Prestigious Scholarships and Fellowships
These opportunities are more than just scholarships -- find out why.
By Elizabeth Hoyt
June 06, 2016
Prestigious scholarships are among the most well-known and most generous scholarships, but are also the most competitive. They are national or international in scope.
Winning one of these awards marks you with a stamp of excellence that can open doors.
Some of these awards require nomination by the student’s school and do not accept applications directly from students.
Jack Kent Cooke Foundation Young Scholars Program
The Young Scholars Program, a selective 5-year pre-college scholarship for high-performing middle school students with financial need, is the largest scholarship of its kind in the nation. It provides individualized academic advising, financial support, and a pathway to the foundation’s $40,000 per year College Scholarship. The application period is open from January to April. Up to 65 Young Scholars are selected for this program each year. Final notification is in the early fall.
Jack Kent Cooke Foundation College Scholarship Program
The College Scholarship Program is the largest undergraduate scholarship program available to high-achieving high school seniors with financial need who seek to attend the nation’s best four-year colleges and universities. College Scholars receive up to $40,000 per year, college planning support, ongoing advising, the opportunity to network with the larger Cooke Scholar community, and a pathway to the foundation’s $50,000 per year Graduate Scholarship. The application period is open from September to November. Up to 40 College Scholars are selected for this program each year.
Jack Kent Cooke Foundation Undergraduate Transfer Scholarship
The Undergraduate Transfer Scholarship is the largest scholarship in the country for top community college students seeking to complete their bachelor’s degrees at four-year colleges or universities. Undergraduate Transfer Scholars receive up to $40,000 per year for up to three years, ongoing advising, the opportunity to network with the larger Cooke Scholar community, and a pathway to the foundation’s $50,000 per year Graduate Scholarship. The application period is open from October to December. Up to 85 Undergraduate Transfer Scholars are selected each year.
Buick Achievers Scholarship Program
The Buick Achievers Scholarship Program, funded by the GM Foundation, is designed to help students who are leaders in both the classroom and their communities, but who may not have the financial means to attend college. The Buick Achievers Scholarship Program is open to high school seniors or college undergraduate students who plan to major in a specified course of study that focuses on Engineering/Technology or select Design and Business-related programs at an accredited four-year US college or university. Scholarships will be awarded based on participation and leadership in community and school activities, interest in the automotive industry, academic achievement and financial need. Special consideration will be given to those who are a first-generation college student, female, minority, military veteran or a dependent of military personnel.
Robert C. Byrd Honors Scholarship Program
The Robert C. Byrd Honors Scholarship program is funded by the federal government and administered by the state governments in each state. This merit scholarship program is open to high school seniors. Students apply through the State education agency in their state of legal residence. Each state has its own deadlines.
Coca-Cola Scholars Program Scholarship
The Coca-Cola Scholars Foundation Scholarships are open to US high school seniors who have a GPA of at least 3.0 on a 4.0 scale. Recipients are selected based on leadership, character, civic and extracurricular activities, academic excellence, and community service. This is an extremely competitive program, with more than 100,000 applications received each year.
Collegiate Inventors Competition
The Collegiate Inventors Competition to encourage undergraduate and graduate students to pursue new ideas, processes and technological innovations. The invention must have been reduced to practice and patentable. It may not have been made available to the public as a commercial product or process or been patented or published more than one year prior to the date of submission to the competition. Submissions are judged on originality and inventiveness, as well as on their potential value to society (socially, environmentally, and economically), and on the range or scope of use.
Davidson Fellowships are awarded by the Davidson Institute for Talent Development to US students under age 18 who have completed a significant piece of work in the fields of Mathematics, Science, Technology, Music, Literature, Philosophy or Outside the Box. The significant piece of work should have the potential to benefit society. The focus of the program is on gifted and talented students.
Elks National Most Valuable Student Competition
The Elks National Foundation “Most Valuable Student” Competition awards 500 four-year scholarships to high school seniors. US citizenship is required. (Resident alien status does not qualify.)
Gates Millennium Scholars
The Gates Millennium Scholarship program is sponsored by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and administered by the United Negro College Fund. Nomination by a professional educator (principal, teacher, guidance counselor, etc.) is required. The focus of this program is on students who will be pursuing careers in mathematics, science, engineering, education or library science. Candidates must be African America, American Indian/Alaskan Native, Asian Pacific Islander American, or Hispanic American, a US citizen or permanent resident/national, have a cumulative GPA of 3.3 on a 4.0 scale, and be entering a US accredited college or university as a full-time degree-seeking freshman in the fall.
