In this post, we’re going to be talking about scholarships! Everyone wants to win free money to cover the cost of college – the tough part is knowing where to find the right scholarship opportunities and how to create a competitive application.
DEFINITION: A scholarship is free money that reduces the cost of attending college.
Scholarships come from many different organizations, both within and outside of the school you are attending. Your guidance counseling office, online search engines, local businesses and organizations, and the university’s financial aid office are top places to search for scholarships. Scholarships can be awarded based on academics, athletics, or other desired qualities such as a declared major, minority status, participation in a group, and much more.
Use these 7 tips to ensure you are submitting your best application for all the right scholarships:
Start early, but don’t give up
Scholarships are not just for seniors! You can start searching for scholarships as early as grade school, but we recommend getting started at least by your freshmen year of high school. Even more important, keep applying after you’ve started college. There are so many scholarship opportunities for current college students.
Look for scholarships throughout the year
Keep searching for scholarships year-round as deadlines can vary depending on the organization. Make sure you stay organized during your search by tracking scholarship opportunities in a document or spreadsheet. Spreadsheets allow you to sort by deadline and make note of scholarships you can apply for in the future. Download our handy scholarship tracking spreadsheet here.
Search for local opportunities first
Local scholarships typically have fewer applicants, which means your chances of winning will be higher! Your high school counseling office will usually have a list of local scholarships for students. They may post them on the counseling website as well.
BONUS TIP: check out the counselors’ offices and websites of other local schools for even more opportunities!
Local businesses and service organizations, such as Lions Club, will also have scholarships specifically for area students.
Double check the eligibility requirements
This may seem obvious, but make sure you meet all criteria before spending hours on a scholarship application. You will qualify for numerous scholarships so don’t waste your time on ones you don’t qualify for – even if you wish you did!
Make a list of your passions and skills
Most scholarship committees want to know who you are – how do you spend your time outside of the classroom, what are you passionate about, what are your dreams and goals? If you can identify your passions and skills early, you can tailor your activities and involvement to create an impressive application. This will increase your odds of winning scholarships, and it will help you find opportunities specific to your areas of interest.
Take a career interest assessment
Knowing your future major or career path will open the doors to even more scholarship opportunities. Take the time to find out what careers interest you and try to settle on a major early in the process. Don’t worry, you can always change your mind down the road if you find out that it’s not the right fit. Exploring careers early will allow you to search for scholarships only available to students with that major or career path. One of our favorite quick and free assessments is this Career Quiz from the Princeton Review.
Build relationships with your potential references
Letters of recommendation are vital to your scholarship application. In order for your references to write you a great letter of recommendation, they need to know you well. It’s easy to tell the difference between a personal, heart-warming and glowing recommendation letter and one that is copied and used for every student.
BONUS TIP: Provide your reference with your resume to refresh their memory on your coursework, honors & awards, and activities so that they can mention specifics when they write the letter.
I hope this post has helped you understand how to win college scholarships! Be sure to sign up at the end of this post to grab the printable scholarship winning checklist!
Jordan Schanda is the founder of ScholarPrep. Jordan and her mother developed ScholarPrep based on their personal experience with the college and scholarship application process. They created the ScholarPrep Organizer, a comprehensive planning, organization, and tracking system for parents and students that covers every section a student will encounter on an application. The Organizer provides helpful tips and information, helps students set goals, and tracks everything that they will need to get into college and win scholarships!
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