The Scholarship Fairy is Not Coming to Your House!

In Paying for College on Aug 02, 2016

First of all, the scholarship fairy is not coming to your house! This means you actually have to apply for scholarships. Finding and applying for awards can be tricky - here are some tips for all scholarship seekers!

How Can I Find Scholarships?
Check with your high school - many counselors put out a scholarship newsletter once per month. It is the student’s responsibility to seek out scholarships. Don’t assume that everyone you know is working on scholarship applications for you. Through the years, approximately ¼ of the students who took scholarship applications from my office actually sent them in. has plenty of scholarships, but also check out some scholarship books. Some of them are indexed by major, by sponsoring organizations and by residence. If you are a particular ethnicity, look under “Sponsoring Organizations.” There are thousands of scholarships in these books, but it does take a lot of research on your part. 

Many students are under the impression they can't apply for the scholarships they find because their GPAs are too low. However, not all scholarships are based on GPA or test scores. Some are based solely on essays. If writing isn't your forte simply ask your English teacher or another adult to take a look at your essay. This is kind of like playing the lottery - you can’t win unless you play. You can’t get a scholarship unless you apply. It’s that simple! 

Start searching and applying for scholarships as soon as you can. Some organizations award scholarships to kids in elementary school, though this isn't too common. Many scholarships are open to all high school students, but high school seniors will qualify for the greatest number of awards. You can also apply for scholarships throughout college.

Tips for Your Scholarship Application
Be really aware of deadlines! Does the scholarship have to be postmarked by a certain date? Does it have to be received by a certain date? I have had students come to me the day after a scholarship was due, and ask if they could still send it. The answer is “NO.” If you want someone to give you money, I suggest you follow the directions carefully! The word “deadline” means you cannot submit it after this date.

Make sure that you have everything they are asking for. Are they asking for a transcript? If so, make sure that you get that from your high school on a timely basis. Are you being asked for SAT or ACT scores? If so, do they need to be sent from College Board or ACT, or do they just need to be verified by a guidance counselor? Does your FAFSA need to be submitted by a certain date? Are you being asked for tax information from your parents? Do you need letters of recommendation, and from whom? Guidance counselors and some teachers are inundated with requests for letters of recommendation. Give them time to do a good job on your letters. 

Proofread your application! Have an adult review it, if necessary. What you send these people is all the scholarship sponsors have to go on. Make sure your application is perfect. If you used an essay for another scholarship, be sure that it doesn’t have the other scholarship’s name on it.

Make copies of everything you send. If you're sending your scholarship application by mail, you may want to send it “return receipt requested.” You worked hard on this application and want to make sure that it gets where it's supposed to go. If you're running late and are really close to the deadline, you may want to send your scholarship “overnight mail.”

Scholarship Scams
The general rule is: If it costs money, don’t do it! You shouldn’t have to pay for scholarship money. You may hear lines like, “We’re the only ones with this scholarship information…” or “Our services are guaranteed…” or “You have been selected…” Be really careful! The Federal Trade Commission cautions students to look out for and listen for things that sound too good to be true - they're probably scams.

If you have been scammed, call National Fraud Information Center, 1-800-654-7060, or go to To report scams found via postal mail, call US Postal Inspection Service at 1-800-654-8896 or go to You may also want to contact Better Business Bureau at 1-703-276-0100, or go to Another contact is the Federal Trade Commission at 1-877-382-4357. 

Barbara DiAlberto has been a College Advisor and Consultant for 18 years, both in the school system and privately. She has helped thousands of students get into college. As the Territory Manager for The Princeton Review, Mrs. DiAlberto is still helping students get into college.

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