Girls enter pageants for different reasons, but many young women are drawn to programs that give outstanding scholarships to their winners or even to the runners up. While there are many pageants in which you can win some scholarship money, there are a few programs that stand out above the rest when it comes to awarding scholarships to help pay for your education, so keep these in mind when you are thinking about where to compete next.
Miss America advertises itself as a program that is the leading provider of scholarships to women, and at the state and national level, that is definitely true. If you're hunting for a local with good scholarship awards, check out their website. Some locals give up to $10,000 to local winners, although you can more likely expect $500-1500 at most programs. State level winners receive a state scholarship and at least $3,000 at Miss America. Even being a runner-up at the state and local level is a great way to earn scholarships, provided you are smart with your wardrobe spending (find sponsors or set a budget to keep your wardrobe costs in check). This program is for women aged 17 to 24.
Visit: MissAmerica.org for more information.
Miss America 2019 Nia Franklin. Photo: Miss America Organization
Miss High School and Miss Collegiate America
2 out of our 5 are owned by the same company so we are putting them under one category. One of the great things about the Collegiate program is that graduate school counts! The winner receives a $10,000 scholarship among some other amazing prizes. Even though this program is relatively new, it's very competitive. The High School winner receives a scholarship in addition to a winter break trip with People to People. The program is growing really quickly and I think it says a lot about the opportunities, the competition experience and how organized the event is! If you haven't heard of this program before, find out if there is a state event coming up. The national pageant is held in July in Orlando, and you can expect state pageants to be held in the late summer, fall and winter.
Visit: America's High School Pageant to learn more about what they have to offer.
Miss High School America 2019 titleholders. Photo: Miss High School America
Distinguished Young Women (DYW)
The Distinguished Young Women program does not tout itself as a pageant, but the competition aspects are very similar. Formerly known as Junior Miss, this program gives out incredible scholarships at the state and local program. I've had the opportunity to participate in this program as well as judge two state programs and the organizers at the local, state and national level of DYW go above and beyond. It's been ten years since I competed in this program and it's still my favorite stage experience to date. Note that this program is only for high school seniors and you can only compete once. The program is free to enter and includes scholastics, fitness (a grueling fitness routine), talent, poise (speaking on stage) and interview. The talent is always incredibly strong in this program and some local programs may select representatives in their junior year in preparation for state competition in the senior year.
I cannot recommend this program strongly enough. In addition to cash scholarships, state winners are eligible for some amazing in-kind scholarships, including several colleges and universities that offer full rides to anyone who wins a state program. Visit: AJM.org for more information.
Photo: Distinguished Young Women
Miss America's Outstanding Teen
The sister program to Miss America, Miss America's Outstanding Teen also offers some full scholarships to schools like Hollins University. State programs offer scholarship awards, but there are also some great scholarships at the national level. Using pageants to fund your education is a great approach, but you have to be selective about which programs you choose if scholarships are your primary concern. One of the above programs could be a great fit for you!
Visit: MaoTeen for more information. Are there others pageants in which you can earn scholarship money? Sure, but these are the most reputable that we are aware of.
Miss America's Outstanding Teen 2020 Peyton May. Photo: Miss America's Outstanding Teen
If you're a director and would like to be considered in future lists such as these contact us so you can get on our radar.