How to Find & Apply for Scholarships
There are a few ways to pay for college with money that you get from elsewhere. Loans will need to be re-paid, but the benefit of scholarships and grants is that you don't have to re-pay them! There is a ton of "free" money out there for ambitious students like you.
🔍 How to Start Your Scholarship Search
Students should begin applying for scholarships in the summer between their junior and senior years. Starting the process earlier will get you thinking about who you’re going to ask for letters of recommendation, and time to start crafting scholarship essays.
The first place to start is within your community. Ask your guidance counselor, employers, and businesses in your community. Many of them will offer scholarships for local students, and those are the awards you’ll have the greatest chances of winning because the applicant pools are smaller.
The next place to consider is the financial aid or admission office of the university you want to attend. They’ll often offer both institutional merit scholarships and endowed scholarships from their foundation. You can also look to other foundations and corporations that award scholarships.
- Many companies have scholarships for children of employees - so check with your family members too!
The most efficient way to search for scholarships is to go online. You can create a free profile on many scholarship search sites like Scholarships.com, CollegeXpress, Cappex, Fastweb, Unigo, and Scholarship America.
Large, popular scholarships (high amounts but lots of competition) include the Bryan Cameron Scholarship, Coca Cola Scholarship, Jack Kent Cooke Scholarship, Gates Scholarship, Dell Scholarship, and QuestBridge Scholarship.
Make sure to check the requirements and deadlines for each scholarship! Some look at financial needs, teacher recommenders, degree types, and more.
🏘 Find Local Funds
The best odds you'll have are applying for local scholarships! These will have the smallest applicant pools and are often accessible through high schools and personal connections. Although they often require some work, remember that the more you put in the more you get out! You also miss 100% of the shots you never take. 😉
The best way to find these local scholarships is to ask your counseling office or do a Google search. Search for scholarships in your geographic area - city, county, state, region. Look for scholarships from clubs such as Key Club and DECA and other qualities such as religion or nationality.
📂 Stay Organized
Use Notion or Google Sheets to list the deadlines for each scholarship. Be sure to add the prompts and requirements. Sometimes, the scholarship requires a letter of recommendation, which you should ask for at least 2 weeks in advance.
We recommend using the following columns in your tracker:
ProgressScholarship NameDeadlineLinkPriorityAwardAdditional NotesRequirements
- Personalize the tags and columns to what fits your needs
- Change view to "Calendar view" to see the visualization of deadlines
- Customize the order of the columns
- Complete essays within the Notion page (Press OPEN when hovering the scholarship name cell) or create a new column for your Google Docs link
The table below these toggle lists includes national scholarship sites that you can add to your scholarship tracker if applicable.
🖥️ Write. Those. Essays.
Like college essays, you shouldn't have to write a new essay for each prompt - since many prompts tend to be similar! Write down the prompts, and see if you can revise and use any old essays.
Most scholarship essays actually follow the format of college essays, such as "Why X scholarship" and "tell me about yourself and your aspirations"! You'll be a master at writing these types of essays by the end of the college application & scholarship season. 👑
💰 Enter the Lottery!
Okay, not the real lottery. "Lottery" scholarships are cash prizes awarded at random to applicants and have a very low success rate. If you have some extra time and hope, it never hurts to try! Sites like Bold.org give you entries for expressing interest or taking action for social causes. They also have traditional scholarship applications.
Interested in Learning More?
Check out the Fiveable Financial Aid page for more content!
- Read "How to Get Scholarships" for more scholarship tips, tricks, and red flags.
- Read "Creating a Scholarship List" to learn how to make and use a scholarship tracker.
- Read "Priority Scholarship Deadlines" to find deadlines for scholarships at top schools.