Earning a college degree doesn’t come cheap. Luckily, students who can barely afford college can apply for an assortment of financial aid forms. One scholarship comes from the maker of the number one soda in the US. It is known to award a huge sum of money to a few high school seniors a year, but how good is it?
The Coca-Cola Scholarship is a legitimate scholarship. Since the organization behind it, the Coca-Cola Scholars Foundation (CCSF), was formed in 1986, the scholarship has granted over $72 million to thousands of students. Yearly, CCSF supports over 1,400 exceptional college students.
Below, we will provide answers to the question “is the Coca-Cola Scholarship legit?” and various others that have something to do with this well-known scholarship that many students entering college vie for.
Let’s begin by answering this fundamental question…
How To Get a Coca-Cola Scholarship
To get the Coca-Cola Scholarship, one must be eligible for it. Any hopeful should meet all the requirements, including being a senior high school student attending a school in the US and planning to go to an accredited US college or university. The application form should be submitted on time, too.
Anyone can visit the website of CCSF, fill out the application form, and submit it before the deadline, which is on October 30. However, not all applicants will be chosen as Coca-Cola Scholars, especially those who are not eligible.
It’s not enough that you are in your senior year in high school and thinking about earning a college degree (a two-year degree or a four-year degree) from an accredited school in the US to be eligible for the Coca-Cola Scholarship.
You will also need to anticipate getting your high school diploma during the current academic year and be a US citizen, national, permanent resident, refugee, asylee, Cuban-Haitian entrant, or humanitarian parolee. And also, your unweighted GPA should be at least 3.0 to be considered as a potential winner.
Besides things that make you eligible, there are also things that disqualify you. They include:
- Being the child or grandchild of a current employee, officer or owner of the Coca-Cola Company and its various divisions and subsidiaries.
- Being the child or a grandchild of a former employee who is currently receiving retirement benefits for being previously employed by the Coca-Cola Company and its various divisions and subsidiaries.
- Being an international student, unless a student at a US Department of Defense (DoD) school.
- Being a high school graduate.
- Being a temporary resident.
Although very few are chosen, thousands of students apply for the Coca-Cola Scholarship per year due to the substantial amount of money involved. And this brings us to this question everybody would like to ask…
How Much is the Coca-Cola Scholarship?
The Coca-Cola Scholarship awards a generous amount of $20,000. In many instances, $20,000 is enough to cover a large chunk of the cost of attendance (COA). Because the Coca-Cola Scholarship involves a huge sum of money, it is highly competitive. Every year, only 150 students are selected by CCSF.
Most students can expect to win anywhere from $5,000 to $10,000 in scholarships. The amount can vary according to factors such as the COA and how eligible the student is.
A full scholarship is hard to get by. The only time that you will get it is if you are the school’s brightest student (merit-based scholarship), most underprivileged student (need-based scholarship) or top athlete (athletic scholarship). Otherwise, it’s very much likely for you to have no choice but to make do with a partial or small scholarship.
Easily, the Coca-Cola Scholarship is one of the largest scholarships available in the US and the entire planet, too. Some of the biggest awards range from $12,000 to $50,000. As a general rule of thumb, the bigger and more coveted the scholarship, the more selective the organization providing it.
In the case of the Coca-Cola Scholarship, only 150 students per year are selected to receive the $20,000 prize money. For many awardees, that amount is more than enough to make going to college so much easier on the pocket.
Currently, the COA at any four-year college or university in the US is $25,362. Tuition and related fees make up the bulk of most college students’ expenses per academic year. Paired with financial aid or another scholarship or grant, the $20,000 awarded by CCSF can make it possible to complete one academic year without spending any money.
But earning a college degree takes years. And this brings us to this critical question…
Is the Coca-Cola Scholarship Renewable?
The Coca-Cola Scholarship is renewable. This means that the awardees will be awarded the $20,000 scholarship for every year of college. However, like other renewable scholarships, the Coca-Cola Scholarship requires the awardees to complete requirements every academic year to maintain eligibility.
Because it’s renewable, the Coca-Cola Scholarship can make it very much possible for the awardees to finish college. They don’t have to become a part of the 51% of college students who drop out of school due to costs.
Other than being a renewable award, there is one more thing that makes the Coca-Cola Scholarship different from the majority of scholarships.
It’s none other than the fact that the awardees have between four to ten years to use their full award. What’s more, the awardees may choose to defer all or part of the $20,000 within the said time frame.
Besides using the award for tuition at an accredited school, the awardees may use the money for other educational expenses, too, as specified by CCSF. Some of them include on-campus housing or a laptop.
This is not the case with other scholarships. Most of the time, organizations that award scholarships send the money straight to the school, which most likely means that the award is for tuition use only. But with the Coca-Cola Scholarship, the awardee may use the money for a wide variety of education-related expenses.
