How to Find, Apply for & Get Scholarships for College
When it comes to financing college, scholarships are excellent solutions for any student. Offered by public foundations, private organizations, and schools themselves, scholarships provide students with a deduction from college tuition or lump sum of money intended to be used for college expenses. You’ve likely heard of these financial awards, and you may be thinking they’re not for you. Think again.
One of the biggest mistakes you can make when heading off to college is not tapping into the big wide world of scholarships out there. It’s never too early to start applying for them, either — there are even some solely dedicated to kids still in single-digit grades, believe it or not. High school is a great time to hit the ground running on accumulating funds for the next step. Of course, you will also have many opportunities to earn scholarships throughout your college career.
If you, like many college students, are wondering how to find scholarships and how to get a scholarship once you do find one, this is the guide for you. To help you get started on your college scholarship search, we’ve provided a crash course on the essentials: how to find scholarships, what you need to qualify for many scholarships, and how to apply for scholarships of all kinds. While the scholarship process may add work to your high school or college career, it’s certainly worthwhile. Many scholarships can save you thousands of dollars — and some can pay your way through college entirely. Take the first step towards earning your scholarships right here.
Step 1: How to Find Scholarships That You Are Eligible For
The first thing you’re going to need to do is find and identify scholarships that you are eligible for. This will require research—but don’t be dissuaded. There is an incredibly extensive range of scholarships out there. The more you research, the more you’ll uncover. Many scholarships award academic excellence in the form of good grades, test scores, or demonstrable aptitude in certain subjects. Others award athletic excellence, while others still award excellence in extra curriculars such as the arts or volunteer projects. Some scholarships are reserved for certain demographic groups, while others are open to all. Naturally, different scholarships have different requirements. Here are a few things many organizations take into account when they’re choosing a winner:
- GPA or academic history
- Ethnic background
- Athletic ability
- A history of volunteer work
- Extracurricular activities or hobbies
- Your planned major or course of study
- The school you want to attend
- Demonstrated financial need
- Unusual skills or talents
- Religious affiliation
With so many scholarships (and requirements!) out there, it’s tough to figure out what exactly you’re even eligible for. In fact, starting off by identifying hobbies of yours that could lead to scholarship opportunities is never a bad idea. There are scholarships for poets, for entrepreneurs, for community service leaders, for artists, photographers, and much, much more. Starting off by tapping into those hobbies means that you can enjoy the application process, and the organization determining who deserves that scholarship will feel your genuineness and passion for the topic.
Before even looking at scholarships out there, make a list of hobbies, interests, and passions of yours. Whether you excel at them or simply love to do them, these activities are your keys to attaining a scholarship. They can help point you in the direction towards the scholarships you may have a good chance of earning. Write them down, and see what you can say about them before starting your scholarship search.
3 Great Ways to Find Scholarships You Are Eligible For
Now that you’ve made an initial list of hobbies and other ideas to get you started, it’s time to start searching. Here are some ways to find viable scholarships that align with your needs and offering. Note that these suggestions are for upcoming undergraduates, but we will also give some tips for current college students below.
1. Research scholarships at the school-level
The easiest way to find scholarships for a school you know you want to apply for is search for scholarship opportunities within the school itself for new or transferring students. Visit your new school’s website and search for scholarships that fit your criteria. You can also contact your new school’s admissions office to get information on any and all scholarships they offer.
2. Ask your guidance counselor
Haven’t decided on a college to attend? Start your search in the school you’re currently attending: high school. There, you’ll find one or several guidance counselors who can help you on your scholarship search. Schedule a few meetings with them so they can get to know you. From there, they can give you a wealth of information on how to get scholarships and where you might be able to find the perfect ones for you. They might also have insider knowledge and contacts you can use to improve your networking.
Beyond your guidance counselor, your high school itself may have a running list of scholarships for you to access without setting up any meetings. Talk to your teachers, or visit the administration office to see what they have to offer. You may just find your full-ride ticket to higher education.
3. Leverage your community
Outside of school, you can also use your local community to find and earn scholarships of all kinds. Check your local library, newspaper and local community foundation for scholarship listings. Even if the awards are just a few hundred dollars, that money adds up. Every dollar you win is about a dollar less you’ll have to borrow.
You can also use your community as a way to earn scholarships. In every city and town, there is a wide range of organizations to join, events to participate in, and problems to solve. Taking the initiative to create meaningful experiences and give back to your community can help stand out as an applicant for future scholarships.
Tips for Searching for Scholarships If You’re Already Enrolled in College
Scholarship opportunities don’t dry up once you enroll in college. In fact, there are a wide range of college scholarships available exclusively for students currently in college. That’s right: rising sophomores, juniors, and even seniors all have their own batches of scholarships to help them succeed. Whether you’re thriving on campus or just treading water, these scholarships can help jumpstart your collegiate journey and keep your costs in check. Wondering how to start applying for scholarships while in college? Here’s how.
The scholarship search doesn’t need to stop once you begin your undergraduate studies. Scholarship money still is available to you in college. Plus, some scholarship applications are only open to current college students.
First, swing by your financial aid office. Many institutions are aware of scholarships for students who already are enrolled in college. The staff will be a great resource to direct you to scholarship opportunities.
