Tips for Applying for College Scholarships
By Rebekah Richards
, last updated January 9, 2012
Tuition, room and board, books… college can be expensive. Scholarships aren't just for star athletes or straight A students, so learn how to highlight your strengths and collect scholarship money to defray the costs of your education.
Scholarship deadlines vary, but it's always better to give yourself plenty of time to complete the application and get it in early. Find scholarship opportunities by searching with the U.S. Department of Education's free Scholarship Search tool or ask around at local churches, community organizations, employers and clubs. Your high school guidance counselor should also know about local scholarship opportunities. Many colleges and universities also offer scholarships, so check with the schools you are considering.
Scholarship deadlines typically range from early fall to late spring, but you can begin researching scholarships several months before this time. You can also start preparing for scholarship applications by drafting scholarship essays, making sure you've taken the SAT or ACT and considering who you will ask for letters of recommendation. Scholarship applications also often require official transcripts, financial aid forms and your parents' financial aid information. This is the same information you will need to apply to college, so get organized early.
Read the eligibility criteria carefully before applying. Don't waste time applying to scholarships for which you aren't eligible. Some scholarships are only available to people who make certain grades, are of a certain race or ethnicity, belong to a certain church, have demonstrated financial aid, intend to study certain areas or who have other characteristics.
Highlight Your Strengths
Think about your strengths and interests before writing an essay or going to an interview. In addition, think of examples of how you have demonstrated these characteristics or pursued these interests. Be honest; your application will be more compelling if you sound natural and genuine. If you're not sure where to start, think about how you like to spend your time or what you're most proud of, or ask your friends or parents for ideas.
Polish Your Application
Proofread all essays and responses before sending in your application. Use spell check and grammar check on your computer and read your responses out loud to make sure they flow properly. If possible, have someone else look over your answers, such as a friend or teacher. If you plan to use the same essay for multiple scholarships, make sure it adequately answers the prompt and meets (not exceeds) the word count. In addition, double-check that you have answered all fields and provided all requested information. Contact the scholarship organization if you aren't sure how to answer a question.
Scholarship scams prey on high school students eager to find money for college, so think twice before accepting a scholarship that has any sort of advance fee. In addition, hesitate if you are told you have won a scholarship contest you did not enter and do not pay or provide your credit card information for scholarship search services. Contact the Federal Trade Commission at 1-877-FTC-HELP (1-877-382-4357) or ftc.gov if you have questions about whether a scholarship is legitimate or believe you have been a victim of a scholarship.