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Last updated December 15, 2023

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Talent Scholarship Tips

Key Takeaway

Talent scholarships are financial awards based on your talents, separate from need-based aid or merit scholarships. Apply to schools where you exceed the median GPA and test scores to increase your chances of receiving a talent scholarship.

Are you a really good musician? Or a standout STEM student? Or maybe you’re the best actress west of the Mississippi?

If so, you may be in the running for a talent scholarship.

When it comes to paying for college, every little bit helps. So use your talents to your advantage, especially if they’re related to what you want to study in college.

In this post, I’ll break down what a talent scholarship is and give you some advice for applying to them.

Ready? Let’s get into it.

What is a Talent Scholarship?

Talent scholarships are, as you can probably guess, scholarships awarded based on talent. If you are good at music, dance, theater, painting, or a specific academic field, colleges may be willing to essentially pay you for your talents.

Why? Because colleges want to enroll gifted students. (This is especially the case for less selective colleges, where their top applicants may need more enticing to choose their college over a more selective—and possibly prestigious—school.)

These scholarships aren’t determined by your financial need. They may not even be related to your academic standing. The whole point of talent scholarships is to award you for your talent.

So who chooses which applicants receive talent scholarships?

Sometimes admissions officers weigh in on who deserves talent scholarships. They may flag promising applicants for the scholarship committee, or they may even have the chance to advocate for the students they think are most deserving.

Other times the decisions are made by faculty in the appropriate department, especially for things like music and art.

And since talent scholarships aren’t related to your financial need, you won’t need to worry about what your Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) says. If you don’t qualify for much need-based aid through the FAFSA, you should look into talent scholarships as another funding option.

How Do I Get a Talent Scholarship?

While there are some talent scholarships awarded by outside organizations, the majority of talent scholarships you’ll run across come from the schools you’re applying to. This means that the application process will vary by school.

Some schools require a separate application for talent scholarships, while others will consider you based on your regular application for admission. You may also need to submit additional materials demonstrating your talent, like a portfolio, audition tape, or an extra letter of recommendation.

The biggest tip for getting a talent scholarship is to apply to schools where you exceed the median GPA and test scores. The higher your credentials, the more likely you are to be a competitive applicant for talent scholarships (especially ones that don’t require a portfolio or audition!). So go find those safety schools. If you're a standout candidate at these schools, your chances of landing an academic merit scholarship are probably pretty good, too. And usually these kinds of scholarships will “stack” on top of each other, meaning you can use all of them to pay for your tuition and fees. A college that wasn't initially your first choice could become a much more attractive option if you secure a talent scholarship that funds a good portion of your tuition.


Talent scholarships are financial awards based on your talents. They're different from need-based aid and merit scholarships because they don't necessarily depend on your financial situation or your grades. Be on the lookout for these scholarships when you're applying to colleges, especially your safety schools.

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