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Scholarships are financial awards given to students to help cover the cost of their education. Unlike loans, scholarships do not need to be repaid, however, each type of scholarship has its own eligibility requirements and application process. 

Let’s take a look at the different types of scholarships available.



Scholarships come in various forms, including:

Type of Scholarship Description Eligibility Criteria Award Amount
Merit-Based Scholarships Awarded based on academic achievement or other talents. High GPA, standardized test scores, or achievements. Varies
Need-Based Scholarships Awarded to students with demonstrated financial need. FAFSA or CSS Profile application. Varies
Athletic Scholarships Awarded to student-athletes for sports participation. Athletic talent and recruitment by college coaches. Varies
Artistic Scholarships Awarded for achievements in visual or performing arts. Portfolio or audition required. Varies
Minority Scholarships Aimed at underrepresented minority groups. Ethnic background or cultural affiliation. Varies
First-Generation Scholarships For students whose parents didn’t attend college. Proof of first-generation status. Varies
Community Service Scholarships For students with a strong commitment to community service. Record of volunteer work and recommendations. Varies
STEM Scholarships Aimed at students pursuing science, technology, engineering, or math fields. Major in STEM discipline. Varies
Leadership Scholarships Awarded for leadership roles in extracurricular activities. Leadership positions and recommendations. Varies
Essay Scholarships Require submitting essays on specific topics or prompts. Essay submission and quality. Varies
State-Specific Scholarships Offered by individual states or state institutions. Residency and state-specific eligibility criteria. Varies
International Scholarships For international students studying in the U.S. Visa status, academic qualifications, and more. Varies



There are 3 major ways you can go about finding scholarships:

1. Scholarship Search Engines

The Digital Age of Scholarship Hunting

The internet really simplifies the search. Scholarship search engines and online databases can help you find discover scholarships that align with your academic interests, qualifications, hobbies/interests and several other unique factors. 

It’s kind of neat and there are some weird and quirky scholarships out there.

Here are some reputable scholarship search engines to consider:

  1. Fastweb: A comprehensive scholarship database that matches scholarships to your profile.
  2. Offers a vast collection of scholarships and financial aid resources.
  3. Cappex: Provides scholarship listings and college matching services.
  4. Niche: Features scholarships, college reviews, and rankings.
  5. Unigo: Offers scholarships, college reviews.

When using these search engines, create a detailed profile that includes your academic achievements, interests, and goals. The more information you provide, the more accurate the scholarship matches will be.


The databases listed above won’t ask you for that info, and we’ll address common scholarship scams in a few minutes. But in case you decided to just Google for scholarships, I wanted to place this warning there in advance.  

Once your profile is complete, some of the databases – ex. FastWeb and – will email you with scholarship opportunities that match your profile.  Keep track of

Now, because the websites provided are databases, the scholarships listed may overlap across multiple sites. In those instances, choose ONE source and apply. Multiple applications sent for the same scholarship can lead to disqualifications.

2. Institutional Scholarships

Once you’ve registered for at least three of the listed databases, check out what the universities you’re applying to have to offer.

Most colleges and universities offer their own scholarships, which can be a significant source of financial aid. These scholarships can be based on academic achievement, leadership, or other criteria. To explore institutional scholarships:

  1. Visit College Websites: Go to the financial aid or scholarships section of the college’s website to find information on available scholarships.
  2. Contact the Financial Aid Office: After thoroughly researching through the university’s website for relevant info, reach out to the college’s financial aid office for guidance on scholarship opportunities and application procedures.
  3. Check Admission Letters: Some scholarships are automatically awarded upon admission, so carefully review your admission letter and financial aid package.
  4. Apply Early: Deadlines for institutional scholarships may vary, so it’s essential to apply early, especially since most students will procrastinate. Don’t wait until the last minute and turn in a mediocre essay and application. Give yourself time to pull it all together to the best of your abilities.


3. Local and Community Scholarships

So, after you’ve checked out the databases and seen what the universities you’re applying to have to offer, see what’s happening locally. 

Local and community organizations often provide scholarships to support students in their area. These scholarships might be less competitive than national ones since most students may not even know they’re there.

