The Basics Of Applying For College Scholarships

Applying for college scholarships requires a bit of time and planning. If you don’t take the time to understand the elements of a good scholarship application, your chances of getting your dream scholarship will diminish.

This guide will help you understand the basics of a scholarship application and the best practices of filling one out.

You would also learn to examine the essentials you need to keep in mind when writing your scholarship application. You would get to understand the type of scholarships, requirements and step by step guide to apply for them.

This article contains the basics of applying for college scholarships. Keep reading.

What is a College Scholarship?

A college scholarship is an important financial aid option available to students to help pay for college expenses. Scholarships are free and once granted, does not need to be repaid.

There are thousands of scholarships available to students each year, awarded based on a number of factors such as academic performance, athletic ability, artistic talents, volunteering in an organization, unique background, and much more.

There are scholarships for almost any unique talent, skill, background, and accomplishment that it can only be beneficial for you to spend time learning about how they can play a role in saving you thousands of dollars to offset the high cost of college.

Where Do I Go to Find College Scholarship Opportunities?

To find scholarships you are eligible for, it is advised to first look at the information provided by your chosen university.

Funding information will be listed on the university’s website or in the prospectus, and this is also where you’ll find the relevant contact information should you have any questions about scholarship applications.

In many cases you will not be able to apply for university scholarships until you have gained acceptance onto a program at the university. As well as university scholarships (funded by your university), there may also be a range of external scholarships you can apply for, such as government scholarships or scholarships funded by organizations or charities with an invested interest in higher education.

To look for these scholarships, you can either use a scholarships search service such as or, or you can conduct a more thorough search by visiting official consular/governmental websites for yourself and tracking down any information provided on international student funding.

Often current scholarships will be listed together, for example as on the government of Canada’s dedicated scholarships website, or the DAAD’s scholarship database (for Germany), but sometimes they are trickier to find, so be patient and diligent in your search.

Step-by-Step Guide in Applying for College Scholarships

The process of finding and applying for college scholarships can be taxing, especially since you may be doing it for the first time in your life and may not be entirely sure how to proceed. These step by step guide should walk you through it.

You should know that there are two types of scholarships- Need-based and Merit-based.

Need-based scholarships are generally offered by a university on the basis of financial need.

Merit-based scholarships generally require more work to get, but anyone can apply for them regardless of their financial situation.

For a merit-based scholarship, you would be required to show you are worthy of the college scholarship by showing yourself academically excellent.

You would need to prove that you meet or even go above and beyond the requirements for the scholarship.

‍Step 2 – Pick the right timing

Scholarships have deadlines and as such, are not available all year long. Applying for college scholarships before you get into college is very advisable.

This ensures that you have the greatest amount of time possible to apply for any scholarships available.

Step 3 – Come up with a plan.

It’s a good idea to come up with a scholarship search plan and to commit to it for a certain number of hours per week.

That way, you know exactly what you’ll be doing, and you’ll be less likely to procrastinate. It’s a good idea to organize the scholarships you find in a spreadsheet.

You can include things like the scholarship name, URL, application deadline, application requirements, and status. This would ensure you keep track of progress and see what’s left to be done by looking at your spreadsheet.

Step 4 – Look for scholarships

There are certain sites where you could go to that could easily list for you the scholarships available in your chosen college.

You can also meet your course advisor in your college to help you in applying for these college scholarships. Don’t forget about going the old-fashioned route and scope out any organizations or hobbies that may be relevant to you and your interests.

Step 5 – Set up a rewards system

It can be tough to find and apply for scholarships, often to get little or no reward for your hard work. Instead, try setting up a system to motivate yourself.

Try to treat yourself to something nice after everyone other application for college scholarships.

Requirements for Applying for College Scholarships

For all scholarships, there are requirements are quite different. You must check what these are before you begin your application process.

Applying to a scholarship which you don’t qualify for is obviously a waste of time. The common requirements for a scholarship for high school students are-

Age and Grade Requirements

Many scholarships will list the age group and grade that applicants need to be in. Other scholarships may award junior and senior high school students only.

Pay attention to see if there is an age requirement before you begin your application process. 

High-school enrollment

For most of these scholarships, you would need to be enrolled in high-school to be successful.

This means that you are currently studying in high-school or plan to start high-school the following school year.

GPA Minimum

Many scholarships, and not just merit scholarships, require students to have a minimum GPA. This may be true to win the scholarship and then to keep it.

For non-merit scholarships, the GPA requirements are pretty low. They may even ask for a minimum GPA of 2.5 or higher.

Essay Requirement

A large number of scholarships require students to write an essay. They supply you with a question or a number of questions and ask you to write a response.

You just need to be able to express yourself pretty well with words. The scholarship essay can make or break your chances of winning the scholarship. So, make it worth it.

Financial Requirements

Financial aid scholarships have specific financial requirements. For example, they may require that your parents’ income be below a certain amount. You will need to fill out the FAFSA.

