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Eagle Scout Scholarships: Introduction

Finding merit scholarships to fund your college goals can be a challenge. Therefore, in this guide to Eagle Scout Scholarships, we’ll walk you through all of the details of the National Eagle Scout Association Scholarships, including important requirements, deadlines, and more. Keep reading, and we will help you work out the ins and outs of merit-based scholarships.

Firstly, we’ll go over how to find scholarships for college, explore the National Eagle Scout Association Scholarships (aka NESA Scholarships), discuss what makes you eligible for Eagle Scout Scholarships, explore some of the top merit-based scholarships. Finally, we’ll share five tips to help you become NESA scholarship winners. Overall, this article will help make your scholarship search as painless as possible.

How to find scholarships for college?

The cost of college is growing, making an in-depth scholarship search more important. In the search for scholarships for college, you may become overwhelmed with the sheer number and variety of options. Want to apply for Financial Aid and scholarships, but not sure where to start? CollegeAdvisor has a webinar that goes over the steps to apply for each of these. In the first place, there are a few basic terms you should get familiar with. 

The Difference Between Merit-Based Scholarships and Financial Aid

Firstly, what is a merit-based scholarship, and how does it differ from student financial aid? Financial aid is money loaned to a student that they may or may not have to pay back. For example, some forms of financial aid include grants and loans. In fact, students don’t need to pay back grants. However, they must pay back loans to the lending institution with interest. In conclusion, financial aid awards are based on a student’s financial need. 

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On the other hand, scholarships for college are normally gifted money for students to use toward the cost of college. These funds are granted either to the student or directly to the school the student attends. You don’t have to pay back this money to the entity that awarded you the scholarship. This is because scholarships are not necessarily tied to a student’s financial need. Specifically, schools may award merit-based scholarships based on things such as academic, athletic, artistic, or specialty merit. 

Merit Scholarships

There are countless merit scholarships available to students. So, in this article, we’ll go over some of the top merit-based scholarships for college. CollegeAdvisor is a great starting place to search for merit-based scholarships. If you don’t know where to start in your scholarship search, CollegeAdvisor has an informative webinar on how to find and apply for scholarships that can guide you on your journey. 

First thing to remember is that you’ll come across all types of scholarships in your scholarship search. Therefore, you need to identify which merit-based scholarships you can apply to. Specifically, most of the top merit-based scholarships require high academic achievement or excellence in extracurricular activities and athletics. 

There are also many merit scholarships that seek students who excel in specific fields. For example, you can find scholarships for members of specific community organizations you may already be a part of. The point is to think about your academic performance, and your extracurricular interests, and search for scholarships that you feel would best fit your specific identity. 

Once you have found a few scholarships that fit you, start creating a competitive application. Most merit-based scholarships have similar application elements.

Application components to look out for:

  1. Firstly, you will probably need a strong letter of recommendation from a respected adult such as a teacher or a coach. These letters don’t have to be lengthy. However, they should convey your strengths as a student and describe why the writer believes you are worthy of receiving a scholarship.
  2. Almost all merit scholarships include a written component. For example, a personal statement, or short answer questions, or an essay. Thus, take every opportunity to practice and improve your writing skills. Additionally, make it a habit to check for spelling and grammar mistakes. For example, grammarly is a  free online tool that can help to strengthen your writing. 
  3. Keep up your grades! This may sound obvious, but high academic performance and test scores are often required for many merit-based scholarships. Form study groups with your peers, seek out tutoring when necessary, and take advantage of any free test-prep courses offered to you through your school. 
  4. Finally, pay attention to the various application deadlines! Each scholarship has different deadlines, and it is easy to forget them when you are busy with school and extracurriculars. So, create a spreadsheet or make a list of all the scholarships that interest you, their application requirements, and their deadlines.

Examples of Merit Scholarships

CollegeAdvisor has a great variety of articles on how to apply to various merit-based scholarships. These articles are also strong resources if you want to learn more about some of the top merit-based scholarships in the nation. Below, for example, we’ve picked a few of these merit-based scholarships.

Vanderbilt Merit Scholarships: “Vanderbilt is one of the few private elite academic institutions that offer significant merit scholarships that are independent of a family’s financial status. As a result, the Vanderbilt merit scholarships are highly competitive, with less than 1% of applicants receiving a scholarship. 

Prospective applicants can apply to three merit scholarships: the Cornelius Vanderbilt scholarship, the Chancellor scholarship, and the Ingram scholarship.”