To discover local scholarships:

  1. Contact Your School Counselor: School counselors often have information on local scholarships and can guide you through the application process.
  2. Explore Community Organizations: Local businesses, nonprofits, and community groups may offer scholarships. Check their websites or contact them directly for details.
    You can also head to the local library or community center for local scholarship info. The staff members there may be able to direct you.
  3. Review High School Bulletin Boards: Many local scholarships are advertised on bulletin boards in high schools.
  4. Search Online: Use online resources like scholarship search engines to find local opportunities by filtering for your location.
    The databases we talked about in Part 1 should help you filter scholarships by location, so if local businesses or organizations have listed their scholarships online, you may find them that way.
  5. Attend Local Events: Community events, such as fundraisers or town hall meetings, might be a source of scholarship information.



When can you apply?

Students can start applying for scholarships as early as 9th grade! That’s 4 years of opportunity!

Also, the scholarship application process is ongoing, meaning you can – and will probably have to – keep applying and reapplying all through college.

See, most scholarships tend to be one-time payments, so if you’d like to renew your reward or open yourself up to more options, you have to keep applying.


Preparing Your Scholarship Application

Applying for scholarships requires careful preparation and attention to detail. Each scholarship has its own requirements and deadlines, so it’s crucial to stay organized. Here’s a step-by-step guide to help you prepare your scholarship applications effectively:

  1. Create a Scholarship Calendar: Keep track of scholarship deadlines, requirements, and submission methods. Organize them by due date to ensure you don’t miss any opportunities.
    If you’d like a scholarship tracker, here is one you can use!
  2. Gather Essential Documents: Common documents include transcripts, recommendation letters, standardized test scores, and your personal statement or essay. Make sure you have these ready to submit.
  3. Write an Awesome Personal Statement or Essay: Many scholarships require an essay or personal statement. Tailor each essay to the specific scholarship’s prompts or themes, highlighting your achievements and aspirations.
    Once you write about 5-7 unique essays, you’ll find that you can repurpose them for different scholarships. It’ll be a bit of work upfront, but your life will be easier afterwards.
  4. Request Letters of Recommendation: Approach teachers, counselors, or mentors who know you well and can write compelling letters of recommendation. Provide them with ample time to complete their recommendations.
  5. Proofread and Edit: Review your application materials for errors, typos, and clarity. Consider seeking feedback from teachers or peers to refine your essays.
  6. Follow Instructions Carefully: Each scholarship has unique application instructions. Ensure you meet all requirements, including word limits, submission formats, and any additional materials.
  7. Submit Applications Early: Aim to submit your applications well before the deadline. Late submissions are often disqualified.
  8. Keep Copies: Make copies of your application materials for your records. This includes essays, transcripts, and confirmation emails. You can just create a Google Folder for the different applications you send in.

Remember that scholarship applications can be competitive, so putting in the effort to create strong, tailored applications can significantly increase your chances of success.



Here are a few tips to help you write a great and genuine scholarship essay:

  1. Understand the Prompt: Carefully read and understand the essay prompt. Some prompts can be funky and kind of fun to write about out. Make sure that your essay directly addresses the topic or question.
  2. Tell Your Story: Share personal anecdotes and experiences that demonstrate your qualities and achievements. Use storytelling to engage the reader. 
    Use descriptive language and concrete examples to illustrate your points. Instead of saying you’re passionate about a “something”, describe a specific project or experience that demonstrates it.Avoid making vague statements.
  3. Be Authentic: Be yourself in your writing, don’t try to write solely what you think the reader wants you to.
  4. Focus on Impact: Highlight how receiving the scholarship will impact your education and future goals.
  5. Edit and Proofread: Carefully edit your essay for clarity, grammar, and punctuation. Consider seeking feedback from teachers or mentors.
  6. Follow Instructions: Adhere to word limits and any formatting requirements specified in the application guidelines.
  7. Be Concise: Make every word count. Eliminate unnecessary details and redundancies.


Need a way track all your scholarship deadlines? Check out our free Scholarship Tracker.



There are a few misconceptions about scholarship so let’s knock those out! 

Myth 1: Only top students get scholarships.

Reality: Scholarships come in various forms, including those for academic, artistic, athletic, and unique achievements. There are opportunities for students with diverse talents and interests.

Seriously, there are scholarships out there for duck-calling, Minecraft, and designing Zombie Invasion plans. 