Benjamin A. Gilman International Scholarship
Established by the International Academic Opportunity Act of 2000, the Gilman Scholarship aims to diversify and expand participation in international study by supporting undergraduate students who have been traditionally underrepresented in study abroad, including students with high financial need, community college students, students in underrepresented fields such as the sciences and engineering, students with diverse ethnic backgrounds, students with disabilities, and students of nontraditional age. The program also encourages students to choose nontraditional study abroad destinations, especially those outside of Western Europe and Australia.
Barry M. Goldwater Scholarship
The Barry M. Goldwater Scholarship program was established in 1986 by the United States Congress to honor Senator Barry M. Goldwater. Up to 300 Goldwater Scholarships are awarded each year. The scholarships cover tuition, fees, books, and room and board up to a maximum of $7,500 per year. (The scholarship is renewable for students who receive it during their junior year of college.) Each four-year institution may nominate up to four students who are currently sophomores or juniors for the award. Second-year students who are currently enrolled in a two-year college but intend to transfer to a four-year college or university are also eligible. The students must intend to pursue careers in math, science or engineering.
Ernest F. Hollings Scholarship (NOAA)
The Ernest F. Hollings Scholarship was established in 2005 by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) to honor retired Senator Ernest F. Hollings of South Carolina who promoted ocean research and the study of our atmosphere throughout his career. The program supports a variety of majors related to oceanic and atmospheric science, research, technology and education, including earth, environmental and marine sciences, biology, agricultural science, life sciences, mathematics, computer science, physical science, engineering, social and behavioral sciences, and teacher education.
Intel Science Talent Search
The Intel Science Talent Search, formerly known as the Westinghouse Science Talent Search, is one of the most prestigious scientific research competitions for high school seniors in the United States. Winners are selected on the basis of their potential as future scientists and researchers. Each year 300 students are named semifinalists and receive a $1,000 award. 40 of the semifinalists are named finalists and are invited on an all-expense-paid trip to the Science Talent Institute in Washington, DC in March, where the winners are selected.
Intel International Science and Engineering Fair
The Intel International Science and Engineering Fair (ISEF) is the world’s largest science fair. Each year more than 1,200 students in grades 9-12 from more than 40 countries are selected at regional science fairs to compete at the ISEF for more than $3 million in scholarships and prizes.
NIH Undergraduate Scholarship Program
The NIH Undergraduate Scholarship Program (UGSP) is a competitive scholarship program sponsored by the National Institutes of Health (NIH) for students from disadvantaged backgrounds who are interested in pursuing biomedical, behavioral and social science careers at the NIH.
National Merit Scholarship Corporation
The National Merit Scholarship Corporation (NMSC) sponsors the National Merit Scholarships and National Achievement Scholarships programs. These are among the largest scholarship competitions in the United States, with more than 10,000 students receiving college scholarships totalling $47 million. High school students enter the competitions by taking the PSAT test, also referred to as the National Merit Scholarship Qualifying Test (NMSQT).
Presidential Scholars Program
The Presidential Scholars Program provides recognition (but no scholarship funding) for up to 121 high school seniors each year on the basis of academic achievement. An additional 20 students each year are selected on the basis of scholarship in the visual arts, performing arts or creative writing. US citizenship is required.
Rotary Foundation Ambassadorial Scholarships
The Rotary Foundation’s Ambassadorial Scholarship program provides approximately 1,000 to 1,100 scholarships for study abroad each year. The scholarships are available for undergraduate and graduate students worldwide. (Applicants must be citizens of a country in which there is a Rotary club.) Candidates must have completed at least two years of college. Applications are made through the local Rotary club. Each Rotary club has its own deadlines.
Siemens Westinghouse Competition in Math, Science and Technology
The Siemens Westinghouse Competition is one of the most prestigious scientific research competitions for high school students in the United States. Students submit research reports individually or in teams of two or three. Some of the projects are selected for further competition in six regional events. One individual and one team are selected as Regional Winners and are invited to participate in the National Competition.
Morris K. Udall Foundation Undergraduate Scholarship
The Morris K. Udall Foundation awards 50 undergraduate scholarships of up to $5,000 to college juniors and seniors in fields related to the environment.
Xerox Technical Minority Scholarship Program
The Xerox Technical Minority Scholarship Program provides scholarships for full-time undergraduate and graduate minority students in the following fields: Chemistry, Information Management, Computing & Software Systems, Material Science, Printing Management Science, Laser Optics, Physics and Engineering (Chemical, Computer, Electrical, Imaging, Manufacturing, Mechanical, Optical or Software Engineering).
Elie Wiesel Prize in Ethics Essay Contest
The Elie Wiesel Prize in Ethics Essay Contest is open to full-time juniors and seniors at accredited four-year colleges and universities in the United States.