Coca-Cola Scholarship: “The Coca-Cola scholarship is a $20,000 scholarship awarded to 150 exceptional high school seniors that provides them with a unique and exclusive alumni network. It is one of the more prestigious scholarships for high school students and has a rigorous admission process. In their own words, the scholarship is for students ‘who demonstrate academic achievement and leadership.’”

USC Merit Scholarship: “To be applicable for a USC merit scholarship, students must submit their application earlier than the regular decision deadline. Typically, 2% of early applicants are selected to be considered for a USC merit scholarship. There are three possible USC merit scholarships students can receive: the Trustee scholarship (full-tuition), the Presidential scholarship (half-tuition), and the Dean’s Scholarship (quarter-tuition).”

Exploring National Eagle Scout Association Scholarships

In case your scholarship search has brought you to NESA, you may already be familiar with this great organization. The National Eagle Scout Association (NESA) is an organization specifically for those members of Scouts BSA who are Eagle Scouts. NESA “empowers Eagle Scouts to perpetuate the mission, values, and time-honored traditions of Scouting for future generations.” 

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Specifically, national Eagle Scout Association Scholarships are available each year for students entering college. NESA scholarships are competitive, merit-based scholarships awarded to select students who have achieved the rank of Eagle Scout. For this reason, there are various forms of NESA scholarships with varying amounts of funding attached to them.

Note that the NESA scholarship application portal is only open during the months of December and January. The application deadline is 11:59 p.m. CST on January 31.

This article will explore all the NESA scholarship details, and show you how to join the ranks of the NESA scholarship winners.

Lawrence S. and Mabel Cooke Scholarship

The Lawrence S. and Mabel Cooke Scholarship is the the NESA scholarship for high-achieving students. Lawrence S. Cooke established this fund in memory of his wife, Mabel Cooke. In fact, the Cooke Scholarship is one of the most sought-after of eagle scout scholarships. 

This scholarship is also the largest of the NESA scholarships and can help make a big difference in the cost of college.

  • A $48,000 scholarship is given to one student per year, (up to $12,000/year for four years of study)
  • Each of the 16 National Service Territories (NSTs) will award a student one $16,000 scholarship, (up to $4,000/year for four years of study)

It must be remembered that the Lawrence S. and Mabel Cooke Scholarship is one of the best Eagle Scout scholarships for college. Therefore, these Eagle Scout scholarship recipients must show high academic performance, demonstrate financial need, and be active participants in school and Scouting activities.

National Eagle Scout Association Scholarship

Beyond the Lawrence S. and Mabel Cooke Scholarships, students may also apply to other NESA scholarships with smaller award values. 

  • Each of the 16 NSTs will award one student a $7,500 scholarship
  • Each of the 16 NSTs will award two students a $3,500 scholarship

All Eagle Scout scholarships are funded through endowments from the National Eagle Scout Association, the Hansen & Mary Hall Scholarship Fund, the Lester S. McElwain Eagle Scholarship Endowment, and the Robert and Rebecca Palmer Eagle Scout Scholarship Endowment.

NESA scholarship winners must show that they understand the importance of service to their community, service to Scouting, and being active participants in school, Scouting, and their community.

Additionally, Eagle Scout scholarships are for students in financial need. Thus, NESA scholarship winners should show their financial need. 

How many NESA Scholarships are offered each year?

Between the Cooke Scholarship and the other Eagle Scout Scholarships, NESA awards 65 scholarships per year to help students offset the cost of college. 

  • One national Lawrence S. and Mabel Cooke Scholarship
  • 16 Cooke Scholarships—one for each NST
  • Three other NESA Scholarships in each of the 16 NSTs

The National Eagle Scout Association scholarships are great merit scholarships for students to apply to. With 65 NESA scholarship winners annually, these Eagle Scout scholarships are worth applying for!

How much are the NESA Scholarships? 

Let’s break down the award amounts for each of the NESA Scholarships!

NESA scholarships
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The Lawrence S. and Mabel Cooke Scholarship:

  • $48,000 to one national recipient (up to $12,000/year for four years)
  • $16,000 to one recipient in each of the 16 NSTs (up to $4,000/year for four years)

Other National Eagle Scout Association Scholarships:

  • $7,500 to one recipient in each of the 16 NSTs
  • $3,500 to two recipients in each of the 16 NSTs

So, as you can see, the Eagle Scout scholarships for college are well worth applying for! They can greatly impact the cost of college for you and your family. 

