Now that you have some of your scholarship documents ready, it’s time to begin the search process. Some scholarships are accessible to a wide audience, and some address specific groups.

Where to Look for Scholarships

Once you’ve figured out how much college will cost, you’ll need to figure out how to pay for it. Half the battle is just knowing where to look in the first place. Here’s our shortlist of helpful sites (we’re assuming you already know about Google.)

AH Tip: Consider using a special “scholarship” email account instead of your personal email address. (Just make sure to monitor it!) These sites are very helpful, but will send you a ton of e-mail. If a little account separation helps you stay organized, go for it!

Get Specific About Yourself

Remember to get specific with your search. Some scholarships are for “everyone,” but most use eligibility criteria. Before starting any application, make sure you check whether or not you’re eligible. There are scholarships directed only toward students who live in a particular city, others may be for students who earn a certain GPA or families that earn a certain income. Regardless of the criteria, use it to your advantage!

Here are some key things to think about:

  • Do you have any special interests or talents?

  • Do you have a connection with a special group or club?

  • Do you have a specific career or major in mind?

  • What identifiers could you use to describe you?

    • Race, gender, age, ethnicity, sexual orientation, disability, and religion are all great ways to search for scholarships.

AH Tip: Combine your unique traits for specific searches to yield great results. Are you a young woman in Washington state of native people’s descent with an interest in science and engineering, a religious affiliation, and a deep love of cats? Yep, get that specific.

Don’t Get Scammed/Spammed

Scholarships are in, in a sense, “free money.” And that means lots of people are looking for them, and others who sometimes try to take advantage of your honest search.

  • Don’t ever pay for a scholarship search site to send you scholarship opportunities, there are plenty freely available information.

  • Read the fine print to make sure the site won’t spam you with tons of messages daily.

  • If you are receiving too many messages, unsubscribe from the mailings. If you can’t unsubscribe, you can report it as spam to your email provider.

AH Tip: There are legitimate paid services that help people find scholarships, but most people don’t really need it. With so many free resources out there, you shouldn’t ever need to pull out a credit card.

Set a Really High Goal - Then Achieve it!

Pick a few that you think would be a good fit for you, a mix of big and small award amounts. Some scholarships have annual, semesterly, monthly or even weekly deadlines. Try to set a reasonably high goal for yourself (e.g. over Summer break, apply to 20 different scholarships).

AH Tip: Does 20 sound crazy? Remember that you can probably repurpose some of your essays and information to help the process go a little faster.

Build Your Backwards Calendar

Once you pick your scholarships, pull out your calendar and do some “backwards planning.” Basically, mark down what dates each application is due and plan backwards to give yourself deadlines by which you’ll have everything ready for the due date. In other words, if the application is due on July 15th, you may have a timeline that looks like this:

  • July 15th - Completed Application Due

  • July 10th - Finalize essay

  • July 1st - All recommendation letters turned in

  • July 1st - Essay draft completed - send request for feedback

  • June 15th - Send out requests for letters of recommendation

  • June 1st - Start application and writing essay

  • June 1st - Request transcripts from Guidance Office

Once done, flip these dates so they’re not backwards and put them in your calendar (or on your fridge or in your phone or wherever you regularly check-in) so that you can stay current on what you need to do.

You now have some helpful tips to help you apply for scholarships and get you on your way to your dream school! What are your best tips for applying to scholarships? Tell us in the comments below.

Authored by Christina Michaluk

Christina specializes in higher education. She writes about ways students can tackle college financing, from scholarships to FAFSA.