I feel pretty silly for not applying for more scholarships during my senior year in high school, especially after researching this story.  In particular, the number of corporate scholarships, which together offer many millions of dollars towards college education, is jaw-dropping.

Related to Employees
This is probably the greatest category of corporate scholarships—free money for students whose parents work at a certain company.  Scholarships range from a few hundred dollars to potentially a year’s worth of school.  For example, The Walton Family Foundation Scholarship, which is administered by the Wal-Mart Foundation, gives away several scholarships each year worth $13,000 each. The student must be a dependent of a Wal-Mart employee (Stock Quote: WMT) and prove financial need.

Other companies reward existing employees who decide to go to college. Burger King’s Scholars Program, for example, has awarded  full- and part-time high school seniors who work there more than 11,000 college scholarships totaling $320,000 since 2000.  And Alcoa’s Sons and Daughters Scholarship Program reserves free aid to graduating high school seniors who are children of Alcoa employees (Stock Quote: AA). The rewards are in the amount of $1,500 annually, renewable for up to three years.

For Minority Students
There are numerous scholarships targeting under-represented students with special academic concentrations, especially those in science and technology. For example, if you’re interested in pursuing a degree in engineering or geosciences check out the Shell Technical Scholarship, which awards $5,000 scholarships to select students going to a four-year accredited college. Meantime, pharma-giant Merck (Stock Quote: MRK) and the United Negro College Foundation have an annual scholarship program for African American students, (undergrad, graduate and post-doc) who wish to pursue fields in biomedical research.    

Equal Opportunity
For everyone else, there are general scholarships, which tend to have GPA requirements and an interest in an applicant’s level of community service. Coca-Cola (Stock Quote: KO) is one huge equal opportunity scholarship provider. The beverage giant’s four-year award for college-bound students gives 50 four-year $20,000 scholarships and 200 four-year $10,000 scholarships for students who attend accredited U.S. colleges.    The Discover (Stock Quote: DFS) Scholarship Program is also wide ranging. The financial services firm offers up to 10 scholarships worth $30,000 apiece to college bound students demonstrating community service and leadership, among other criteria. And KFC’s (Stock Quote: YUM) Colonel Scholars Program is for any high school student with strong leadership skills in financial need. Students are eligible for up to $20,000 towards a bachelor’s degree.

Keep in Mind…
High school juniors and parents should take special note of this condensed list and start looking into specific scholarships before the senior year of high school.   That’s because most deadlines for the 2009-2010 college academic year have passed. Graduating high school seniors, at this point, may be out of time to apply for some of the national freshman year scholarships.  But in any case, do check out Scholarships.com and FastWeb.com for an extensive list of available scholarships and grants.

—Catch more of Farnoosh’s advice on Real Simple. Real Life. on TLC, Friday nights at 7.