So, in a nutshell, it is completely up to you, if you become one of the lucky 150 students chosen by CCSF per year, when and how you would like to spend the money to fund your college life. Just make sure that you spend the money anywhere from four to ten years from the time you get it and on things that CCSF allows.
But before you get to spend the prize money, you must first get your hands on it by being selected by CCSF as one of the 150 deserving soon-to-be college students. And this takes us to this question…
What are the Chances of Getting the Coca-Cola Scholarship?
The chances of getting the Coca-Cola Scholarship are very low. As a matter of fact, it is estimated that only 0.15% of hopefuls get chosen by CCSF. With thousands of applicants and only 150 winners a year, one’s application form has to be a complete standout to grab the attention of CCSF.
It is said that only about one in eight students win a scholarship. So, in other words, only 12.5% of those who apply for a scholarship become successful.
When it comes to applying for the Coca-Cola Scholarship, as earlier mentioned, CCSF chooses only 0.15% of the applicants. This means that about only one in nearly 700 applicants becomes a recipient of the scholarship.
If you want to become a Coca-Cola Scholar and receive a whopping $20,000 college fund, you really need to be a complete standout.
Especially if you are not confident with your high school performance, giving the Coca-Cola Scholarship a try may only leave you frustrated. This is especially true since only 150 winners across the US will be chosen.
But if you know that you got what it takes to be a Coca-Cola Scholar and become one of the more than 6,000 students who have benefited from the Coca-Cola Scholarship since 1986, give it a try.
When August 31 strikes, fill out the application form and submit it before the end of October — we will discuss the full application process in a few.
Refrain from assuming that being smart is enough to make you eligible for the Coca-Cola Scholarship.
It’s true that only a small fraction of the thousands of yearly hopefuls are chosen each time.
Still, some people have to win, and you could be one of them, especially if your high school experience can really impress. There are also certain things that you may do to increase your chances of being chosen by CCSF considerably.
Here are some tips and tricks for being one of the few lucky winners of the sought-after scholarship:
There are many pieces of information that you will have to supply when filling out the application form.
It’s a terrible idea to complete the application form in just a few minutes as spelling mistakes and failure to include some of the most important matters can lower your chances of being one of the 150 chosen Coca-Cola Scholars.
It’s a good thing that you don’t have to wait until the end of August to have a glimpse of the application form on the website of CCSF. That’s because you can check out the sample application form at any given time of the year.
Taking a look at the sample application form will let you know in advance which pieces of information you will have to collect and provide.
And when the time comes that the actual application form is available for you to fill out, you can make it as stellar as possible, thus increasing your chances of winning.
Especially if you have been very active inside and outside the classroom throughout your high school life, you may fail to include every detail that could grab CCSF’s attention,
Because of this, you should strategically select which ones you will include on the application form.
Always keep in mind that CCSF does not select the winners randomly.
They look for exceptional high school seniors with the knack for leadership and service, and commitment to make a change not only in their schools but also communities. Make sure that you include on the application form those that make you look like a deserving winner.
CCSF gives the Coca-Cola Scholarship hopefuls all over the nation plenty of time to complete the application form — from the end of August to the end of October. Because of this, you have a full month to think about the things that you will include in the application form and place in the right boxes.
However, the excitement of potentially winning $20,000 and the anxiety of potentially not being chosen can leave you committing typographical and grammatical errors and accidentally leaving out some important details, too.
This is why you should allow someone to review your application form before you submit it.
That person could be your parent, teacher or guidance counselor — anyone who knows you and your abilities. The individual you will approach may also point out which details you should include and which details you should scrap.
Congratulations if CCSF chooses you as one of the 250 regional finalists!
That’s because you are one step closer to becoming a certified Coca-Cola Scholar. But before you end up as one of the 150 winners, you will have to undergo a short interview first, upon which CCSF will choose the recipients of the Coca-Cola Scholarship.
Worry not because the interview will be based on everything that one has placed in the application form. The interviewers will also ask some questions about the additional scholarship materials submitted by the semi-finalists.
Because Coca-Cola Scholars are chosen based on leadership and service, expect to be asked questions about those. It’s very much likely for you to be asked which personal achievements make you proud, who your role models are, and what you plan to study in college and why.
Follow the above tips, and you can considerably increase your chances of becoming one of the very few successful Coca-Cola Scholarship applicants. And this takes us to this important question…
Coca-Cola Scholarship Timeline
Around 2,000 students are notified by CCSF in mid-November via email. The semi-finalists are asked to submit additional scholarship materials by the end of December. At the end of January, 250 students are chosen by CCSF as regional finalists and interviewed. 150 students are then chosen as winners.
