With the cost of college at an all-time high, scholarships are a great way to help you afford your education. There are thousands of scholarships out there, and they come in many forms. No matter your GPA, test scores or interests, there’s a scholarship out there for you.
Finding and winning scholarships, however, can be a daunting task. So, we’ve put together this list of tips to help you put your best foot forward and win some scholarships to shave down the price you have to pay for college.
Tips for scholarships search
To maximize the amount of money you could earn towards college, you should start applying to scholarships before your junior year of high school. It may seem early, but you’ll be off to college before you know it.
You may be surprised to find that there are many scholarships available for sophomores and even freshmen in high school. So, don’t procrastinate until your junior or senior year. It’s better to put the work in now than to have to pay off a great amount of student loans after you graduate.
Think about what scholarships are right for you
You don’t need great grades or test scores to land college scholarships. There are all types of opportunities out there for anyone and everyone who’s interested.
There are passion-based scholarships, scholarships for women in STEM, scholarships for student volunteers, minority scholarships, and scholarships for those interested in sustainability, just to name a few.
No matter your academic standing, interests, passions or desired career field, there’s a scholarship out there for you. Finding it though, might take a bit of soul searching. Look inside to determine your strengths and weaknesses. Before choosing to apply to a specific scholarship, think about how you may compare to other applicants. Don’t discourage yourself, but, instead, be realistic. You want to apply to the scholarships that you have the best shot of winning.
For more scholarships, check TUN’s scholarship search engine.
Seek outside help
If you’re new to the scholarships search process, you may need a bit of guidance to help you determine which scholarships are worth your time and effort.
Ask your college counselors at your high school which ones they recommend. Typically, they have a vast understanding of the many different types of scholarships out there. And since they know your grades, writing abilities, passions, and interests, they’ll be able to suggest those that are a good fit for you.
Reach out to older siblings, cousins or friends who’ve applied for scholarships in the past. Based on their experiences, they may have some good advice on which ones to apply to and which ones you should steer clear of.
It’s also worth it to tell your parents or guardians that you’re looking for scholarships. The companies they work for may offer scholarships to employees’ children. Or, maybe they have a friend with a business that runs a scholarship program.
You can also utilize scholarship search tools to find the awards that best fit your profile, skills and interests. TUN’s scholarship search engine, for example, lets you search by grade level, ethnicity, type, major, group, and more. And TUN will tell you all about scholarships you can apply for if you activate its scholarship search bot.
Consider local scholarships
Before applying to national scholarships, it may benefit you to look in your own backyard. Many communities offer scholarships through local businesses, organizations, and clubs. Local scholarships typically have smaller applicant pools, which automatically increases your chance of winning.
To find local scholarships, look in the community papers and media websites. Check flyers sitting in coffee shops or pinned to your school’s bulletin boards. Ask your family members, friends, teachers, and counselors if they know of anything. And if there is a specific organization you think may offer a scholarship that you’d be interested in, go straight to their website or give them a call.
Don’t shy away from smaller scholarships
Scholarships come in all shapes and sizes, and you shouldn’t shy away from the small-ticket ones. A $1,000 scholarship likely won’t pay a semester’s tuition, but it can still help!
Low-budget scholarships typically have smaller applicant pools, which boosts your chance of winning. Additionally, they often have less-extensive application processes, so you don’t have to spend as much time and effort applying.
Don’t be scared to put in the work for big scholarships
Not every big-money scholarship has an extensive application process. But, typically, if a company or organization is giving away a large amount of money, it wants to see applicants put in time and effort.
That said, you shouldn’t turn away from these scholarships, as they can make a huge difference and keep you from having to pay back a lot of money in student loans after you graduate.
A lot of the big awards are national and attract many eyes. But, you shouldn’t be intimidated or assume you have no shot at winning. There may be less applicants than you assume, as many students are scared off by extensive applications. Additionally, a lot of big scholarships offer smaller sums of money to the runners-up. So, even if you don’t win the big prize, you may not end up empty-handed.
Watch out for fake scholarships
You’d like to assume that all scholarship providers are honest and ethical. But, there are some scammers out there that you should look out for. Don’t apply for any scholarships that ask you for money. Don’t apply for any scholarships that ask you to include any private information like your social security number. Use your best judgment.
