Published by EGE News Tuesday, March 6, 2018

With the annual cost of a four-year college rising, students need all the financial help they can get. Applying for a scholarship – including high-dollar awards – can help reduce the amount borrowed in federal and private student loans.

Below are four scholarships that are each worth $10,000 or more. Each organization looks for outstanding students who've achieved great things or contributed to their communities in meaningful ways. If you can land one of these awards, you'll be off the hook for a big portion of your tuition bill. In fact, you might even graduate college debt-free.

1. GE-Reagan Foundation Scholarship ProgramThe GE-Reagan Foundation Scholarship Program celebrates students "who demonstrate exemplary leadership, drive, integrity, and citizenship," according to the program's website. You must have a minimum 3.0 GPA, be a U.S. citizen and be a high school senior planning to enroll full time in college in the upcoming year. 

Besides writing an application essay, you'll need a strong recommendation from a community leader, such as your principal or an elected official. Each year, around 20 students are selected; winners are typically notified in February, and they receive an award of up to $10,000. The award is renewable for up to an additional three years, so each recipient could receive up to $40,000 total.

The 2018 program is currently closed, but you can sign up on the program's site to be notified about next year's scholarship.

2. Gates Scholarship: The Gates Scholarship offers a full ride to 300 deserving students every year. To be eligible, you must be a minority student with financial need – eligible for Pell Grants – and have a record of academic excellence.

In particular, the Gates Scholarship committee looks for high school seniors in the top 10 percent of their class who show leadership and unique personal strengths. You must also be a U.S. citizen, national or permanent resident.

If you win this selective scholarship, you'll get funding for the full cost of attendance of your school minus your expected family contribution as determined by the Free Application for Federal Student Aid, or FAFSA, and other aid you've received.

While the Gates Scholarship requires that you go on to study full time in a four-year degree program, you're free to major in any subject. The program is currently closed, with finalist interviews planned for March. 

3. Davidson Fellows Scholarship: The Davidson Fellows Scholarship goes to high-achieving students who are 18 years old or younger. You must be a U.S. citizen or permanent resident living in the U.S. or be stationed overseas for active U.S. military duty.

Applicants must complete a meaningful project in one of these areas: science, technology, engineering, mathematics, literature, music or philosophy. Any graduate-level work supervised by an expert also qualifies.

One scholarship recipient, for example, put together personal projects and essays on what causes atrocities and how to prevent them. Another recipient created an app that would allow people to self-diagnose eye diseases.

The form and topic of your project might look vastly different. But it should highlight a new idea or creative way of approaching problems, as well as benefit society in some way. 

The extraordinary students who make it through the application process are rewarded with a scholarship in the amount of $10,000, $25,000 or $50,000. In 2017, two students won $50,000, nine won $25,000 and an additional nine earned $10,000.

Besides scholarship money, you'll also be invited to congressional meetings and a celebratory reception in the District of Columbia. 

The deadline for the 2018 program has passed, so be sure to check the site for updates on the next cycle.

4. Ron Brown Scholarship: The Ron Brown Scholarship, which has a Jan. 9 application deadline each year, provides support for around 20 academically gifted African-American high school seniors who are U.S. citizens or permanent residents and take part in community service. Besides showing leadership potential, you must also have demonstrated financial need to qualify for this scholarship. 

You'll apply for this scholarship much as you would for college, with personal essays, letters of recommendation, a record of your extracurriculars and your academic transcript. 

Since the $10,000 Ron Brown Scholarship is renewable, winners can receive a total of $40,000 over their four years of college.

The prestigious scholarships detailed above aren't easy to win, but if you fit the bill, you could reduce the financial pressure of college in a major way. At the same time, don't forget to apply for smaller scholarships as well. With all the opportunities available, there's at least one scholarship suited to your unique strengths.