Start Earning Micro Scholarships in 9th Grade

What are Micro Scholarships?

Who says that you have to wait until you’re almost done with high school to start hunting for college scholarships? High school students can start earning money for college as soon as 9th grade. There are programs called micro scholarships that allow kids to start earning awards for the hard work they put in throughout high school. The platform gives kids the power to drop money into their college piggy bank without filling out an application. It’s also a powerful tool to level the playing field for students from all backgrounds so hopefully, they might feel less stressed about the cost of colleges.

It Pays to Stay Engaged

Teenagers can earn money for getting good grades, volunteering, leading a club, playing high school sports or even caring for a relative. Kids can even earn up to $1,000 for recommending their friends. 

Micro scholarships are incremental amounts of money that a student can earn as scholarships for their college tuition. The average scholarship amount each student can earn is $5,000 per year.

The programs are relatively new and they weren’t around when many of today’s parents were in high school. It’s an innovative way to reward students early on in their high school career. By having kids keep track of their accomplishments from freshman year onward, they can start to tailor their high school profile to prepare for their college applications. Students can see how academics, sports, clubs, and community service are all tied together to create a well-rounded student portfolio. By starting early on in a student’s high school career, a teenager might be more motivated about keeping the big picture in mind rather than just focusing on academics.

Where to Start Looking for Scholarship Opportunities

The most popular micro-scholarship program is Raise.Me. It’s a social enterprise program with backing from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation when it first started in 2014. Since then, more than $6 billion have been earned by 2 million students who have used Raise.Me. 

The way that this platform works is that high school students create a profile for free. The teenager gives details about themselves, like their high school, year of graduation, and their passions and interests. They also include their academic courses, sports they play, clubs they’ve joined and volunteer work they’ve participated in. While a transcript can be used to verify grades, many of the other extracurricular activities are entered by the student based on an honor system. Not only do kids earn scholarships for their accomplishments, they even get $100 for each friend they refer. Each friend is also entitled to earn $100 as well. 

Teens select colleges that they might be interested in and follow them. There are more than 300 colleges partnered with the platform, including University of Chicago, Penn State and Tulane University. My advice for kids is to follow as many colleges as they want because there is absolutely no harm in following them. If they are even remotely interested in a school, based on its location, reputation, or even a whim, that’s enough of an impetus to follow a college. Just go for it! If your child already wants to experience four years living in a place with year-round sunshine or winters with snowfall, they can use that as a criterion for the colleges they may want to consider.  

Use Data to Make the Informed Decisions about Colleges

A really neat tool in the free website is that each college profile includes detailed information like acceptance rates, tuition, the average SAT scores of their accepted applicants, ranking in U.S. News & World Reports, and other pertinent information. The data is available even for elite universities that haven’t partnered with Raise.Me for micro-scholarships.

Each participating college followed by the teen will award them for their accomplishments, but they may vary in amounts. For example, one college might award $2,000 for perfect attendance while another college might award $200 for the same thing. The total scholarship amount represents a minimum that a student can earn because many colleges will increase funding to a student’s financial package.

When your child enrolls in the college they are following, they receive the scholarship money from the college directly. You won’t be able to earn micro scholarships to the college after you’ve already been accepted so it’s best to sign up early on in high school. Community college students are also eligible if they plan to transfer to a four-year college. Home schoolers can sign up as well.  

With Raise.Me micro scholarships, kids are rewarded for the work they’re already doing. There are no essays to be written, no sweepstakes to enter, and no fee to enroll. Most importantly, the odds are not one in a zillion that your high school student will be awarded a college scholarship. Your high schooler will already be earning college scholarships just by signing up.

Helen Hwang
Helen I. Hwang is a freelance journalist, author and mechanical engineer. Her works have appeared in People Magazine, Huffington Post, Philadelphia Inquirer, Philadelphia City Paper, [email protected] (Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania's online business journal), Arthur Frommer's Budget Travel Magazine, TravelSavvy.com, Jade Magazine, Hyphen Magazine, Next American City Magazine, and other publications.