Next, reach out to other people at your school. Stop by a professor’s office hours and ask if they know of any scholarships for students in your major. If your dorm has a bulletin board, read the announcements listed. There could be a flyer for scholarships targeting students in your major. Also, talk to older students in the same major as you. They could have great scholarship insight too.
Here are some examples of scholarships that current students might be eligible for:
The Davis-Putter Scholarship is for students who are involved in social or economic justice movements. Students at any age in college are able to apply. Applications are due April 1 and the scholarship amount ranges between $1,000-$10,000.
All college students also are eligible for the Sleekens Academic Scholarship Program. Applicants must write an essay on a given topic. The essay topic and other guidelines are available on the scholarship website. Applications are due March 30 and the scholarship award amount is $2,000.
The StudySoup Future Innovator Scholarship is for students who exemplify one or more of StudySoup’s core values; be a knight, make an impact or succeed together. Students at any level in college are eligible for this scholarship. The award amount is $5,000 and applications are due May 1.
Step 2 - Create Your Application Plan and Start Applying for Scholarships
Once you have your list of scholarships, it’s time to get moving on those applications. The best way to make your scholarship application process successful and stress-free is to make a plan. With a good plan, you’ll be able to allocate a solid amount of time and energy to make your applications the best they can be — all while ensuring that you get everything submitted on-time.
First: Mark the deadlines on a calendar and write down all the application requirements.
Do you need to send a resume, write an essay, get letters of recommendation, or create a video? Every scholarship is different. Even if the closing dates are weeks away, get started now. You cannot apply for a scholarship after its due date. You also need to include everything a scholarship asks for. If you’re asked to submit your SAT or ACT scores, financial information or letters of recommendation, you should have those things ready for the application. Writing all this information down at the start of the process will help you significantly.
Second: Set an achievable pace for yourself. Whether that’s applying to a single scholarship every month or each week is totally dependent on your workload. Once you’ve decided how many you want to apply to, start creating a game plan for when you will work on and submit each scholarship/ Add this to your tracking sheet - Write the full name of it, where to find the details, and then, most importantly, the due date.
Third - Stick to your schedule. It’s easy to fall behind if you have a lot of scholarships you want to apply to, so explain that staying on top of your deadlines and the pace you decided on will be the best thing you can do for yourself.
Another tip is to make copies of everything you send. If you're sending your scholarship application by mail, you may want to send it with return receipt requested. If you're running late and are really close to the deadline, you will want to send your scholarship overnight mail.
A Quick Note About Applying for Scholarships Safely:
It should never cost you anything to apply to scholarships. If you’re being charged for something, close that browser and move right along. It’s not a legit opportunity — because, hey, the whole point is to reduce the amount of money it costs to go to college. Paying to apply for scholarships kind of defeats the purpose, right?
If a scholarship asks you to send money, it is a scam. You also should be on alert if a scholarship asks for unusual information, such as your credit card number or a Social Security Number. Never send information that could compromise your finances or identity.
If you have been the victim of a scam, report it to the National Fraud Information Center (NFIC) at 1-800-654-7060 or visit www.fraud.org. You also can report scams directly to the FTC by filing a complaint form or calling 1-877-FTC-HELP (1-877-382-4357).
Step 3 - Getting Those Scholarships - Increasing Your Chances of Success
You’ve done some soul-searching on your strong suits. You’ve done some researching on scholarships, their requirements, and their deadlines. You’ve made a plan. It’s time to put together your application — and it’s time for tips on how to get scholarships. Take these suggestions to heart to set yourself apart from other applicants.
Get some help in proofreading your materials.
Your submission materials should come from your brain, but they should be looked over by someone else. Pick one person (or several people) whose perspective and expertise you trust. Guidance counselors, teachers, parents, and accomplished peers are all great choices. Ask them to read your submission materials and offer comments and edits. Revise and repeat. Make sure your application is perfect.
And remember: if you used the essay for another scholarship, be sure that it doesn’t have the other scholarship’s name on it. That’s one of the more embarrassing mistakes that students sometimes make.
- Start early!
You don’t have to wait until your senior year to apply for scholarships. In fact, you shouldn’t! Expand on how starting early is 100% possible and highly recommended in 1-2 paragraphs.
- Remember - everything counts!
One of your contentions may be that some of the scholarship awards seem pretty small compared to your hulking tuition bill, but future-you will wholeheartedly thank teenage-you for that extra $500 or $1,000 that, one, won't be accruing interest on a student loan and, two, you don’t have to pay back. Trust us on that! If we could go back and tell pre-college us anything, it would be to apply to more scholarships.
- Don’t shy away from writing the essay.
If a scholarship that you’re considering asks for an essay, don’t let that deter you. On a completely real level, writing is never going to go away. Whether it’s putting together a report at work, sending out company emails, summarizing meetings, or even simply conveying ideas to fellow classmates or coworkers, being able to clearly and powerfully express yourself via the written (or typed) word isn’t something that magically disappears once you turn 18. There’s no expiration date for it because it’s not a carton of milk. Work with a parent, older sibling, or teacher to craft an essay and send it out!
Start Applying for Scholarships with Cappex!
If you’ve read this article start to finish, you should know that you have the potential to earn a wide range of college scholarships out there. You have a unique perspective, personality, and set of accomplishments. Now, you also have information and a plan to help you earn the scholarships of your dreams. Ready to find them and start applying? Sign up for an account here on Cappex and search for scholarships tailored for you.