Beinecke Scholarship Program
The Beinecke Scholarship Program is open to college juniors who intend to pursue graduate study in the arts, humanities, and social sciences at any accredited university.
British Chevening Scholarships
The British Chevening Scholarships enable non-UK students to study in the United Kingdom. They are offered in more than 118 countries. (US students are not eligible.) Approximately 600 new scholarships are awarded each year for postgraduate studies and research.
Winston Churchill Scholarship Foundation
The Churchill Scholarship Program enables young Americans to pursue graduate study in science, mathematics, and engineering at Churchill College, Cambridge University. A total of 14 one-year Churchill Scholarships are offered each year.
The Davies-Jackson Scholarship provides support for a two-year course of study at St. John’s College, Cambridge University, leading to a British B.A. degree (the equivalent of a master’s degree in the US). Fields of study include Archaeology and Anthropology, Classics, Economics, English, Geography, History, History of Art, Modern and Medieval Languages, Music, Philosophy, and Social and Political Sciences.
EPA Science to Achieve Results (STAR) Fellowship Program for Graduate Environmental Study
The Environmental Protection Agency’s STAR Fellowship Program provides graduate fellowships for master’s and doctoral students pursuing degrees in fields of study related to the environment.
Ford Foundation Predoctoral Fellowships for Minorities
The Ford Foundation Predoctoral Fellowships for Minorities program is administered by the National Research Council. Candidates must also be enrolled in or planning to enroll in a research-based PhD or ScD program in Archaeology, Anthropology, Art History, Astronomy, Chemistry, Communications, Computer Science, Earth Sciences, Economics, Engineering, Ethnomusicology, Geography, History, International Relations, Life Sciences, Linguistics, Literature, Language, Mathematics, Performance Study, Philosophy, Physics, Political Science, Psychology, Religion, Sociology, and Urban Planning.
Council for International Exchange of Scholars (CIES) and the Institute for International Education (IIE) administer the graduate Fulbright Fellowships for US citizens to study in other countries and for international students to study in the US. US students must apply through their campus Fulbright program advisor. International students should apply through the Fulbright Commission or US Information Service in their home country.
Gates Cambridge Scholarships
The Gates Cambridge Scholarships are open to graduate students from outside the United Kingdom for study at the University of Cambridge.
Hertz Foundation Graduate Fellowships in Applied Physical Sciences
The Hertz Foundation Graduate Fellowships are awarded to graduate students who are expected to have the greatest impact on the application of the physical sciences to human problems.
IBM PhD Fellowships
IBM PhD Fellowships are available to PhD students in business, chemistry, computer science, electrical engineering, materials science, mathematics, mechanical engineering and physics, as well as a variety of emerging technical fields.
Jacob K. Javits Fellowship Programs
The Jacob K. Javits Graduate Fellowships are awarded by the US Department of Education to support graduate students in the arts, humanities and social sciences.
Henry Luce Foundation Scholarship
The Luce Scholarships provide stipends and internships for 18 young Americans to live and work in Asia each year. Candidates must be US citizens who have earned a bachelor’s degree and are less than 30 years old.
James Madison Graduate Fellowships
The James Madison Junior Fellowships are open to college seniors and recent college graduates who intend to go to graduate school on a full-time basis. The fellowships provide funding for graduate study leading to a master’s degree and are tenable at any accredited institution of higher education in the United States. Candidates must intend to become secondary school teachers of American history, American government and social studies.
The Marshall Sherfield Scholarships Program is a highly competitive program in which young Americans are chosen to pursue a graduate education in the United Kingdom each year. The awards are tenable at any British university and cover two years of study in any field, typically at the graduate level, leading to the award of a British university degree.
Mellon Foundation Fellowships
The Andrew W. Mellon Fellowships in Humanistic Studies provide support for first-year doctoral students in the humanities. The fellowships are funded by the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation and administered by the Woodrow Wilson National Fellowship Foundation.
Charlotte W. Newcombe Doctoral Dissertation Fellowship
The Charlotte W. Newcombe Doctoral Dissertation Fellowships are for graduate students who look at the ethical or religious values in all fields of the humanities and social sciences in the pursuit of their doctorate
Woodrow Wilson Dissertation Fellowship in Women’s Studies
The Women’s Studies Fellowships are provided to Ph.D. candidates at institutions in the United States who will complete their dissertations during the fellowship year. The most competitive applications include not only a clear, thorough, and compelling description of the candidate’s work, but also evidence of an enduring interest in and commitment to women’s issues and scholarship on women.
Thomas R. Pickering Foreign Affairs Fellowship
The Thomas R. Pickering Foreign Affairs Fellowship is funded by the U.S. Department of State and is designed to attract outstanding individuals from all ethnic, racial and social backgrounds who have an interest in pursuing a Foreign Service career with the U.S. Department of State.