So, yeah, you’ll definitely find scholarships that apply to you. 


Myth 2: Applying for scholarships is too time-consuming.

Reality: Investing time in scholarship applications can yield substantial returns. Scholarships can fund a significant portion of your education, making the effort worthwhile.


Myth 3: I can’t apply until I’m a senior.

Reality: Some scholarships are open to students as early as middle school or high school freshmen. Starting early can provide a competitive advantage, so highly recommended. 


Myth 4: Small scholarships aren’t worth it.

Reality: Even smaller scholarships can add up and help cover essential expenses like textbooks or supplies. They’re worth applying to.



While the scholarship search process can be rewarding, it’s essential to be cautious of scholarship scams that target unsuspecting students. Scholarship scams can result in financial loss and the compromise of personal information. Here’s how to identify red flags and protect your scholarship journey:

Red Flags of Scholarship Scams

  1. Upfront Fees: Legitimate scholarships do not require you to pay application or processing fees. Be wary of any scholarship that asks for money.
  2. Guaranteed Winners: If a scholarship claims you’re a guaranteed winner, it’s likely a scam. Scholarships are competitive, and no one can guarantee your success.
  3. Too Good to Be True: If a scholarship offers an unusually high award amount for minimal effort, it may be a scam. Be realistic about scholarship opportunities.
  4. No Contact Information Provided: Legitimate scholarships have clear contact information, including an official website and contact person. Scams may lack this information.
  5. Pressure Tactics: Scams may pressure you to act quickly, claiming limited-time offers. Take your time to research and apply for scholarships.
  6. Request for Personal Information: Be cautious about sharing personal information like your Social Security number or bank account details. Legitimate scholarships DO NOT require this upfront.

Protecting Your Personal Information

  1. Research Thoroughly: Investigate the scholarship provider and website. Look for reviews and feedback from previous applicants.
  2. Use Official Sources: Rely on reputable scholarship search engines, college websites, and trusted organizations when searching for scholarships.
  3. Read the Fine Print: Carefully review the scholarship’s terms and conditions. Ensure you understand the requirements and what is expected of scholarship recipients.
  4. Stay Informed: Educate yourself about common scholarship scams and the tactics scammers use. Awareness is your best defense.
  5. Trust Your Instincts: If something feels off or too good to be true, trust your instincts and proceed with caution.

By staying vigilant and informed, you can navigate the scholarship landscape safely and protect your personal information from potential scams.

In the next section, we’ll explore how scholarships are disbursed and managed, ensuring you have a clear understanding of how they can financially support your college education.



Once you’ve won the scholarships, the funds are typically disbursed in one of two ways:

  1. Directly to the College: In many cases, scholarship funds are sent directly to the college or university you plan to attend. The institution will apply the funds to your tuition, fees, and other educational expenses.
  2. Directly to You: In some cases, especially with local or community scholarships, you may receive a check or deposit of scholarship funds directly. You’ll be responsible for using these funds to cover your educational expenses.



To effectively manage scholarship funds:

  1. Review Award Letter: Carefully read your scholarship award letter to understand how and when the funds will be disbursed. Follow any instructions provided.
  2. Coordinate with Financial Aid Office: If your scholarship funds are sent to the college, work closely with the financial aid office to ensure they are applied correctly to your account.
  3. Use Funds Wisely: If you receive scholarship funds directly, use them wisely to cover educational expenses such as tuition, books, housing, and meals.
  4. Report Scholarships: Notify your college’s financial aid office of any scholarships you receive directly. This helps ensure accurate financial aid packaging.
  5. Maintain Eligibility: Some scholarships require you to meet certain academic or participation criteria to retain the award. Stay informed about renewal requirements.
  6. Express Gratitude: If you receive a scholarship from an organization or donor, consider sending a thank-you note or expressing your appreciation. It can foster positive relationships for future opportunities.



College can get expensive but keep in mind that scholarships are a great way to reduce your costs. 

There are scholarships out there for students of all types of backgrounds and interests, so you always have options!

Check out the databases, the universities you’re interested in, and your local community centers & businesses to see what’s available. 

And as you go through this process, if you have any questions or come across some neat information you’d like to share, please comment below! 

Talk soon,