As a kid, I spent the Fourth of July taking part in the holiday festivities of my mom's small Minnesota hometown. I'd watch the local parade, spend the afternoon filling up on hamburgers, hot dogs and watermelon and finish out the day by watching what I'd thought was the most amazing fireworks display.
As an adult, Independence Day transcends my childhood traditions of parades, barbecues and fireworks. If it does for you, too, you should look closely at scholarship opportunities focused on American studies.
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If you want to share your thoughts about what makes America's future bright, consider the Veterans of Foreign Wars' Voice of Democracy audio essay competition. The national first-place winner of this scholarship receives $30,000 to apply towards a college education. The second-place winner receives a $16,000 award.
Last year, this program awarded 54 students a total of $152,000 in scholarships, with awards starting at $1,000. This year's theme is "Why I'm Optimistic About Our Nation's Future." Applicants must submit both a typed essay and a CD recording of themselves reading the essay along with an entry form to their local VFW post by Nov. 1.
The Daughters of the American Revolution hosts a number of scholarship awards for students interested in studying political science, history and government. Graduating high school students planning to pursue an undergraduate degree with a concentration in American history or American government are eligible for the Dr. Aura-Lee A. and James Hobbs Pittenger American History Scholarship. The scholarship includes a $2,000 annual award, which is renewable for up to four years, subject to an annual review of the recipient's transcript.
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College juniors and seniors majoring in political science, history or government can apply for the $1,000, one-time Enid Hall Griswold Memorial Scholarship. Graduate students in the field of historic preservation can apply for a $2,000 DAR Centennial Scholarship.
The Joe Foss Institute organizes essay and video scholarship contests centered on patriotic themes. The topics change annually and in the past have included, "Is my country proud of me?" and "My right to vote." Past scholarship awards have ranged from $1,000 to $5,000.
The scholarship deadlines vary, so check their website or follow them on social media for information updates.
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The Institute is also offering a special scholarship program for Oklahoma students who were impacted by the May 2013 tornadoes and who intend to study at Oklahoma State University. Entrants must submit essays on the theme "Rebuilding Together – How I am working to help my community." At stake are two $5,000 awards. The deadline for this scholarship application is July 21.
Students considering a graduate degree in public policy, public administration or international affairs should look at the Public Policy and International Affairs Program's Fellowship Program.
This national program helps students achieve a master's degree or joint degree through intensive study in a PPIA Junior Summer Institute, partnerships with universities across the country – which waive application fees and offer admitted students a minimum one-time financial award of $5,000 – and an alumni network that provides connections with nearly 4,000 individuals in related fields. According to the website, the application for the 2014 cohort will be available in late 2013.
Janine Fugate, the recipient of numerous scholarships at both the undergraduate and graduate levels, holds a bachelor's degree from the College of Saint Benedict, Saint Joseph, Minn., and a Master of Public Affairs from the Hubert H. Humphrey School of Public Affairs at the University of Minnesota—Twin Cities. Fugate joined Scholarship America in 2002.