George Mitchell Scholarships
The George Mitchell Scholarships enable American students to pursue one year of postgraduate study at an Ireland university.
NASA Graduate Student Researchers Program (GSRP)
The NASA Graduate Student Researchers Program (GSRP) provides fellowships for graduate study leading to a masters or doctoral degree in science, mathematics and engineering. Approximately 90 to 100 new recipients are selected each year.
National Defense Science and Engineering Graduate Fellowship
The National Defense Science and Engineering Graduate Fellowships are sponsored by the US Department of Defense and support graduate students pursuing a doctoral degree in Aeronautical and Astronautical Engineering, Biosciences, Chemical Engineering, Chemistry, Civil Engineering, Cognitive, Neural, and Behavioral Sciences Computer and Computational Sciences, Electrical Engineering, Geosciences, Materials Science and Engineering, Mathematics, Mechanical Engineering, Naval Architecture and Ocean Engineering, Oceanography and Physics.
National Physical Science Consortium
The National Physical Science Consortium (NPSC) sponsors a graduate fellowship program for graduate students pursuing a PhD in the physical sciences at one of more than 100 participating colleges and universities. Recipients are required to work for a NPSC-member employer during the summer preceding and following the first year of graduate school. Fields of study include Astronomy, Chemistry, Computer Science, Geology, Materials Science, Mathematical Sciences, Physics, and their subdisciplines, and related engineering fields, including Chemical, Computer, Electrical, Environmental, and Mechanical Engineering.
National Science Foundation Graduate Research Foundation
The U.S. National Science Foundation (NSF) Graduate Research Fellowship awards approximately 900 to 1,000 new three-year fellowships each year to graduate students in the mathematical, physical, biological, engineering, and behavioral and social sciences. (The full list of eligible fields is: animal sciences, anthropology, archeology , astronomy, biochemistry, bioengineering, biophysics & structural biology, chemical engineering, chemistry, civil & environmental engineering, computer science, cultural anthropology, ecology, economics, electrical engineering, engineering fields, environmental life sciences, genetics & evolutionary biology, geography, geosciences, history of science, linguistics, materials engineering, mathematical sciences, mechanical engineering, microbiology & cell biology, molecular & developmental biology, neurosciences & physiology, physics, plant & other life sciences, political science, psychology, public policy, sociology.)
Boren Fellowships provide up to $24,000 to U.S. graduate students to add an important international and language component to their graduate education through specialization in area study, language study, or increased language proficiency. Boren Fellowships support study and research in areas of the world that are critical to U.S. interests, including Africa, Asia, Central & Eastern Europe, Eurasia, Latin America, and the Middle East. The countries of Western Europe, Canada, Australia, and New Zealand are excluded.
The Rhodes Scholarships enable students from many countries to study at the University of Oxford. 32 American Rhodes Scholars are selected each year.
Alfred P. Sloan Foundation Research Fellowships
The Sloan Research Fellowships provide support and recognition to young scientists and research faculty in physics, chemistry, mathematics, neuroscience, economics, computer science and computational and evolutionary molecular biology.
Social Science Research Council International Dissertation Research Fellowship
The Social Science Research Council and the American Council of Learned Societies sponsor the International Dissertation Field Research Fellowship (IDRF) program for graduate students in humanities and social sciences conducting doctoral dissertation field research outside the United States.
Paul and Daisy Soros Fellowships for New Americans
The Soros Fellowships provide for up to two years of graduate study in the US for "New Americans.” New Americans include resident aliens (i.e., holders of a Green Card), naturalized US citizens, and the children of two parents who are both naturalized US citizens. Fellows may pursue graduate degrees in any professional field, such as engineering, medicine, law, and social work, or any scholarly discipline in the arts, humanities, social sciences, and sciences.
Spencer Foundation Dissertation Fellowships for Research Related to Education
The Spencer Foundation’s Dissertation Fellowships for Research Related to Education are open to doctoral degree candidates at graduate schools in the United States. The emphasis is on the improvement of education.
Harry S. Truman Scholarships
The Harry S. Truman Scholarships are open to college juniors who are US citizens and nationals and who want to go to graduate school in preparation for a career in public service (government or the nonprofit and advocacy sectors).
The Wenner-Gren Foundation awards grants for Dissertation Fieldwork for basic research in anthropology. Candidates for the Dissertation Fieldwork Grants must be enrolled in a program leading to a doctoral degree, and must complete all requirements for the degree other than the dissertation.
National Professional Organizations
National Association of Fellowship Advisors (NAFA)
NAFA is a national professional organization for college personnel who advise students on applying for prestigious scholarships and fellowships like the Truman, Marshall and Rhodes Scholarships.
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