What are the conditions of the NESA Scholarships?

NESA Scholarship winners must meet certain conditions to apply for these Eagle Scout scholarships for college. Here are five criteria that make a student eligible for a NESA scholarship: 

  1. Students must be active members of NESA and achieve Eagle Scout status during each award period. You can become a NESA member through their website. NESA offers two membership options: either 5-year or lifetime membership plans. 
  2. Students must provide proof of attendance at a four-year college or university. The school must be an accredited institution in order to qualify for a NESA scholarship. Students must also be attending an undergraduate program. Graduate students are not eligible for Eagle Scout scholarships.
  3. NESA pays all funds directly to the award recipient’s college or university for tuition, room, and board.
  4. Award recipients must maintain a GPA that places them in the top third of their class. Beyond high school, students must keep up their good academic standing into their undergraduate program. If a student’s GPA falls below a certain level, they will be at risk of losing any scholarship money they may have earned.
  5. Award recipients must use funds in the year provided and cannot defer their scholarships (this is especially important for those students who are pursuing a gap year). Students planning on taking a gap year are still eligible to apply for and receive Eagle Scout scholarships for college.

The conditions of the National Eagle Scout Association scholarships ensure the NESA scholarship winners maintain high levels of academic and personal performance during their time at college.

Are Eagle Scout Scholarships competitive?

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With only 65 total National Eagle Scout Association scholarships available nationally, NESA scholarships for college are competitive. However, these merit scholarships are still worth applying for, to help offset the cost of college.

Tips for becoming an award recipient

Below are our tips for attaining scholarship funding:

  1. Hone your writing skills: Top merit-based scholarships all require a writing sample in their application. Some scholarships will ask for a personal statement, short answer questions, or even a full essay. 
  2. Maintain high academic performance: Many merit scholarships seek students who have high marks at school. But don’t fret if you’re not a “straight A” student. If a student shows an aptitude for a certain subject or maintains good grades, and take part in extracurricular activities, they have a good chance of getting a scholarship of some kind.
  3. Aim for high test scores: Along with working toward high academic performance, students need to study for standardized tests such as the SAT and ACT exams. Some students choose to hire special tutors to teach them test strategies. If this is not possible, many high schools and libraries offer free or low cost exam prep courses. Again, practice, practice, practice! Scoring well on a test has more to do with your test taking stamina and strategy than with your actual knowledge of a subject. 

*Note: For Eagle Scout scholarships this year, SAT and ACT scores are not required as part of the application. 

Who is eligible for NESA Scholarships?

In your scholarship search, you have probably come across various eligibility requirements for different scholarships for college.

Let’s go over the eligibility requirements for the National Eagle Scout Association scholarships:

  • Applicants must be active NESA members who earned the rank of Eagle Scout and are pursuing further study at an accredited college or university.
  • Students attending any of the U.S. military academies are not eligible for Eagle Scout scholarships.
  • Graduate students are ineligible for Eagle Scout scholarships—these scholarships are for undergraduate students.

How do I apply for Eagle Scout Scholarships?

Armed with all this information, you may now be wondering, “Where do I apply for a NESA scholarship?”

All National Eagle Scout Association scholarships are on the NESA webpage. There, you can read more details about Eagle Scout scholarships for college and find the online application portal to apply. Please note that the portal won’t be active until December 2022, when the application window opens. 

The application portal for the National Eagle Scout Association scholarships will only be open during the application window (December and January).

eagle scout scholarships
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Click “New Applicant” to get started. You will not have to provide any BSA ID numbers to begin your application.

Once you create your account, you can begin to fill out the NESA scholarship application. You will receive a link to access your application and make any updates. There is no need to complete the entire application at once. You can log out and log in to complete the application later if necessary.

When can I apply for NESA Scholarships?

Now that you know about these amazing Eagle Scout scholarships for college, you’re probably itching to apply as soon as possible! The application portal opens each December, so students will complete the application in the winter of their senior year of high school. 

Students must submit their Eagle Scout scholarship applications by the end of January. Be sure to check the website for the most up to date information, as NESA has not formally announced the 2022‒2023 deadline yet.

NESA scholarship winners will be announced in June, following a student’s senior year of high school. 

Eagle Scout Scholarships – Additional Questions

Now we’ll go over some more questions about Eagle Scout scholarships for college that we didn’t cover above. 

