Fast Food Scholarships

It’s that time of year again (early January to early February - see below for more scholarships with different deadlines).  I call it the fast food scholarships wars.  There are three scholarships offered this time of year by the big fast food chains (or at least the foundations set up by those chains). 

The scholarships include the BURGER KING® Scholars Program, the Ronald McDonald House Charities® and McDonald's Scholarships® and the KFC Colonel's Scholars Program.  All of these programs are for graduating seniors and they require the applicant to demonstrate financial need, but there are some differences.  For instance, the KFC Scholarship requires that you attend at state-funded institution to be eligible.  Even though the McDonald’s Scholarship is for a high school senior, you can be up to 21 years old and still qualify. Don't forget to check out Denny’s Hungry for Education Scholarship.

If you're a student interested in culinary arts, restaurant management, or some other foodservice related major, see the National Restaurant Association Educational Foundation (NRAEF) Scholarship Program (this deadline is in late July).


But there’s a larger question lurking under the surface.  Why are these large corporations giving away their hard earned money?  It’s a question you should ask about any scholarship.  It helps put the process in perspective.  In the case of Burger King, McDonald’s and KFC they’re looking to maintain a positive public image.  When they give a scholarship to a needy student it reflects well on them.  There are award ceremonies in school auditoriums and announcements in local newspapers to let people know who the winners are.  So ask yourself the question, am I the type of student that would shed a positive light on the corporation’s image.  Do I have a strong academic record, am I involved in community service, am I a leader in my school or community?  If the answer is yes, you may have a good chance at winning one of these scholarships.


Before we leave the topic of fast food scholarships, you should be asking yourself whether there are other fast food chains giving out scholarships.  Of course the answer is yes.  There is the Wendy’s High School Heisman Program (but the deadline is in October) and there was the Papa John’s Pizza scholarship (it no longer exists except in Louisiana and Nevada). 

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Serveral more food related scholarships:

James Beard Foundation Scholarship Program is for high school seniors or graduates who plan to enroll or who are already enrolled in a course of study leading to an associate or baccalaureate degree at a licensed or accredited culinary school.

Olive Garden Pasta Tales Essay Writing Contest - Students are asked to submit an essay of 50 to 250 words responding to the question: "How would you help end hunger in your community?" Deadline is in mid-March.

USPAACC Scholarships - USPAACC offers the Denny’s Hungry for Education Scholarship for high school seniors of Asian Pacific Island heritage interested in pursuing a career in the Hospitality Industry. The deadline is in mid-March.



Alaska, Arizona, California, Colorado, Hawaii, Idaho, Nevada, New Mexico, Oklahoma, Oregon, Texas, Utah and Washington

  • The Carl's Jr. Scholarship is for high school seniors, the deadline is for the $1,000 scholarship is February.

New York

Connecticut, Rhode Island, New Hampshire and Pennsylvania

  • The Dunkin’ Donuts Scholarship is given to high school seniors who excel academically, demonstrate leadership qualities, and are involved with the community. The award ranges up to $5,000 in some locations.