Scholarships are highly coveted by many students, and desired by even more students. Yet the majority of students do not know how to apply for scholarships. Unfortunately, most high schools and colleges are stretched thin when it comes to providing resources to help students find aid. As such, the burden of finding and applying to scholarships is often left solely up to the student. Below are some concrete steps students can take to increase their chances of finding a scholarship.
Start Early: Students often struggle to balance their time. Applying for scholarships should be approaches just the same as you might approach a class. Set aside time each week to work on researching and applying to scholarships. Rushing to find scholarships at the last minute will leave you feeling stressed. Additionally, it may lead to sloppy applications. As such, it is best to start about 12 months in advance.
Where Should I Look for Scholarships? One of the best ways to start applying for scholarships is to create a free profile with an online scholarship search engine, such as Fastweb or Scholarships.com. These search engines will ask you to complete a brief profile and then will match you will all scholarships that you are eligible to apply for. Additionally, these websites help students stay organized by allowing them to click whether they intend to apply for the award or whether they have already applied for it. As an added benefit, students can opt into reminders about deadlines to ensure that they do not miss an important application.
In addition to the online search engines, students should check with their future (or current if already enrolled) college or university regarding available scholarships. Some schools maintain their own school-wide scholarship search while other schools require students to do a little more legwork. Make sure you check with your academic department, financial aid office, and admissions office in order to maximize your chances of findings scholarships. Other resources to find scholarships include civic organizations, clubs or organizations that where you or your parents are members, religious organizations, and any professional associations where you hold a membership.
Students should also complete the FAFSA application as soon as they are able to fill it out. This form will let them know whether they have qualified for funding and the state or federal level. Additionally, many need-based and school scholarships will require that students provide information from the FAFSA application.
Read Carefully: Make sure you carefully read eligibility criteria and required documentation for each scholarship. Failing to do so might mean you miss getting a letter of recommendation on time, you forget to include a requirement piece of the application, or missing the application deadline. Additionally, if you find you are not eligible you can easily move onto applying for the next award instead of spending time on one that is not a good match. Most scholarships will want an essay, letters of recommendation, FAFSA information, test scores, and transcripts. Start organizing these ahead of time and then highlight any additional criteria required for each award for which you plan to apply.