Top 10 Scholarships for Aspiring Artists, Musicians, and Creative Students (2023)

Pursuing a passion in the arts, whether that be music, dance, theater, creative writing, filmmaking, photography or visual arts requires tremendous dedication, skill, and investment. Turning creative talents into a career takes specialized higher education and training. However, the prohibitive costs of arts colleges and conservatories can derail dreams if students lack financial support.

Thankfully, many organizations, foundations, governmental agencies, and schools recognize the need to cultivate emerging talent in the arts. They offer scholarships targeting aspiring artists, musicians, writers, and other creative students seeking to further their education. These funding opportunities make attending premier arts programs possible for those with artistic promise and financial need.

From extremely competitive national scholarships worth tens of thousands to smaller community and school-based awards, artistic students willing to search out and apply for these specialized scholarships can patch together the funding essential for achieving their aspirations. With diligent research, thoughtful applications, and help from mentors, scholarships enable creatives to access life-changing educational programs to hone their craft.

Here are some top scholarships to consider applying for:

Prestigious National Arts Scholarships

For exceptionally talented students, highly competitive national scholarships can provide full or significant funding:

·         National YoungArts Foundation awards

The National YoungArts Foundation awards annual merit-based scholarships up to $10,000 for students ages 15-18 with exceptional talents in areas like visual arts, dance, photography, music, theater, and film. Applicants must submit comprehensive portfolios and audition tapes showcasing their skills. An educator nomination is also required. The foundation accepts applications every year with upcoming deadlines.

·         Scholastic Art & Writing Awards

The Scholastic Art & Writing Awards are open to creative students in grades 7-12. Applicants can submit works in 29 categories including photography, poetry, painting, film, fashion design, and more. Over $10 million is awarded annually through the program, with top scholarship amounts up to $10,000 for college. Regional deadlines for submissions apply based on location.

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·         John F. Kennedy Center American College Theater Festival

For theater students, the John F. Kennedy Center American College Theater Festival awards need-based Irene Ryan Acting Scholarships worth up to $3,000 for two years of continued study. Registered festival productions can nominate up to two students who then compete in state, regional and national showcases for final scholarships.

·         BMI Student Composer Awards

The BMI Student Composer Awards provide annual scholarships ranging from $500 to $15,000 for emerging high school music composers of classical and contemporary concert music. Applicants submit sheet music and audio online through an annual application process.

College-Specific Arts Scholarships

Many art schools and colleges with renowned creative programs offer attractive scholarships, including:

·         Rhode Island School of Design (RISD)

The Rhode Island School of Design (RISD) offers renewable merit-based scholarships up to covering full tuition ($54,420). Awards are determined based on creative portfolios that applicants submit when applying for admission. RISD accepts applications for these annual scholarships through its website.

·         California Institute of the Arts (CalArts)

The California Institute of the Arts (CalArts) provides over $10 million in arts scholarships every year to incoming undergraduate students. Awards can cover full tuition and are granted based on assessment of admission applications, artistic portfolios, auditions and interviews.

·         Pratt Institute in New York City

Pratt Institute in New York City grants creative scholarships ranging from $2,000 to $20,000 for admitted students based on reviews of artistic portfolios by faculty during the admission process. Portfolios are required as part of a complete application.

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·         Berklee College of Music

Berklee College of Music awards over 4,000 music-specific scholarships annually, covering anywhere from 25% to 100% of tuition costs. Applicants must complete an admission audition and application to be considered. Berklee offers annual scholarship opportunities.

Local and Niche Arts Scholarships

In additional to large national awards, students should also research smaller regional and local scholarships, which can provide vital funding sources.

Many local arts councils and arts centers offer annual scholarship opportunities specifically for students residing in their areas. For example, the Brooklyn Arts Council gives over $50,000 in scholarships each year to artists based in Brooklyn. Applicants must be nominated by a member organization.

Community foundations frequently administer scholarships for creative pursuits like visual arts, music, dance, and theater that are only open to residents in their regions. For instance, the Greater Milwaukee Foundation awards an annual Helen Bader Scholarship worth $16,000 for Milwaukee students studying fine arts.

High schools often provide arts scholarships for graduating seniors who excelled in band, theater, choir, orchestra, and visual arts programs. These are typically nominated by department faculty. For example, a photography student may receive an art department scholarship.

Students can also find niche scholarships tailored to their particular creative field, such as:

  • Dance scholarships like the ARTS Recognition Talent Search Awarding Dancers program
  • Screenwriting scholarships like the Scriptapalooza Television Writing Competition
  • Grants for young journalists from the Association of Alternative Newsmedia
  • Fellowships for emerging playwrights from theaters like Arena Stage

Uncovering local and targeted national opportunities takes research, but can reveal potential scholarships perfectly matched to an applicant’s background and aspirations.

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Tips for Applying for Prestigious National & College-Specific Arts Scholarships

When putting together scholarship applications, creative students should highlight their artistic achievements and passion:

  • Highlight achievements through competitions, exhibitions, publications, performances, screening acceptances, awards, and commissions. Quantify reach.
  • Submit compelling materials like videos, recordings, sheet music, portfolio samples, or publications to vividly showcase your talent.
  • Get strong recommendation letters from teachers, mentors, directors, and those familiar with your skills detailing your artistic promise.
  • Express your creative passion through essays, personal statements, interviews. Communicate how you will use the scholarship.
  • Apply early and meet all requirements. Follow instructions closely.
  • Research application tips for your target scholarships. Tailor accordingly.

With diligence and powerful application materials, creative students can access vital scholarships to fund their dreams in music, writing, visual arts, theater, dance, film and beyond.


The arts enrich society immensely, but artists and creatives rarely achieve success alone. Scholarships provide a first step on the path by making arts education accessible despite financial limitations. For creative students with dedication and talent, scholarships empower them to pursue their passions and gain the knowledge to transform those passions into successful and meaningful careers in the arts.

With the costs of higher education continually rising, scholarships serve a vital role in fostering emerging talent across so many creative fields. Awards remove barriers to education for those who may not otherwise have the means but possess the passion and skill to contribute great artistic works.

Scholarships are an investment into both individual lives and society’s collective culture. The arts thrive when institutions, schools, and organizations coalesce to propel talented young creatives forward through scholarships. Their contributions will echo through generations to come.

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