The Coca-Cola Scholarship Foundation awards approximately 150 college scholarships each year to exceptional high school students with solid academic records, demonstrated leadership skills and a commitment to service.
Receiving a Coca-Cola scholarship can help alleviate the financial burden of college and give you a distinct advantage in the admissions process. However, the application is competitive, so you’ll need to thoughtfully prepare your submission.
This guide will provide an overview of the Coca-Cola scholarship program, key things to know about the eligibility requirements and selection criteria, and practical tips for crafting a winning application.
What is the Coca-Cola Scholarship Program?
The Coca-Cola Scholars Program is an achievement-based scholarship awarded by The Coca-Cola Foundation. It was established in 1986 to honor Coca-Cola’s long history and to recognize accomplishments in academics, leadership and community service.
Over the past 35 years, the program has awarded over 6,000 scholarships worth more than $45 million to exceptional high school students with a remarkable record of achievement both inside and outside the classroom.
There are two scholarship opportunities available through the Coca-Cola program:
- National Scholarship: 150 awards of $20,000 each are given to graduating high school seniors each year. These prestigious national scholarships are considered the top prizes awarded through the program.
- Local Scholarships: In addition to the national awards, many of the approximately 700 local Coca-Cola bottling partner companies offer their own scholarships up to $10,000 each. To be eligible, you must reside within the service area of a participating bottling company.
The Coca-Cola Foundation accepts applications each year from October 1st through December 1st from high school seniors who meet certain eligibility criteria.
The selection process incorporates a very rigorous multi-tier review focused on identifying standout candidates based on their academics, leadership and service demonstrated both in and out of school. Let’s take a deeper look at what they look for.
To be considered for a Coca-Cola Scholarship, you must meet the basic eligibility criteria:
- Be a current high school senior attending school in the United States. Students who are not U.S. citizens but are legally residing in the country with a proper visa can also apply.
- Have a minimum GPA of 3.0 on an unweighted 4.0 scale, or equivalent, as of the end of your junior year of high school.
- Be a candidate for high school graduation by spring/summer of the current application year.
- Plan to pursue an undergraduate degree at an accredited U.S. postsecondary institution in the fall directly following high school graduation.
- You cannot be a relative of any Coca-Cola employee or member of the Coca-Cola Scholarship Foundation Board of Directors.
Beyond the basic eligibility, you’ll also want to meet certain academic, extracurricular and community service benchmarks that the selection committee takes into strong consideration.
Maintaining a rigorous course load, holding leadership roles, and demonstrating consistent commitment to service will serve you well in the application.
Academic Achievement (35%)
The committee places considerable emphasis on academic excellence. They will review your entire high school transcript and class rigor.
In addition to a strong GPA, they favor applicants who challenged themselves by taking honors, Advanced Placement (AP), International Baccalaureate (IB) or college-level courses. High SAT/ACT scores further support your academic profile.
The application requires detailed descriptions of your leadership experience both in and out of school. The selection committee is looking for applicants who have gone above and beyond serving in significant roles – as class officers, team captains, club presidents or organizers of impactful community initiatives.
They want to see evidence of your leadership abilities, how you mobilize and inspire others.
Community service and volunteerism are highly valued. The committee will assess the quality and impact, not just quantity, of the service activities you list.
They seek applicants who passionately care about causes and consistently made a positive difference through organized volunteering, civic engagement or humanitarian efforts over several years. Specific examples can strengthen your application.
Standing Out with Your Application
With so many outstanding students applying each year, standing out from the large and impressive applicant pool is no small feat. Thoroughly addressing each section of the application and following these additional tips can help your submission shine:
Personal Essay: Candidates are asked to write about themselves – who they are, what inspires them and how they aim to make a contribution through their chosen career or field of study. Offer genuine insights that reveal your unique qualities and passions. Express yourself in a thoughtful, polished manner.
Resume: Include all relevant details from high school and community activities in an organized, easy-to-read chronological resume format instead of just listing. Quantify achievements like major awards, honors, positions held when possible.
Letters of Recommendation: Ask recommenders who know you well like teachers and mentors to specifically highlight your academic abilities, leadership qualities and community impact based on real interactions and experiences with you beyond just your application materials. They carry weight.
Unusual Achievements: Did you publish original research, start your own nonprofit org, play at Carnegie Hall, compete globally in academics or innovation? Unique pursuits that demonstrate superior skills and initiative can elevate your candidacy.
Edit Thoroughly: Have others proofread your materials. Polish your writing, correct any errors, and ensure consistency and clarity of messages across all components before submitting. A thoughtful, well-packaged application leaves the best impression.
Interview: If chosen as a semifinalist, prepare extensively for a possible video or phone interview. Research the Coca-Cola Foundation and be ready to discuss yourself, your goals and fit for the program in depth. Practice answering tough questions with poise and confidence.
Results of the Coca-Cola Scholarship competition are announced in late March/early April. All applicants are notified by email whether they were selected as a national or local scholarship recipient or not.
Semifinalists then learn if they have been moved forward for an interview. Winners are celebrated and honored at local and national recognition events.
Receiving a Coca-Cola Scholarship opens many doors. Scholars gain access to networking opportunities with Coca-Cola leaders and alumni, exclusive events and potential internships.
Most importantly, it relieves significant financial burden and allows winners to solely focus on their educational and personal growth in college.
The prestige of this award also strengthens recipients’ admissions profile for top graduate programs. Many scholars credit their Coca-Cola scholarship with launching them onto incredible careers and life paths.
Overall, the Coca-Cola Scholarship program offers invaluable rewards. With diligent preparation showcasing your strengths and fit for the highly-competitive selection process, your application stands a great chance of succeeding.
Just be sure to start organizing your materials early and leave ample time for thorough refinement. Best of luck! Following the advice here can help eager candidates like you earn this outstanding recognition and boost toward your future goals.