What do I need to submit to win an Eagle Scout scholarship?

You must be an official NESA member to win an Eagle Scout scholarship and submit an application through the NESA application portal on their website.

Can I apply for an Eagle Scout scholarship if I am taking a gap year?

Yes, Eagle Scout scholarships are open to students planning to take a gap year. However, students must remember to apply during their gap year.

How can I stand out from other applicants when applying for merit scholarships?

Standing out from the crowd can feel like a challenge. The key is to identify your strengths and share them when you apply for merit scholarships. Winning a merit scholarship is about showing what makes you unique and worthy. This can range from exceptional grades to a diverse and robust extracurricular routine.

Eagle Scout Scholarships vs. the National Merit Scholarship

Eagle Scout Scholarships are only one type of merit-based scholarship. Students will find other opportunities in their scholarship search, such as the National Merit Scholarship.

The National Merit Scholarship is one of the top merit-based scholarships in the nation. Both the National Merit Scholarship and the Eagle Scout scholarships are highly competitive merit scholarships. This article from CollegeAdvisor offers an excellent deep dive into the National Merit Scholarship.

Let’s briefly compare the two merit scholarships:

Eagle Scout ScholarshipsNational Merit Scholarship
Who is eligibleEagle Scouts attending an accredited 4-year undergraduate collegeHigh-achieving high school students
Award Amount(s)(1) $48,000 award(16) $16,000 awards(16) $7,500 awards(32) $3,500 awards$2,500
How many scholarships are awarded each year?65Roughly 7,500 

5 Tips to Win an Eagle Scout Scholarship

Let’s go over some tips to help you become one of the NESA scholarship winners this year! These five things will increase your chances of wining one of the Eagle Scout scholarships for college.

  1. Engage in Eagle Scout activities: Eagle Scout scholarships are for those students who are active in their Eagle Scout troupes. The more involved you are in scouting activities, the better your chances of getting a NESA scholarship.
  1. Keep your grades up: Almost all top merit-based scholarships require students to maintain high academic performance.
  1. Invest in your community: Eagle Scout scholarships require students to be active participants in their community. Whether that be through volunteering, community service, or community groups, NESA wants students who understand the value of community investment.
  1. Write strong essays: In your scholarship search, you have no doubt noticed that most scholarships have a written element. Practice writing every day! Use every opportunity to improve your writing skills. You’d be surprised how much your writing will progress with dedicated practice. If in doubt, many high schools or public libraries offer tutors or help for writing. Look into your local resources.
  1. Meet your deadlines: Organization is key for managing multiple projects. Right now, students have full plates with testing, school, extracurricular activities, and applying for scholarships and financial aid on top of it all. In your scholarship search, keep an organized list of which applications are due and when. Set calendar reminders in advance of the due date to give yourself some cushion with deadlines.

How to win the National Eagle Scout Association Scholarships – Final Thoughts

Eagle Scout scholarships for college are great, competitive merit-based scholarships. NESA scholarship winners will be those students who are 1) Eagle Scouts, 2) active in their communities, 3) maintain high academic performance, and 4) can show financial need.

eagle scout scholarships
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Eligible students must be attending an accredited four-year college, excluding U.S. military academies. Students taking a gap year can still apply for Eagle Scout scholarships for college but must apply during their gap year. You cannot defer the scholarships. 

NESA awards 65 scholarships each year:

  • (1) $48,000 award through the Lawrence S. and Mabel Cooke Scholarship
  • (16) $16,000 awards; one award per NST
  • (16) $7,500 awards; one award per NST
  • (32) $3,500 awards; two awards per NST

Students must apply through the application portal on the NESA website. The portal opens on December 1st and closes on January 31st. 

Award winners will be announced in June, after graduation.

Throughout your college application process, keep in mind that CollegeAdvisor.com is here to support you throughout your college and scholarship journey. Whether it’s a strategy to win a Vanderbilt, Coca-Cola, or USC Merit Scholarship, or sharing other resources like essay guides, application help, or tuition information, CollegeAdvisor.com has what you’ll need to reach your maximum potential. Good luck!

Zell Miller Scholarship

This article was written by Ciara Ayala. If you want to get help with your college applications from CollegeAdvisor.com Admissions Expertsregister with CollegeAdvisor.com today. Also, check out our other guides to Merit-Based Scholarships as you embark on your college application journey!