By Junior or Senior year of high school, many students begin to think about the expense of college and whether they can afford to go or not. Good news is that there are college scholarships available that can help ease the financial burden. Some students think that their grades have to be straight A’s in order to get a scholarship, but this is simply not true. Yes, grades are important, but you don’t have to have a 4.0 in order to secure a college scholarship. If you’re ready to start applying for college scholarships, keep in mind the following secrets to winning:

1. Apply for many scholarships

Don’t just apply for one or two scholarships with the assumption that you’ll win; apply for as many scholarships as you are eligible for. The more you apply for, the better your chances at getting some. This may seem like a heavy task, but once you fill out one or two applications, you’ll get the hang of it and easily be able to transfer your answers from one application to another. Also, instead of writing a new essay for each scholarship, you’ll most likely be able to tweak one essay to use for other applications. This will save you some time.

2. Begin early

Most students don’t begin thinking about scholarships until they are just about to graduate high school, but what they don’t realize is that some scholarship deadlines will have passed by then. Don’t procrastinate. Begin researching the many college scholarships available early and make a list noting the application deadlines. Feel free to begin doing this in your freshman or sophomore year. Then, you’ll be one step ahead of many and you’ll have your application in early, which may increase your chance at being awarded the scholarship.

3. Create a plan to stick out

There is some pretty stiff competition out there when it comes to scholarships, so take some time to create a plan to make your application stand out. This means taking into consideration the kind of paper you use, the envelope you mail it in, the size of font you use, and having everything in order in the envelope. If you just shove everything into your envelope without thought, it can come across as sloppy. Polish and perfect your application and essay and pay attention to details. This gives you an advantage over others who rush through it all.

4. List your extracurricular activities

Feel free to toot your horn a little on your application. If you’ve been involved in extra-curricular activities, worked a job, won awards, and so on, let it be known. If you’re in high school now, consider taking on an extracurricular activity that interests you, as doing so can show that you are motivated and disciplined. The scholarship committee wants to get a feel for who you are and your motivation levels. If you’ve taken on extra activities or have acquired a great work ethic at a young age, these things will be in your favor when it comes to selection time.

5. Learn to excel in essays

Many students dread the essay part of the college scholarship application. This is unfortunate, because creating a solid essay is not as difficult as you might think. You can learn to excel in your essays and in doing so, your chances of winning the scholarship increase. Take some time to work on improving your essay writing skills. Ask a teacher or mentor to assist you with the process. You may even find an essay writing class online that will help you out. Sometimes all it takes is a little practice and feedback to begin writing outstanding essays.

Winning a college scholarship is not as difficult as you might think. Apply for as many scholarships as you qualify for. This way, your chances of securing one or more are better. If you have any questions about the process, ask your parents, guidance counselor, or teacher for help. Begin making your list of scholarships now, so when the time is right for applying, you’ll have everything in order.