Search for scholarships during the fall. Even if the application isn't posted yet, you can still use last year's application instructions to get started.
Now that you have explored your strengths, research types of scholarships and figure out which ones might be a match for you.
There are all kinds of scholarships out there with different qualifying criteria: gender, ethnic background, educational history, area of study, unique talents, hobbies, grades, clubs, past jobs, volunteer work… these are all activities or personal skills that might relate to a scholarship.
1. Do some research
Finding scholarships is all about searching through a lot of scholarships to find the few that are right for you. So your first step is to conduct research online.
The key to this step is to be creative and open-minded about the possible sources of scholarships – did you work for a grocery store? That chain might offer a scholarship. Were you in a club during high school? The club could offer a scholarship. Are you studying to be a nurse at a hospital? Check with the hospital where you want to work – they might offer a scholarship!
|Places to look|
|Scholarship search sites|
|Ask people you know|
|Sites that relate to your school or region|
|Search the web for scholarships that relate to you||
2. Understand the criteria
While searching, you'll be asking yourself if the scholarship might be right for you. When you spot a scholarship that might be a good match, ask yourself:
- Do I meet the minimum criteria?
- Do I meet any of the preferred criteria?
If you answer yes to one or both, add it to your scholarship tracker!
If you don't meet ALL of the criteria, but still feel you are a good candidate for the scholarship, feel free to apply. If the scholarship description states that you will be disqualified if you don't meet some of the criteria, then don't waste time applying for it.
It's not always clear what the scholarship criteria is asking for. Below is a table of some common terms you might see, and examples of what it really means.
|Scholarship lingo||What it means|
|Academic merit||This means you have good grades and good test scores. Generally this includes a GPA ranging between 3.0 and 4.0. But don't be discouraged to apply if you don't have perfect grades.|
|Demonstrates financial need||Some scholarships give preference to students who need more help paying for college. They will look at your FAFSA information (we'll explain the FAFSA later) to determine your level of financial need. If you're not sure you meet this criteria, apply for the scholarship anyway.|
|Enrolled in a degree-granting program||This means you have declared a degree and are taking credit classes that apply to that degree. If your major is undeclared, or you are taking classes for fun without the goal of getting a degree, you would not meet this criteria.|
|Preference given to applicants of minority heritage||This typically includes students of Hispanic, African-American, Asian, Native American and multi-ethnic backgrounds. The word "preference" indicates it is not the only determining factor for the scholarship. If you don’t meet the preferential criteria, still apply - the scholarship committee will pick the best applicant.|
|Intend to enroll full-time||This means that you plan to be enrolled full time (12 credits or more) while receiving the scholarship. You don't have to be currently enrolled or admitted to the school when you apply for the scholarship.|
|First generation college student||This means that your parents did not receive a four-year college degree.|
3. Prioritize your list
Now it's time to prioritize: You probably don't have time to apply for all of the scholarships that you qualify for. So spend time on those that you best fit or the few where you match most all of the qualifications. Ask yourself these questions to narrow your list:
- Is there any fine print that would disqualify me?
- Will I be in school at the time the money is awarded?
- Are there any restrictions that will make it so I can't use the money?
Keep track of the scholarships so you
won't have to do this research again! Go through your scholarship tracker spreadsheet and decide which scholarships you are going to apply for and which ones you'll skip this year.
How to avoid scams
For some reason, there are a lot of fake scholarships out there. Be careful about giving out sensitive information. If a scholarship website asks for any of the following information, it's a red flag and you shouldn't apply:
- Credit and debit card numbers, bank information.
- Social Security Number.
- Home address, phone number or email (unless it's on the application form).
- Social media contact information. You should not need to provide Facebook, Linked-in or Twitter accounts to apply.
- Scholarship fee not within a private organization or membership.
Looking for scholarships is hard, so good job for getting this far. Keep going, we promise it's worth it!