When it comes to college scholarships, the Coca-Cola Scholarship is one of the most generous. Recipients win $20,000 toward their college education! Not surprisingly, this also makes the Coca-Coca Scholarship one of the most competitive scholarship programs out there.
In this guide, we’ll tell you everything you need to know about the Coca-Cola Scholarship, plus tips to increase your chances of winning one for yourself.
About the Coca-Cola Scholarship
The Coca-Cola Scholars Program scholarship is a merit-based scholarship for graduating high school seniors. It is one of three scholarships funded by the Coca-Cola Scholars Foundation, which was launched in 1986 to celebrate Coca-Cola’s centennial. Each year, 150 students are selected to receive the $20,000 scholarship.
According to the program’s website, winners are recognized for “their capacity to lead and serve.” Winners are also committed to “making a significant impact” in their communities and schools. In total, 6,300 Coca-Cola Scholars have won more than $72 million to support their educations.
Am I Qualified for the Coca-Cola Scholarship?
To qualify for the Coca-Cola Scholarship, you must meet the following eligibility requirements:
- Be a current high school senior (or home-schooled student) attending school in the United States
- Be a U.S. citizen, U.S. national, U.S. permanent resident, refugee, asylee, Cuban-Haitian entrant, or humanitarian parolee
- Plan to pursue a college degree at an accredited U.S. post-secondary institution (most two or four-year colleges in the United States)
- Have a minimum 3.0 unweighted GPA
In addition, you may not be:
- The child or grandchild of a current Coca-Cola employee or a former employee receiving retirement benefits
- An international student
- A high school graduate
- A temporary resident of the U.S.
If you fit these requirements, you’re eligible to submit an application for consideration.
How Do I Submit a Coca-Coca Scholarship?
Typically, the Coca-Cola Scholarship application window opens at the beginning of August and closes at the end of October. During the application window, you must submit a complete application through the Coca-Cola Scholars Foundation application portal. Applications are not accepted via mail, fax, or email.
The good news is that the Coca-Cola Scholarship does not require an essay or other supplementary materials. However, the application does ask for a lot of information. And you must be sure to fill it out completely—otherwise, you won’t be considered for the scholarship.
Around mid-November, 2,000 applicants are selected as semifinalists. Semifinalists are typically asked to submit additional materials for consideration. A committee reviews the applications and selects 250 regional finalists by the end of January.
In February, regional finalists are interviewed via phone or Skype. After interviews, the 150 scholarship winners are finally selected and announced.
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What Do I Need to Submit for a Coca-Cola Scholarship?
Here’s the information you’ll be asked to provide on the Coca-Cola Scholarship application:
- Contact Information– Including the names, phone numbers, and emails of your school principal and guidance counselor.
- Academic Record/Transcript- You won’t send your transcript in with the application, but you’ll need it so you can self-report your classes and grades beginning from freshman year. You also need to know your class size, class rank, and the number of AP/IB classes offered at your school.
- Clubs and Organizations- The application asks you to list both school and non-school related activities you’ve taken part in since freshman year. You also need to mention any leadership roles you held in these activities. Specifically, the activities mentioned on the application include student council, class officer, academic/honor societies, school newspaper or literary magazine, school yearbook, drama, theater, dance, speech, debate, forensics, band, orchestra, vocal, visual arts, athletics, and any other school-related clubs, organizations, or intramurals.
- Honors and Awards- List awards and accolades you’ve received since freshman year, including whether these awards were local, regional, state, or national.
- Volunteer Activities- List unpaid community service activities since freshman year. You’ll need to include the number of hours you participated in each activity, plus any awards or honors you received through volunteering.
- Work Experience- If you have paid work experience, you’ll include information about how long you were employed and how many hours you worked weekly in your application.
As mentioned previously, the application does not require an essay or supplementary materials, such as letters of recommendation. It also doesn’t ask for your standardized test scores or any financial information (because it is not a need-based scholarship). However, as you can see, the application requires some pretty in-depth information about your high school career.
It’s easier to fill out the application if you gather materials ahead of time, like your transcript, information on extracurricular activities and volunteer work, a list of your honors and awards, etc. You should also ask your guidance counselor for data like your class size/rank and the number of AP/IB classes at your school if you’re not sure.
Tips for Winning a Coca-Cola Scholarship
With $20,000 on the line, it makes sense that the Coca-Cola Scholarship is highly competitive and prestigious. In fact, the top five colleges attended by Coca-Cola Scholarship recipients are Harvard, Stanford, Duke, Yale, and Princeton. Many winners are entrepreneurs, inventors, founders of nonprofit organizations, and leaders of impactful research. You can read bios of the most recent Coca-Cola Scholars here.
But that doesn’t mean you should feel intimidated or rule yourself out. It takes only a few hours to complete the application, and it could lead to $20,000 toward your education. You never know what might happen, especially if you’re strategic and thorough in filling out your application.
The following tips will help you put your best foot forward and maximize your chances of winning a Coca-Cola Scholarship. The first few tips apply to younger high school students who have time remaining to build their resumes. At the end, we have some tips for seniors who are ready to apply now, including how to present yourself in the best possible light.
YOUNGER HIGH SCHOOL STUDENTS
Demonstrate Academic Achievement
For just about any merit-based scholarship, academic achievement is key. In particular, corporate scholarships like Coca-Cola’s program want to invest in students who have clearly demonstrated their potential for success.
Take the most challenging classes available at your school, and get the highest grades possible. Aim for a stellar GPA and a seat near the top of your graduating class. If you find yourself struggling, be proactive. Ask for help from a teacher, peer, or professional tutor. Invest time in taking notes, reviewing those notes, and studying regularly (not just cramming). Complete your class assignments and homework on time, and be receptive to feedback from your teachers.
