For any student looking into how to pay for college, scholarships should be near the top of the list. If you're looking for an achievement-based scholarship program that awards candidates who excel both academically and in service to their communities, the Coca-Cola Scholars Program Scholarship could be the one for you. Every year, the foundation, run by the Coca-Cola Company, awards 150 students with $20,000 to put towards their college education. The scholarship focuses on students who display three main characteristics: positive leadership, academic excellence and dedication to service.

One of the perks of the Coca-Cola Scholarship is its flexibility: Recipients are given between four and 10 years to use their full award, and students can use funds for educational expenses outside of tuition, such as on-campus housing, computers and textbooks.

The foundation receives thousands of applications annually, but don't let the competition deter you. Here is some information that can help you become a Coca-Cola scholar:

The 4-Step Application Process

  1. Applications are available on the Coca-Cola website by late August ( Students in their senior year of high school with a GPA of 3.0 or higher can apply online. The deadline for applying is October 31st. The initial online application asks students for grades, school and community activities, and employment information. No essays or additional materials are required at this point in the application process.
  2. The first pool of 2,000 semifinalists is selected and notified by mid-November. Semifinalists must send additional materials, including a biographical questionnaire, official transcripts, recommendations and essays, by late December.
  3. Toward the end of January, the Program Review Committee, made up of former Scholars, selects 250 regional finalists to interview in person or through a video conference.
  4. In early April, 150 of the regional finalists selected to be Coca-Cola Scholars are invited to attend the Coca-Cola Scholars Weekend in Atlanta. The other 100 regional finalists are given educational stipends of $1,000.

The Makings of a Coca-Cola Scholar

Coca-Cola's mission in distributing scholarships is to create a "network of community leaders, touched by Coca-Cola, whose vision will help shape the world." Here are three tips to help you illustrate that you belong to this network of leaders:

  1. In your initial application, include a list of your key extracurricular activities, especially those that demonstrate a passion for social justice. Later materials should focus on how you have made a positive impact on your school and local community.
  2. In preparation for your application materials, brainstorm how you can use your past experiences to affect the future in a positive way. Also consider how a college degree can help you advance your ability to make the world a better place.
  3. According to the foundation website, many Coca-Cola scholars "have overcome tremendous challenges to pursue their dreams." In your essays and biographical questionnaire, illustrate your own set of unique challenges that you have overcome in pursuit of your education and your passions. When selecting recommendations, consider those people in your life who have witnessed your successful attempts to overcome these challenges.

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