Applying for scholarships can be confusing if you have no experience with it, but if you break the process down into these following steps, you can see exactly how to find money for college and win awards over the competition.
Step 1: Search for Scholarships
Use any one of the free scholarship search engines on the internet:
Profile-based Scholarship searches:
- ScholarshipExperts – One of the highest quality scholarship search engines is available for free at ScholarshipExperts. This site has been around for many years and as time goes on it lists more and more programs for you based on exactly what you’re eligible for.
When you register an account with these free services, you’ll be asked to fill out a student profile including education history, intended major, group memberships, awards, test scores, etc… Based on the answers in your profile, the website software will direct you toward scholarships and contests that you’re eligible for.
Search-based Scholarship Services:
- Free College Blog – No registration college scholarship search
- FreschInfo.com – Provides another free search-based scholarship finder
These search-based scholarship searches don’t require the student to fill out a registration or permanent profile, instead they allow the students to search for specific topics related to eligibility for scholarships like major, awards, or really anything like what you would otherwise fill in at the profile sites.
Step 2: Identify which eligible scholarships you should apply for
Just because you are eligible for the scholarship, that doesn’t mean it is worth spending your time to apply for it!
Many scholarships and contests are open to broad parts of the student population. Some might have requirements like a 2.0 GPA and legal residency in the USA. If everyone who can get into college is eligible for the award and winners are selected by a random draw, there’s nothing you can really do to improve your odds of winning. So, if everyone is eligible, its probably worth it to just fill out a form or two and have your name entered. But beware of such contests that want lengthy essays it may not be a good use of your time if tens of hundreds of thousands of other college students are applying for the same contest.
If an award describes a much more specific set of eligibility characteristics and you’re included, then this is the type of scholarship you definitely want to print out and learn more about.
Step 3: Review the Sponsor’s requirements
Make a checklist of every part of the application. Take note of every essay question, required letter, and required transcript. Pay special attention to the number of copies of the application that the sponsor requires – many times they want one complete application for each member of the scholarship review committee. This can get up to seven or eight copies of a multi-page application! This is another big reason you shouldn’t try to apply for every scholarship you can, just the printing costs can get significant after chasing a few prestigious awards.
Step 4: Complete the Application
When you’re absolutely sure of everything the scholarship provider requires, start the actual application. If there is a specific form they want filled out, make sure you download the most recent version and get it printed out, or pick one up from your school’s guidance or financial aid departments.
Presentation matters, so use an erasable pen or have some white-out handy. Scratched out text isn’t going to convey the professional image you want to put forth!
When it comes to essay questions about more general topics, make sure to tie in your personal goals and career plans. If you show a bigger concept of how certain ideals or philosophies relate to what you want to accomplish through education, it will help you out big time compared to other applicants.
Step 5: Find Someone to Proof the Application
Even if you think you’ve got the perfect application ready, find someone older who can help proof it for common spelling and grammar mistakes. Also ask them to review the application requirements and confirm that everything is present. Parents, teachers, and guidance counselors can be a big help in this final phase.
Remember to keep an eye on deadline dates and don’t put this off to the last minute. Many scholarship providers require the application to be received by the deadline date, so you’ll have to add at least a week or two for mail if its long distance.
Step 6: Collect some scholarship money (maybe)
Scholarships are typically not guaranteed, in fact most non-government scholarships that claim to be guaranteed are likely to be scholarship scams (ESPECIALLY if they want payment up front).
Apply for multiple scholarships, because competition will be significant. It may not sound like much, but if you set aside time to apply for two scholarships each month, that is a total of 24 chances every year. By the time you graduate college, you’ll have applied for nearly 100 scholarships! (Well, as you get higher in the college years, it will be harder to find awards but they are still out there in the form of paid internships, essay contests, science contests, etc…)