How to Get a ScholarshipMay 31, 2023
When you’re planning your college budget, applying for scholarships can help make school more affordable.
The good news is several types of scholarships are available. You can apply for them using the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA), search through your school, and even seek them out through private companies.
Considering all of these options can be overwhelming. In this blog, we’ll break down a few options that may help.
Learn About the Different Types of Scholarships
No matter your skill set, there are several types of scholarships that may be applicable to you. Here are just a few options to explore:
- Merit-based: These are opportunities based on your academic achievements.
- Need-based: If your financial situation makes paying for college difficult, you may be eligible for need-based scholarships.
- Sports: If you played sports in high school, consider trying out for a college team. Many athletes receive scholarships for college.
- Underrepresented groups: If you’re part of a minority group, you may be eligible for certain scholarships. These can include everything from scholarships from ethnicity-based organizations to scholarships for women in STEM fields.
- First-generation: If you’re the first person in your family to go to college, there are a host of scholarships for first-gen students.
- Hobbies and Extracurriculars: If you excel at something unique, you could turn your hobby into a scholarship check.
How to Find Scholarships for College
After you’ve considered how you want to approach getting scholarships for college, it’s time to do some research. Several resources are available to help you, from digital databases to your high school guidance counselor. You can also check out these free sources:
- School counselor
- Reference section of your library
- Online scholarship search tools, including:
- Religious or community organizations
- Parents’ employers
- Local businesses and civic groups
- Federal and state agencies
- Scholarships for Black & African American Students
- Scholarships for Adults Returning to College
- Scholarships for Latino & Hispanic Students
Keep an Eye Out for Niche Scholarships
If you belong to a community service, minority, or religious organization that sponsors scholarships, be sure to apply. Not all groups advertise these opportunities heavily, so a little research can go a long way.
Also, consider any extracurricular activities you’ve participated in and awards you’ve won throughout high school. Finally, if you have a unique situation, like being a returning student or are a dependent of a military service member, you may be eligible for certain types of scholarships.
Look Into Less Competitive Local Private Scholarships
You may be eligible for certain scholarships without even realizing it. For example, you may receive funds from your bank or credit union if they offer financial aid options. Be sure to look into businesses in your community that sponsor annual scholarships.
How to Apply for College Scholarships
Each scholarship’s requirements are unique, and it’s important to follow the directions. Before you start working on your application, be sure to read all the requirements. Include any information the scholarship application requests and make a note of each one’s deadline.
Here are a few things scholarship applications may ask you to include:
- A cover letter
- Your most recent transcript
- A copy of your resume
- A scholarship essay – in some cases, on a specific topic
- Recommendations from teachers or employers
Apply Early & Cast a Wide Net
Once you’ve found a few scholarship options, keep close track of upcoming deadlines. Even if you write the world’s greatest essay, you won’t be successful if you turn in the application late or, worse, forget to turn it in at all.
In most cases, your best bet is to complete the FAFSA early and apply for scholarships early. Getting your FAFSA in well before the deadline and getting a headstart on scholarship applications will give you time to fit in as many applications as possible. By casting a wide net, you give yourself the best chance of receiving this type of financial aid.
Watch Out for Scholarship Scams
Unfortunately, scammers often try to take advantage of students applying for scholarships. If you receive a call, email, text, or letter asking for personal information related to your application, stop and think before acting.
If you don’t remember applying for the scholarship in question, be wary. Never give your personal or financial information to an unfamiliar person. If you’re asked to pay a fee to receive the funds, that’s an immediate red flag, too.
If you’re unsure if the information you’re receiving is real or a scam, call the sponsor directly. Don’t use the phone number or email provided on the potential spam since it may be faulty information. By staying alert, you can help protect yourself from these types of scams.
Tips to Improve Your Chances to Win a Scholarship
Before you submit your application, make sure you’ve given yourself the best possible chance of getting a scholarship. Here are a few great ways to do that:
- Focus on your academics. You’re likely already working hard to get the best possible grades in your last years of high school, but a high GPA can be a big differentiator.
- Clean up your social media profiles and online presence. If the sponsor looks you up online, you’ll want to make sure you appear professional.
- Participate in extracurriculars. Participating in sports and clubs can increase your chances of getting a scholarship.
- Apply to multiple schools. It’s possible one school may offer more scholarship opportunities than another on your list.
- Respond to optional questions in the application. Unless optional questions don’t apply to you, take the time to give a thoughtful answer.
- Research the sponsor. Include some details in your application that show you took the time to learn more about the scholarship and sponsor organization.
- Share some things that set you apart. Many students that apply for scholarships will have good grades and academic honors. If you’re involved in the community or are part of a team or extracurricular club that can help you to stand out, those can be great details to include in your application.
- Don’t forget to proofread! Before you hit submit, always have a friend or family member proofread your application.
Then, think about what comes next. If there’s an interview process, rehearse practice questions with a friend. If you’ve buttoned up the application, then be proactive in seeking out new opportunities. Being prepared for every step can give you the best chance of winning a scholarship.
How Will Your Scholarship Money Be Awarded to You?
Different scholarships may deliver your money to you in various ways. Some sponsors will send the funds directly to your college, and others may write you a check. The sponsor should let you know how to expect your earnings so you can be on the lookout.
How Scholarships Impact Financial Aid
The biggest thing to be aware of is that you can’t take out more financial aid than it costs you to attend school. If you’re relying on several different forms of aid, like student loans, let your school know when you receive a scholarship so they can make the appropriate changes to your cost of attendance.
Keep Applying for Scholarships While in College
One of the best things about scholarships is that you can keep applying, even after your freshman year! You may have to do some research to find options that you’re eligible for, but because there are so many to choose from, you’re almost certain to find a few that apply to you.
What if Scholarships & Financial Aid Don’t Cover the Cost of College?
Scholarships and financial aid are great options to help pay for college. If you’ve maxed out your options and still have expenses left over, though, you may need to take out private student loans.
These can help you cover any remaining costs to finance your education. Best of all, you may even be able to refinance your student loans to earn a better interest rate after you graduate! ELFI offers private student loan refinancing with potential benefits including:*
- Lower interest rates
- Reduced monthly payments
- Shorter repayment term
- Saving money over the life of the loan
- Consolidating payments
- Adding or removing a cosigner
- Getting a quote without damaging your credit
Ultimately, scholarships are a fantastic way to fund your education. Thinking ahead can help you to write stronger applications and increase your chances of earning those funds.
Even if you can’t fund your full education with scholarships, however, many resources are available to you. Be sure to research all your options to find the best fit for your financial situation.