Start looking early! While searching for additional scholarships takes time and energy, it is well worth it if it helps reduce tuition costs. The more time you dedicate to your scholarship searches, the more options you will have. It is not a bad idea to start looking during the summer before senior year. Once the fall semester is in full swing, students tend to be busy with class assignments in addition to college admissions applications.
Increase your chances by applying for scholarships that fit your background, career goals, interests and achievements. And, focus on local dollars. Sounds basic, but you’d be surprised how many students start applying for scholarships without the qualifications or qualities the scholarship sponsor is looking for! Similarly, national scholarships can be great opportunities to receive some real serious money for school. But, since the pool is so large, you need to align perfectly within their scholarship requirements to receive them. After all, if you are missing anything in your application, there are hundreds of others who might be a perfect fit. However, a local scholarship organization may be more interested in supporting a local student who meets most of the criteria and less focused on students meeting 100% of the criteria. It is easy to get overwhelmed by all of the applications. So, keep it simple and focus on those you know would likely be the best fit.
Determine the application requirements and organize scholarship materials in advance. Know the deadlines and make a plan for pulling together everything you’ll need on time. Find out if there are extra materials such as letters of recommendation, essays or transcripts you may have to submit. Gathering materials at the last minute increases your chance of making costly mistakes. If you use the same essay or letter of inquiry for more than one scholarship organization, be sure to change the addressee and scholarship name! Ask a teacher or parent to review your application for grammatical errors, omissions or misinformation.
Follow the rules. The best results from the scholarship process will be achieved when you provide exactly what has been outlined in the application. Stay within the word count if you have an essay to submit. There is nothing worse for a scholarship program than reading an essay it knows has been prepared for another purpose other than its own scholarship application. It is okay to recycle themes or topics, but be careful to fully answer the question asked on the scholarship application.
Be prepared that scholarship organizations may require one or more of the following to determine your eligibility for their program:
- Financial Aid Form results (FAFSA Student Aid Report)
- Parental information, including tax returns
- Personal statement or essay
- Letters of recommendation
- Proof of eligibility (credentials)
- Proof of residency
- High school transcript
- Standardized test scores
NOTE: If a scholarship organization charges a fee and “guarantees” you funds for school, it is likely a fraud. And, never pay someone who claims to have access to a “secret database” of scholarship information. It is best to know something about the scholarship provider and past recipients. Visit Research Scholarship Opportunities for links to some of the best search sites and reputable scholarship programs.