How to Get a Scholarship

Be prepared to answer general questions such as name, address, social security number, date of birth, citizenship status and marital status. You will also need to provide any necessary financial information such as total family income, number of children in your household, and number of children in college.

Recognize what you can expect from a scholarship when you apply for it. Some schools offer to pay all your expenses, while others only pay for room and board. Always remember, you don’t have to only apply for just one big scholarship. Studies show that families often overlook scholarships that are less than $500. Adding up multiple small awards can prove to be a benefit, your odds of winning will increase with the fewer applicants for the same scholarship.

The best time to apply is NOW! Waiting too long will lead to stress and missed deadlines. DO NOT wait to be accepted to a college before researching and apply for private scholarships. Always keep a log of all of your scholarship research and what you are applying to. If you don’t receive a scholarship the first time around, don’t get discouraged. Most scholarships are not limited to freshmen; you may have better luck the following year. Remember, even without scholarships, families can still find ways to afford college. Start by filling out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA).

    Scholarships out there, increase your odds of winning by following these tips:

  • Consult your schools financial aid office: The largest amount of financial aid comes from federal, state, and institutional grants and tuition discounts. If you are a current student you can contact your school’s financial aid office to help you find available scholarships, grants, and loans according to your needs and background. The student aid office does not always have information on these highly specific programs. So if you have already decided on a major, your academic department may be aware of awards designated for students in your area of study. Consider whether you are a member of an underrepresented group, in financial need, or interested in certain fields of study. Scholarships are available for those with special talents in many areas, including sports, art, science and music. Don’t forget to supply information about the talent required by the scholarship for which you are applying.
  • Use a free scholarship search engine: Ask the student aid office to recommend free scholarship search sites other students have found useful. Online searches let you focus on scholarships that fit your personal characteristics, helping you target your search to only those scholarships for which you are most likely to qualify. Fastweb.com is a great scholarship search site that will tailor your results to your needs.
    o Don’t believe that because you don’t have straight A’s and can’t shoot a 3 pointer, there’s nothing available to you. There are scholarships available based on hobbies, interests, background, financial need, etc. According to FinAid.com, there’s even a $1,000 scholarship for a left-handed student. Seek out local and national organizations and associations in your areas of interest to see whether any scholarship opportunities exist.
  • Write the essay: No one likes to write essays, so use that fact to your advantage. Scholarships that require essays receive fewer applicants, giving you a better chance of qualifying. Keep copies of all the application materials you submit; often essays and other application materials can be tweaked and used again for future applications. Be sure to thoroughly proofread before submitting each application.
  • Don’t get scammed: The Federal Trade Commission warns consumers about scholarship scams, which promise that, for a fee, they can help the family access more student aid. Similar scams charge students high scholarship search or application fees. According to the FTC, “[M]ost scholarship sponsors do not charge up-front fees to apply for funding, and no legitimate scholarship sponsor can guarantee that you will win an award.”

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