concerning the impact of national disasters on the global economy. It’s not huge money ($500), but it’s an opportunity to think about an important issue and to take a position on that issue. There is no application packet, and essays must be submitted electronically by October 7, 2011. More information is available on the AES website.

    Ayn Rand Essay Contests. Open to high school seniors as well as undergrads and graduate students, the Atlas Shrugged contest offers students the opportunity to consider one of three questions based on the novel by Ayn Rand. The top prize is $10,000, but there are many other lesser prizes awarded. No application is required, and essays (800 to 1600 words) may be submitted electronically or postmarked by September 17, 2011. Although this is one of the more popular Ayn Rand competitions, the Ayn Rand Institute sponsors several annual essay contests offering 680 prizes and more than $99,000 in prize money. Another, based on The Fountainhead, is open to high school juniors and seniors and is due on April 26, 2012. Visit the Ayn Rand Institute website for specifics.


  • Horatio Alger Scholarship. The Horatio Alger National Scholarship Program assists high school students who have faced and overcome great obstacles. Scholarships are awarded to eligible high school seniors in all 50 states, the District of Columbia, and Puerto Rico. Students must demonstrate financial need, academic achievement, as well as involvement in co-curricular and community activities. With 104 $20,000 scholarships, this is a serious competition requiring three relatively short essays including a personal statement (150-200 words), an adversity statement (250-300 words), and a description of educational and career goals (250-300 words). The online application deadline is midnight on October 30, 2011, and all supplemental materials must be postmarked by the same date. More information is available on the Horatio Alger Association website.

You can find other similar competitions on reputable scholarship websites such as FastWeb or Cappex. Just don’t get distracted by the relentless emailing that comes as a result of registering with these sites.

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