Paying for College: How to Find Scholarships

3 min to read
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Financing a college education for you or your children can keep you up at night. But knowing how to find scholarships and apply for them can take the edge off those anxieties.

How to Find Scholarships

Your student’s prospective college admissions and financial aid offices should be the first stop on the scholarship search. 

You and your student likely will be bombarded by “how to apply for scholarships” messages through email, social media, and snail-mail. Beware of scams! If the message includes a guarantee, or promises an exclusive offer, or asks for a credit card to put a hold on the scholarship … walk away! Know the warning signs

The best scholarship websites have an identifiable, reputable brand name. Websites that link to scholarship search engines include: Bankrate, an authoritative financial advice site; Forbes, a globally known business publication; the NASDAQ investments market; and the U.S. Department of Labor’s scholarship finder. 

How to Apply for Scholarships

About 12% of college students earned a scholarship in 2020-21, statistics show, even though the typical high school student may be eligible to apply for as many as 100.

So, begin researching scholarships to apply for as soon as you can. You have a lot of options to consider, so give yourself time to zero in those that best meet your student’s financial needs and academic goals. Before you begin completing applications, take a look at U.S. News & World Report’s list of mistakes to avoid in the process, then get started.   

Rules and requirements differ from one scholarship to the next, so there’s no one-size-fits-all plan for completing an application. Generally, it’s the same as taking a big test:

  • Read the instructions carefully. They contain eligibility criteria, deadlines, and required materials. 

  • Tailor your application to the scholarship. Research the awarding organization’s values and mission and synch your strengths and aptitudes with them.

  • Proofread. Typos and errors do not play well with scholarship committees.

  • Submit the application before the deadline.

Once you’ve submitted your application, consider following up to confirm its receipt and to express your continuing interest in the scholarship. 

How to Write a Scholarship Essay

Not every scholarship application requires an essay, but organizations that do require an essay expect a polished, engaging piece of writing that reveals the student’s personality and ambitions. 

Here are some tips for writing a high-impact essay:

  • Write what you know. The essay readers want to understand your passions.

  • Be authentic. Avoid fancy language and embellishments. 

  • Write confidently. Find a tone that’s somewhere between a checklist of accomplishments and bragging about them. 

As with everything involving academic work, read the essay instructions, put together a plan, and start writing early to allow time for multiple drafts and edits. 

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Resources on Some Limited Scholarships to Apply For

Scholarships are available for students who meet criteria such as: 

Scholarships for Children of Military and First Responders

Scholarships for Students in Fine Arts Studies

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