Spotlight on America’s Top Scholarships: Horatio Alger Scholarships

Horatio Alger National Scholarships

Offered by: Horatio Alger Association of Distinguished Americans

About the Organization

The Horatio Alger Association of Distinguished Americans was named after the 19th century author Horatio Alger, Jr., who wrote about overcoming adversity through unyielding perseverance and basic moral principles. His “rags-to-riches” stories were extremely popular with the public from 1870 to 1890. The Association was founded in 1947 to help make young people aware that the American Dream was still attainable. The association operates on the belief that hard work, honesty, and determination can conquer all obstacles. Fun fact: The musical comedy SHINE!, produced in 1983, was written based on characters and situations from Horatio Alger’s works.

Scholarship Background

This scholarship program was established to encourage students to pursue their unique version of the American Dream. The organization seeks to award scholarships to students who demonstrate integrity and perseverance in overcoming adversity. In addition to the National Scholarship, more than 50 state-specific scholarships are available.

Who Qualifies

To qualify, you must be a high school senior planning to graduate in the upcoming Spring or Summer. You must plan to attend a US college no later than the Fall following graduation and be committed to pursuing and completing a bachelor’s degree. You must demonstrate critical financial need, involvement in co-curricular and community activities, integrity, and perseverance in overcoming adversity. You also must have a minimum 2.0 GPA and be a US citizen.

Application Process

The application process must be completed online. Supplemental materials, however, may be mailed separately; these include a certifications form, high school transcript, letter of support, parent federal tax return, and income validation cover sheet. There are three required essays: The first (250-350 words) must explain the adversities you have encountered; the second (250-350 words) must describe your educational and career goals; and the third (150-200 words) must compare elements of an association member’s life with your own (biographies of all living members are located on the website). You only need to complete one application; you will automatically be considered for all the association’s scholarships for which you are eligible.

Annual Application Window

The program typically opens on August 1 and closes at the end of October.

Tips on How to Win

For this scholarship, you should focus most of your attention on the three essays specified above. Remember the organization’s leading principle: with hard work and determination, you can overcome any obstacle. As you’re writing that first essay, make sure you really drive that point home. Clearly describe the adversity you have faced and overcome. Explain clearly what you did to get through it. Explain how your struggles have shaped who you are today. In your second essay, talk about what your American Dream is in relation to your education and your future career. Be sure to reference the hard work you outlined in your first essay and how it will help you achieve your goals. For your third essay, you will have to read the biographies of the association members on the association’s website. Pick someone with a story similar to yours. Once you’ve picked someone, read the biography a couple more times, each time picking out pieces that you can easily relate to. Use those pieces as an outline to write your essay. Make sure this essay packs a punch, because it’s the last one of yours that the judges will read.

Remember, your essays are your chance to explicitly tell the judges that you are a shining example of their founding principle and that you are more than worthy of a scholarship.