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Tips on Applying for Scholarships

See our External Scholarships page for information on how to find external scholarships, providers, and scholarship search engines!

Tip 1: Apply early, often, and for everything!

You will see parts of this mantra repeated in the tips below. You do not have to wait until your senior year of high school to apply for scholarships for college. There are some scholarships that elementary and middle school students can apply for! However, most students start researching scholarships their junior year.

Tip 2: Apply for scholarships yourself

It is in a student's best interest to apply for scholarships themselves. Not only does it provide a better understanding of the financial investment they are making in their future, but scholarship providers may eliminate a student's application if they believe the application, essay, or personal statement has been completed by someone other than the student.

Tip 3: Narrow down your search

When using a scholarship search engine, narrow it down by searching for your major, hobbies, interests, location, heritage, enrollment level (i.e. freshman in high school, sophomore in college), etc. Whatever you can think of, there is probably a scholarship out there!

Tip 4: Carefully proofread your application

Triple-check your application and/or essay for spelling or grammatical issues. Pro tip: step away from it for at least a day. Often your brain sees what it expects to see, so if you try to edit what you're writing too soon after writing it, you may miss errors. When you write an essay, give yourself time before the deadline to step away from it for a day or two, then come back to review it later. It's amazing what you will catch when your brain is reviewing your writing from a fresh perspective. Another pro tip: find a tool that will read your text to you. It helps you hear the flow of your writing in ways that you may not when you're reading it yourself. If something sounds strange, you can change it! Finally, use full, appropriate words instead of slang unless the slang has a specific purpose in your essay.

Tip 5: Beware of scams

Be very cautious and on alert for scholarship scams such as those requesting Social Security numbers, charging fees for services, or "guarantees" to win. Pro tip: set up a separate email account just for scholarships. It can help you avoid spam and junk mail in your regular mailbox (when applicable), and it can also help feature scholarship opportunities that are being sent to you.

Tip 6: Don't skip the small stuff!

Don't skip smaller scholarships. Typically they have less applicants - and less competition. Plus, even $50 in free money is $50 you don't have to pay. Would you turn down $50 if someone walked up to you on the street and offered it?

Tip 7: Pay attention to deadlines

Be aware of scholarship deadlines and make sure you follow application instructions very carefully. Sometimes deadlines for scholarships are in the fall for the following academic year! In addition, not following the instructions of the application may prevent you from receiving the scholarship.

Tip 8: NSAS

Never Stop Applying for Scholarships! Okay, maybe it's not the catchiest acronym, but it's important to remember that you shouldn't stop applying for scholarships - even if you're in your junior year of college. Think of it like a job and set aside an hour a night or a few hours once a week to apply for scholarships.