The selection of the winners of the Coca-Cola Scholarship is very quick. From the application to the Coca-Cola Scholars Weekend event, the entire process usually takes around six to seven months only.
It’s on August 31 when the application for the Coca-Cola Scholarship starts.
The process of application ends on October 30. But just because you have a month to fill out the application form and submit it, too, doesn’t mean that you will have to prepare for the Coca-Cola Scholarship only when the application begins.
Because CCSF is looking for high school seniors with the capacity to lead and serve as well as the commitment to make a significant impact on both their schools and communities, it’s a good idea to gear up for the prestigious scholarship the minute that you commence your high school life. So, in other words, you should start in your freshman year!
For instance, when filling out the application form, you will be asked to list activities, school and non-school related alike, in which you have participated since your first year in high school.
Similarly, you will be asked to list all the accolades you have received while participating in various clubs or organizations and the level of each award (local, state, etc.) since your freshman year.
You will be asked to provide, too, all unpaid community service activities and the number of hours spent on them for every year in high school.
Let’s take a look at the Coca-Cola Scholarship timeline:
Application Start in August
The application for the Coca-Cola Scholarship starts on August 31. The application form is available on the website of CCSF. It’s also through the portal of CCSF that the completed application form is submitted.
CCSF does not accept application forms submitted through any other means, including email, mail or fax. Similarly, CCSF does not accept additional documents or information together with your application form, such as essays, letters of recommendation, transcripts and others.
However, the semi-finalists will be asked to submit additional scholarship materials.
Deadline on October 30
The application for the Coca-Cola Scholarship ends on October 30. If you fail to submit the completed application form on time, you will be informed on CCSF’s website when you visit it that the application has already closed for high school seniors graduating in that year.
Semifinalists in mid-November
The semi-finalists who will advance to the next round are chosen, usually by mid-November. You will be informed that you are one of the 2,000 semi-finalists chosen by CCSF. Ensure that you regularly check your spam folder — some semi-finalists in the past said that the email from CCSF ended up in the spam folder.
Additional Material in December
The semi-finalists are asked to submit additional scholarship materials. Some of those you may be asked to submit are a biographical questionnaire, recommendation letters, transcripts and essays.
Speaking of which, your essays should highlight your interests and abilities. For instance, one of the essay prompts, according to a past Coca-Cola Scholarship semi-finalist himself, asked what activity the semi-finalist would participate in if he or she could participate in only one activity.
You may also be asked to inform CCSF about family income matters, but it will not impact the outcome as the Coca-Cola Scholarship is a merit-based scholarship, not a need-based scholarship.
Regional Finalists Chosen in January
The regional finalists who will advance to the next round are chosen, usually by late January. CCSF will inform all regional finalists via email. Again, don’t forget to check your spam folder this time of the year. By the way, all regional finalists will receive a $1,000 educational stipend, at least.
Interviews in February
The 250 regional finalists are interviewed not only by the CCSF staff but also by the past winners of the Coca-Cola Scholarship. The interviews will take place in person, over the phone or via Skype.
During the interview, you will be asked questions about the things you have placed on your application form as well as those in your additional scholarship materials. Needless to say, it is of utmost importance that you familiarize yourself with your list of activities and awards and essay answers!
It’s a good idea to have practice interviews with family members and friends to prepare for the real thing.
Coca-Cola Scholars Named in March
The 150 Coca-Cola Scholars are named after all 250 regional finalists are interviewed by the CCSF staff and some past winners. All 150 winners will be awarded $20,000. On the other hand, regional finalists that fail to make it as Coca-Cola Scholars will be given a $1,000 educational stipend.
Besides receiving $20,000, all 150 winners will also be invited to attend the Coca-Cola Weekend event in Atlanta. This usually takes place either at the end of March or early April.
At the said event, the Coca-Cola Scholars will participate in a leadership workshop, visit a variety of local sites in Atlanta and partake in a service project. What’s more, during the Coca-Cola Weekend event, the Coca-Cola Scholars will meet one another as well as some of the past winners of the Coca-Cola Scholarship.
Also, every five years, the Coca-Cola Scholars will be invited to go back to Atlanta and participate in a Leadership Summit event, which is developed by Coca-Cola Scholars alumni.
Just Before You Apply for the Coca-Cola Scholarship
Is the Coca-Cola Scholarship legit? Yes, the Coca-Cola Scholarship is legitimate — it’s been legit for more than 30 years now, helping to send 150 students to college by awarding them a hefty renewable scholarship.
While everyone may try to apply for it per year, only 150 students are chosen. It’s a must to be an achiever throughout high school since this merit-based scholarship is a highly selective scholarship.
By following the above tips on increasing your chances of getting selected, you could get an email from CCSF saying that you’re one of the recipients of $20,000.
Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the authors and do not necessarily represent those of the College Reality Check.