Tips for winning scholarships
Don’t rush the application process
Like applying to colleges, applying to scholarships should be something you take seriously. Give yourself at least a couple of weeks to fill out the application, gather all of the materials that you need, and think about your essay or video submission if the scholarship requires one.
Many scholarships have strict guidelines, directions, and requirements. If you rush the application process, there’s a chance you’ll forget to submit an important document or skip over a section in the application. And if you turn in an incomplete application, you’ll likely be removed from consideration.
Write a great essay
While not every scholarship requires an essay, they’re extremely common. Writing a great one is easier said than done, but there are a few tips and tricks that you can follow to boost the quality of your essay and, in turn, increase your chances of winning a scholarship.
First and foremost, follow the prompt. No matter how great your writing is, you won’t win the scholarship if you don’t answer the question asked of applicants. You should consider every word you write and make sure each one adds value to your argument or explanation. Fluff and filler words are easy to detect, and they won’t impress anyone who is evaluating your essay.
Similarly, don’t add quotes to your essay unless you’re asked to. The point of having you write an essay is so that the organization giving out the scholarship can develop a better understanding of you, not someone else.
Make your essay intriguing. Humans, not machines, are going to be reading your essay submissions. If it is boring and fails to draw them in, they’ll just move onto the next one. Don’t be redundant, don’t be cliche, and don’t drag on with unnecessary information.
Also, make sure you stick to the word limit. If the scholarship calls for a 500- to 700-word essay and you submit 200 words, you’ll be skipped over. In the same vein, submitting 1,000 words when a prompt calls for 500 words won’t give you an advantage over the other applicants.
Lastly, you should have a parent, older sibling, teacher or counselor proofread your essay. Don’t let them write your essay for you, but it is always a good idea to have a second set of eyes on your essay to fix any grammatical or stylistic errors.
Carefully choose who writes your letters of recommendation
Many scholarships, particularly the big-money ones, require applicants to include letters of recommendation in their applications. Of course, you’ll want to be considerate in selecting who you want to write these letters. And whoever you choose should be given plenty of notice ahead of time, which is not just the polite thing to do but also result in a more thoughtful recommendation.
Typically, scholarship providers ask applicants to have an educator or counselor write the recommendation letters, but you’ll want to check the instructions included in the application.
Naturally, you’ll want to choose those who have a good understanding of you, your aspirations, and interests.
Keep in contact with the people you ask to write your recommendation letters. Give them lots of friendly reminders weeks before the application deadline. And after they write the recommendation letters, whether you win the scholarship or not, be sure to send them a thank-you note. After all, they are taking time out of their busy schedules to assist you.
Prepare a good resume
Many scholarships will ask you to include a resume. Since you’re in high school, chances are you don’t have a whole lot of work experience. But you can still put together an impressive and organized resume.
If you’re confident in your grades and/or test scores, list your academic achievements up front on your resume. If you made the Dean’s List one quarter, include that. If you are in your class’s top percentile, be sure to include that information.
You’ll also want to list all of your extracurricular endeavors, community service work, and leadership roles. Whether you’re engaged in sports, music, math club, quiz bowl, volunteering or something else, don’t hesitate to include it. The point of including a resume is so that the scholarship committee can gain a better understanding of who you are.
Stay on top of scholarship deadlines
Scholarships aren’t like homework. No matter how busy you are or what comes up in your life, you won’t get an extension. So, you need to stay on top of deadlines. Few things are more frustrating than writing an essay and gathering all the materials you need to apply to a scholarship only to find that it is no longer accepting submissions.
If you struggle to stay organized, it may benefit you to create a spreadsheet on Google Sheets, Microsoft Excel, or a similar platform. Fill in all the important dates attached to the scholarships you’re interested in, and check back every couple of days to make sure you’re not missing anything.
Applying for scholarships can be an overwhelming task. But, remember, they are there to help you afford higher education. Don’t be intimidated by lengthy applications, brush off small awards, or assume you don’t have a shot at winning. There’s a scholarship waiting out there for everyone.