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10 Ways to Apply for Scholarships

10 Ways to Apply for Scholarships

The costs of college keep rising, but that doesn’t have to hold you back! Scholarships can help you afford the education you need to reach your goals. Even better, you don’t have to pay them back! So how do you find scholarships, and what do you have to do to get them? Well, we’re here to help with the answers to all of your most important scholarship questions.
When should you start applying for scholarships?

1. Apply as early as possible.

Ideally, you should start researching scholarships during the summer between your junior and senior year of high school. That’s because you have to apply for some scholarships as much as a year before college begins. However, it’s never too late—you can even apply for some scholarships after you’re already in college. Just check the deadline information to be sure.[1]
Make sure to use a calendar or a spreadsheet to keep track of all the due dates so you don’t accidentally miss one!

2. Where do I look for scholarships?

Start by checking with the colleges you’re considering.
Even if you haven’t started applying yet, it’s still a good idea to see what each school offers. Scholarships will often be listed in the financial aid section of your application packet, but you also may be able to find information on the school’s website or by contacting their financial aid office.
Check with your guidance counselor or local library.
These are both great resources for all kinds of scholarships—in addition to information about school-based, federal, and state scholarships, you might also find out about scholarships offered by local organizations or companies that you wouldn’t have heard about otherwise.
If you’re a member of a religious community, check with your church, temple, or synagogue to see if they offer any scholarships.

3. Use an online scholarship search.

There are tons of sites that offer scholarship searches. To keep from getting overwhelmed, start with 1 or 2 of the most popular free search sites, like Career One Stop, which is sponsored by the US Department of Labor.[4] Other popular databases include FastWeb and[5]
Scholarship information is available publicly, so you don’t need pay a website to give you these search results.

How do you qualify for scholarships?

That depends on what the scholarship is for.
Some scholarships are offered by an institution and they’re only for students at that school who meet a certain GPA. Others are offered to students who live in a certain state or students of a particular ethnicity; who are majoring in a specific field; or who participate in athletics. Some scholarships have even narrower requirements—one of your parents might need to work at a certain company, for instance, or you might need to be of a particular ethnicity.
To get the highly-competitive Coca-Cola Scholars Program Scholarship, for instance, you need a GPA of at least 3.0, and you have to demonstrate outstanding character and leadership.
Try looking for scholarships based on the career you want. For instance, if you want to be a nurse, you might apply for the A Nurse I Am scholarship, the Scarlett Family Foundation scholarship, and many more.
If you’re crafty, go for the Stuck at Prom scholarship—to win this one, you have to make and wear your prom outfit entirely out of Duck tape.

4. What scholarships should I apply for?

Start by applying to just a few scholarships that fit your interests.
Because there are so many scholarships out there, it can seem overwhelming at first. Focus on finding scholarships that you feel like you’re a really good fit for. Then, gradually expand your search to scholarships that you qualify for, but maybe aren’t as confident about.
Remember—you don’t always have to be a perfect candidate for a scholarship as long as you meet the basic requirements. You might very well be the best fit out of all of the applicants!
Also, keep in mind that the more scholarships you apply to, the better your chances of getting one.

5. What information do I need to apply for a scholarship?

You’ll usually need your transcript and basic info about yourself.
For instance, you’ll probably need to include things like your date of birth, where you plan to go to school, and what you want to do after you graduate. Many scholarships will require you to provide references and write an essay, as well. However, every scholarship will have its own set of requirements, so be sure to read the application closely so you don’t miss anything.
Some scholarships will require you to fill out the FAFSA (Free Application for Federal Student Aid) before you can be eligible, so have that information on hand, as well. The FAFSA determines how much help you’ll need to pay for college based on your parents’ incomes (or yours if you’re an adult).

6. How do I write a scholarship essay?

Use your essay to show how you stand out.
If your scholarship application calls for an essay, don’t see it as an obstacle—this is your moment to shine! Read the essay prompt carefully, then share a personal story that demonstrates why you’re a great candidate.[13]
For instance, if you have to tell a story about overcoming a challenge, paint the scene with vivid detail—talk about how you felt as you faced the problem, a little background to explain why it was such a big deal for you, and how you summoned the strength and courage to succeed.
Try to find ways to relate to the organization’s mission statement. For instance, if you’re applying to a faith-based school, you might mention how your belief in God helped you during a hard time.

7. How do I get letters of recommendation for a scholarship?


your teachers, coaches, or family friends for help.
It’s really helpful to give them an idea of what you’d like them to include in their letter—maybe you worked really hard on a project for them, for instance, or you’d like them to mention that you worked after school while maintaining a strong GPA. Then, follow up with them to make sure you get the references back in time for your scholarship deadline.
Be sure to ask several weeks before the application deadline so they’ll have plenty of time to finish your letter.
You can usually reuse your references if you’re applying for more than one scholarship.

8. What are the different types of scholarships?

Scholarships can be merit-based or need-based.
Merit-based scholarships mean you have to meet some requirement—like having a certain GPA, playing a sport, or having a particular interest. You can find scholarships for almost everything, from playing a certain musical instrument to being a twin. That means it can take a lot of searching to find the exact scholarship that suits you, but if you’re persistent, you can almost certainly find something!
Need-based scholarships are only granted to students who are facing financial hardship. These are often called “grants.”

9. How can you improve your chances of getting a scholarship?

Focus on academics and extracurriculars while you’re in school.
You’re most likely to win a scholarship if you were a good student, active in your school and community, and demonstrated leadership throughout your school years. Also, get really clear on what you want to do after school—if you have very specific goals, a scholarship committee might be more likely to see you as a good investment.
Try applying to smaller and local scholarships.
It can be tempting to only apply to scholarships that offer a large amount of money, but remember that you’ll also have to compete with more people for those. On the other hand, if you get several smaller scholarships, those can add up quickly—and they might have less applicants, so you may have a better chance of winning!
Similarly, you might be one of only a few candidates when you apply to scholarships that are only available to students who live in your city or state.
Organize your application process.
As you search for scholarships, save all of the scholarships you’re considering to a spreadsheet. Include the deadline and anything you need to include in your application. When you’re more organized, you’ll be less likely to miss out on an opportunity because you got your application in late.
It can help to dedicate a few hours each week solely to finding and applying for scholarships.

10. Are scholarships for all 4 years?

Some are, but not all of them.
Some scholarships, especially the ones offered by an institution or a large organization, might be enough to cover all 4 years of your college education. However, some scholarships will only be for a few hundred dollars. Don’t pass those up, though—even small amounts can really add up once you start looking at tuition!



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