Getting a college scholarship may sound difficult. After all, the process is a complex network of applications, reviews, and waiting.
However, securing a scholarship for college can be rewarding and save you from having to pay back student loans once you graduate.
With so many available scholarships, going through the process is always worth it. Understanding the process, knowing where to look for scholarships, and learning how to write application essays are important steps to securing these scholarships.
Here are some useful tips to help you increase your chances of receiving one.
Prior to giving any tips, I want to make sure you have a firm understanding of what scholarships are.
Scholarships are financial aid awards designed to help students pay for an undergraduate degree. They can involve a one-time payment while some are renewable and provide money for students each year they attend university.
Scholarships come in many forms including merit-based, need-based, student-specific, career-specific, and college-specific.
Scholarships can also come from various sources. While most people associate scholarship with federal and state governments, many come from private companies, nonprofits, and universities themselves.
Where to Look for Scholarships:
Scholarships are not that difficult to find. Here are some places where you can find additional information:
Online Scholarship Databases
Websites such as SmartScholar and Scholarship.com have large databases of available scholarships. These sites allow you to create a profile and match you with scholarships you're eligible for.
Make sure you don't overlook smaller, local scholarships. You will have less competition than national awards. While some of these may be small awards, they add up quickly and are worth your time applying. Check with local businesses, community organizations, and civic groups in your town or county.
A great example is the Michael A. DiRaimondo Foundation Scholarship which is awarded to those attending school in Southern California.
High School Guidance Office
Still in high school? You're in luck. Your guidance counselor's office has tons of information about scholarships. It's their job to provide you with such information and they have been compiling lists of scholarships for longer than you have attended the school.
Federal and State Grants
As part of your Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA), you can be matched with grants from federal and state agencies.
If you have already chosen which college you want to attend, reach out and ask their financial aid department about available scholarships. They will likely have a list of hard to find scholarships that come from previous alumni and are more difficult to find on your own.
Tips for Applying:
In order to stay ahead of the competition, there are a number of tips to keep in mind. While these do not guarantee you will be awarded a scholarship, the more you apply, the more likely you will be considered for the award.
- Start Early - The earlier you start your scholarship search, the better. Many scholarships have early deadlines. Starting early also gives you plenty of time to complete the sometimes extensive application process.
- Be Organized - Keep track of deadlines, application components, and submission instructions for each scholarship. Missing a deadline or failing to send in all required documents can mean instant disqualification.
- Apply to a Range of Scholarships - Don't just apply to the most lucrative scholarships. Smaller scholarships can add up, and often have less competition.
- Be Aware of Scholarship Scams - Legitimate scholarships never require payment. Avoid scholarships that guarantee you'll win, charge an application fee, or ask for your credit card or bank account number.
Writing a Winning Scholarship Essay:
One of the most dreaded parts of the scholarship process is writing an application essay. This is the essay most require you to submit in order to evaluate your worthiness of the scholarship.
Different scholarships have different essay requirements so keep this in mind when applying. Do not send the same essay to everyone. You will need to make tweaks in order to fit what they are looking for.
Here are some additional tips:
- Understand the Scholarship Provider's Goals - Each scholarship provider is looking for students who meet certain criteria. Understand their goals and how you meet them.
- Tell a Compelling Story - Everyone has a unique story. Use your scholarship essay to show who you are and why you're unique.
- Be Authentic and Personal - Avoid clichés and generic statements. Speak from your heart and share your true self.
- Proofread - Make sure your essay is free of typos and grammatical errors. Ask a teacher, parent, or mentor to review your essay.
- Artificial Intelligence – Even though AI has come a long way, I never advise using it to write your essay. Essays must be personal and those reviewing the applications can tell if it comes from the heart or a machine.
Securing a scholarship can be a daunting task. However, it is worth it based on the reward you can receive for going through the process.
With the right approach, you can secure funding for your education that you will never have to pay back. Stay focused, don't give up, and apply these tips when applying.
Your education is an investment and applying for these scholarships shows your potential to succeed in college.