How to Get a Scholarship: 10 Tips for Success
Getting scholarships to help pay for college is a goal shared by almost everyone who wants to go to college.
“Scholarships are the holy grail – free money for college that you don’t have to pay back,” says Jean Chatzky, CEO of Her Money and a contributor to the College Ave Blog. “However, obtaining them necessitates a strategy. Start with research (a scholarship matching tool can help), make sure you appear great online, fine-tune your applications, including devoting time to your essay, and cast a wide net by applying to as many as you can.”
And that’s simply in basic terms. It can be intimidating, so this article breaks it down into ten easy steps to help you uncover scholarships that will help you save money for college.
1. Get started as soon as possible
There’s no reason to put off applying for scholarships until your junior year. You’ll have more time to explore which scholarships are worth your time and effort if you get a head start. Once you’ve figured out which options are ideal for you, you’ll have plenty of time to finish the applications that other students may have overlooked. Some scholarships are available to high school freshmen and sophomores, so get those applications in as soon as possible!
Tips: Many scholarships have a finite amount of money. That means the sooner you apply, the better your chances of being awarded before the budget runs out. It’s all the more reason to get moving.
2. Make use of a scholarship matching service.
The days of filling out paper applications at the guidance counselor’s office are long gone. You can now instantly browse through thousands of available scholarships in large databases online. You can find the ones that match your qualifications, experiences, history, or special interests using filters and keywords. Concentrate on the scholarships for which you are a good match and eliminate those for which you do not meet all of the conditions. Don’t be daunted by the abundance of choices. Simply take your time narrowing down the scholarships that are appropriate for you.
Here’s a list of resources to help you in your search:
Here’s a list of resources to help you in your search:
- U.S. Department of Labor’s free scholarship search tool
3. Lean on your advisor.
When it comes to locating the correct scholarships, your high school counselor or college advisor is a terrific resource. While you will not be applying at their office, they can assist you in determining which scholarships to apply for. Advisors will frequently evaluate your submissions and offer advice on how to enhance your essays and applications. You can also learn a lot by looking at previous scholarship recipients’ submissions and how they approached them.
Inquire with your guidance counselor about the most popular scholarships and others that are more targeted to your experience. You can also collaborate to identify specific scholarships from the colleges to which you’d like to apply. Speaking with an expert will help you focus your search so that it is more effective in meeting your needs.
2. Make use of your existing network.
Spread the word about your scholarship search to your employer, coaches, friends, and community members. Request that your parents inquire with their acquaintances and workplace HR departments regarding scholarships for family members.
Locally, there are usually a number of scholarships available that aren’t frequently promoted. These are frequently available via your high school counselor, the local newspaper, or the library. Contact them directly to see if any area foundations, community organizations, or companies give scholarships.
5. Polish your online presence.
The individual examining your application for a scholarship (or a job or a college) may Google you. Check to see if they’re getting the proper kind of results. Although most students choose to keep their social media accounts private, you should be aware that universities can still see what you post. It’s a good idea to update your LinkedIn page, social media accounts, and personal website so that you have control over what people find when they search for you.
Now is the time to create a personal website or portfolio if you don’t already have one. Wix, Squarespace, and Weebly, for example, provide free, easy-to-use website builders. It’s never too early to get your hands on a domain name and a website that you own. Making your identity known and available begins with getting your name out there and emphasizing your abilities and hobbies.
6. Look beyond your grades.
To be eligible for scholarships, you need not need a 4.0 GPA. In fact, some scholarships don’t even consider grades. Aside from your GPA, it’s critical to find a strategy to differentiate yourself on your applications. Consider what makes you exceptionally qualified and deserving of the award before you begin filling out the paperwork.
What unique abilities or skills do you have to offer? As a first-generation student, you may be able to demonstrate your tenacity in the face of adversity. Maybe it’s your basketball court leadership abilities that set you apart. Concentrate on an area where you excel or that matters a lot to you. When it comes time to discuss your extracurricular activities in your scholarship applications, your enthusiasm will shine through.
7. Gather recommendation letters.
A few letters of recommendation from teachers and community individuals who know you best are normally required for scholarship and college applications. Your employer, teachers, coaches, high school counselors, or other professionals who can attest to your strengths, qualifications, and ambition could be among them.
Because you’re requesting a huge favor, it’s ideal to offer the letter-writer as much pertinent information as possible. You may even offer them a Word template to utilize when writing your recommendation. Here are some additional services you can offer:
- A summary of the scholarship (if it applies to a specific applicant)
- Your primary strengths are in terms of the requirements, as well as your relationship with the reviewer. (For instance, if you’re applying for a leadership scholarship, you may include your Honor Society advisor’s successful reelection as president.)
- A copy of your CV
- Any additional future plans, such as which universities you want to apply to and what major you intend to pursue
Make sure to thank your reviewers for taking the time to help you when you’ve received your letters of recommendation.
8. Apply for a LARGE number of scholarships, big and small.
Scholarship money to pay for education will most likely come from a variety of sources. To cover all your bases, you’ll need to apply for a lot of scholarships. Smaller honors should not be overlooked. Winning $1,000 every now and again will rapidly pile up. Furthermore, the more applications you submit, the better your chances of winning.
Make it a habit to apply for scholarships. Set a goal of applying to one or two schools per month beginning sophomore year to get ahead of the game. Awards are available for high school kids, college students, and graduate students, with some scholarships allowing you to apply numerous times. Once a month, for example, you can compete to win $1,000 in our College Ave scholarship sweepstakes. Make sure you maintain your numbers up if you want to have a decent chance at the numbers game of applying for scholarships.
9. Write a great essay.
Many students avoid applying for scholarships that require essays, yet a well-written essay might help you stand out from the competition. Consider working with your advisor or attending a writing class to help you write a memorable essay, which is also good practice for college applications.
Tips: You might be able to reuse parts of your essay for many scholarship applications. Just remember to stick to the scholarship restrictions, which include the essay word count. The most crucial thing to keep in mind is to respond to the question. Don’t rewrite an essay just because it’s well-written. Make sure you comprehend the prompt and that you can demonstrate both your knowledge and writing abilities at the same time.
10. Practice your interview skills.
Some scholarships necessitate a face-to-face interview. It takes time to become a successful interviewee, so practice answering questions about your background, hobbies, accomplishments, and goals. Remember that the more at ease you are conversing with the interviewer and answering questions, the better. Don’t be afraid; your interviewer just wants to get a sense of who you are and why you’d be a good fit. Now’s your moment to show them what you’ve got.
To be eligible for scholarships, you must provide enough time to explore your possibilities, submit meaningful applications, and seek help from people at school and in your community. With just a little effort, you may save thousands of dollars on your education and get a head start in college.