Excelling academically is challenging and time-consuming. It’s not always fun. But when you think about opportunities like the Coca-Cola Scholarship, you realize all the hard work is a worthwhile investment in yourself and your future.
When you’re first starting high school, it might seem scary to throw yourself into new activities and organizations. But it’s important to get involved from the beginning. Look into the clubs and extracurricular activities available at your school, and make a list of the ones that sound interesting to you.
Talk to other students or attend a few introductory meetings, then narrow your list down to 3-4 activities that line up with your passions and interests. It’s best to stick with your favorite activities throughout high school, growing within the organization and ideally taking on a leadership role. Plus, you’ll show commitment and passion, which appeals to scholarship committees and admissions officers alike.
Most Coca-Cola Scholarship recipients are presidents of clubs, captains of sports teams, and/or leaders in student government. If you want to establish yourself as a motivated and passionate leader, it helps to get involved early on, building trust and connections throughout your school.
Serve Your School and Community
Another common trait in most Coca-Cola Scholarship recipients is impactful service. Many are also involved in social justice initiatives within their schools and communities, like advocating against human trafficking, working with underrepresented youth, bridging the gender gap in STEM, or raising awareness about teen mental health.
You can start by volunteering in your school and community, including with the organizations and clubs you’re involved in. Ideally, you’ll find a cause you’re passionate about or a need you’d love to help meet. Whether it’s teaching senior citizens about computers, providing free tutoring to underprivileged students, or giving presentations about climate change, it’s especially impressive (and personally fulfilling) if you can start a project, event, or even a nonprofit organization of your own.
Think about the needs of students at your school or people in your community that aren’t being met. What can you do to help? Again, reading through bios of the latest Coca-Cola Scholarship recipients can give you a wealth of inspiration and ideas. But you’re at your best when you’re following your heart and pursuing your passions, so find something that’s meaningful to you.
We mentioned leadership already, but it’s important to remember that leadership comes in many forms. It might mean being a club president or a sports team captain, or it could mean making your own invention, business, community program, or school fundraiser. You can also lead by training people at a job, welcoming new students to your school, or organizing events.
The idea of leadership isn’t comfortable for everyone, so find a way to lead that works for you. If you want to stand out and compete for major scholarships like this one, it’s important to get some sort of leadership experience on your resume.
Earn Accolades and Awards
If you do everything mentioned above, you’re almost guaranteed to win some awards and accolades for your efforts. Still, you should always be on the lookout for opportunities. And some honors require you to submit yourself for consideration, so don’t assume you’ll just automatically be recognized and rewarded.
Often, teachers or counselors will share award opportunities. If you hear something that’s a good fit for you, always take the time to apply. If you’re into research, submit your work for publication. Or make sure you put together a solid entry for your school’s Science Fair, which could get you all the way to the state competition. Enter essay contests if writing is your thing, or find talent shows where your musical abilities will shine. Whatever you’re good at, aim for recognition that you can include on your resume.
SENIORS READY TO APPLY FOR THE COCA-COLA SCHOLARSHIP
Keep Program Values in Mind
Reading through the information for younger high school students above should give you some idea of the values and qualities most important to the Coca-Cola Scholarship committee. Successful applicants shine academically, show leadership, and make a real impact on their schools and communities. They are service-oriented, motivated, and passionate.
As you fill out the scholarship application, keep these values in mind. These are the areas you really want to highlight and bring to the forefront. Think about how your extracurricular experience, awards and honors, and volunteer work can help you demonstrate these values to the people reviewing your application. If you aren’t sure, ask family members, friends, and teachers who know you well for input.
Make sure to closely read through every part of the application. Enter your information thoroughly and correctly. If you miss any part of the application, you won’t be considered for the scholarship.
Similarly, make sure you list everything that could help make your application look good. If it happened during high school and shows your academic ability, leadership skills, dedication to the community, or overall motivation and potential, then you don’t want to leave it out. Now is not the time to be humble!
Any application you submit should be error-free, especially for an extremely competitive scholarship like this one. Review your application very carefully before submitting. If you aren’t sure about your spelling or comma placement, do some online research to double-check your work.
Sometimes, it’s helpful to save the application for a day or two after you complete it. Then, look at it with a fresh pair of eyes before submitting. You might catch something you missed the first time around. Another tip is to read your application backwards. It sounds strange, but it gives you a new perspective that can help you spot errors.
Ask for a Second Opinion
It’s also helpful to ask for a second opinion from a teacher or trusted adult. Ask another person (or 2-3 other people) to review your application for grammar and clarity. You can also ask for input on the information you’ve included and if there’s anything you’ve left out.
Of course, it’s your application at the end of the day, so don’t make changes you aren’t comfortable with. A second opinion is just that—an opinion.
Submit On Time!
Finally, make sure to submit your application on time. If you miss the deadline, you miss the opportunity. It’s best to submit early, so you don’t feel too much pressure and have plenty of time to review and edit as needed.
So, mark the Coca-Cola Scholarship deadline in your calendar as soon as the scholarship window opens. Give yourself plenty of time to gather materials, write the application, edit it, and ask for at least one other person to review it too.
Final Thoughts: How to Win a Coca-Cola Scholarship
The Coca-Cola Scholarship is extremely competitive because it’s extremely worthwhile: 150 applicants win $
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Follow the tips in this guide to show your thirst for knowledge, leadership, and helping the community, and you’ll increase your chances of being named a Coca-Cola Scholar.