Location Requirements

These scholarships for high school students ensure that you can only apply for it if you stay in area on the internet or in your local community.

Test Scores

Not every scholarship requires you to submit SAT or ACT scores, but many do. This is especially true of merit scholarships.

The minimum requirement for merit scholarships is typically 1200 on the SAT and 26 on the ACT. If the scholarship does require you to submit your test scores, they might state what the minimum qualifying score is.

The Basics for Applying for College Scholarships

Here are great steps youcan take to learn and understand how to apply for a college scholarship:

#1. Start early

The earlier the better. When you start early, you give yourself time to actually research and get all the details and requirements you need to successfully register for the college scholarship and get accepted.   

Once you know the best options, you would also have plenty of time to complete the applications that other students may have skipped.

#2. Use a scholarship matching tool

Of recent, there is usually no need for paper applications in the guidance counselor’s office. You can now search through huge databases of thousands of available scholarships online.

Through filters and keywords, you can find the ones that fit your qualifications, experiences, background, or unique interests.

Focus on the scholarships you’re a good match for and rule out the ones where you don’t meet all the requirements. Some sites you can use to make this easier are- U.S. Department of Labor’s free scholarship search tool, Scholly, Cappex, Unigo, Fastweb,

#3. Lean on your advisor

There are people that are way more experienced than you are. You have to learn to lean on them. Your high school counselor or college advisor is a great sounding board for finding the right scholarships.

While you may not be applying in their office, they can help you choose which scholarships are the best to apply for. Advisors will often take the time to review your submissions and help you improve your essays and applications.

You can also learn a lot by checking out past scholarship winners and how they approached their submission. They can also help you to tailor scholarships which suit your background most.

#4. Tap into your network

When you are in college, you literally have a lot of people around you, adults included. When you spread the word to these people that you are in search of a scholarship, they can help you be on the look-out.

Ask your parents to check with their friends and HR departments at work about scholarships for family members. There are usually a lot of scholarships offered locally that are not particularly well advertised.

You can often find these through your high school counselor, in the local paper, or at the library. Check in directly with local foundations, community organizations, and local businesses to see if they offer any scholarships. Do not hesitate to use the people around you to your benefit.

#5. Polish your online presence

When applying for scholarships, do not underestimate the power of social media. The person reviewing your application might Google you and you need to make sure they find the right kind of results.

This does not mean that your social media life would be based on your scholarships. Just post the best things about you.

Most students opt to make their social media private, but you should know that there are still ways for colleges to see what you post.

It’s a good idea to refresh your LinkedIn profile, social media accounts, and personal website so you can control what searchers will find. If you don’t have a personal website or portfolio, now is the time to make one.

#6. Look beyond your grades

You don’t have to have a 4.0 to qualify for scholarships. In fact, some scholarships don’t even take grades into account.

Aside from your GPA, it’s important to find a way to stand out from the crowd on your applications. Before you start filling out the forms, think about what makes you uniquely qualified and deserving of that scholarship.

Find an area where you excel or that means a lot to you and focus on that. Your passion will shine through when it comes time to describe your extracurricular activities in your scholarship applications.

#7. Collect letters of recommendation

Scholarship and college applications usually require a few letters of recommendation from teachers and community members who know you best.

They could include your employer, teachers, coaches, high school counselors, or other adults who can testify to your strengths, qualifications, and ambition.

These recommendation letters are a way to show whoever is reviewing your scholarship who you are from another person’s eye. After you collect your letters of recommendation, make sure you thank your reviewers for taking the time to help you.

#8. Apply for many scholarships, big and small

Earning enough scholarship money to pay for college will likely come from many different sources. You’ll need to apply to lots of scholarships to cover all your bases.

Don’t overlook those with smaller awards. Winning $1,000 here and there will add up quickly. Plus, the more you apply to, the better your odds of winning.

#9. Write a great essay

A good scholarship essay is 60% your way of getting a scholarship. It has a way of making you stand out of the crowd.

If you don’t have great writing skills, consider working with your advisor or attending a writing workshop to help you develop a memorable essay, which is also great practice for college applications.

You may be able to reuse portions of your essay for more than one scholarship application but be sure to make each one unique. Be careful to follow the scholarship rules, including essay word count.

#10. Practice your interview skills

Some scholarships require an in-person interview. Ask questions from adults who have attended a lot of interviews. Find out what you could be asked in your scholarship interview, so practice answering questions that revolves on your background, interests, achievements, and aspirations.

Remember that the more comfortable you are chatting with the interviewer and answering questions, the better the interview will go.

Don’t be nervous; your interviewer wants to get a real feel for who you are and what makes you a good fit. Now’s your chance to show them. If you do well in your interview, you are already one step ahead.

#11. Know how to look for scholarships

Scholarships can be found in many different places, both locally and nationwide. Locally, check with your high school guidance office, area businesses, clubs and community organizations, church, and places of employment of both the student and parent. Nationwide scholarships can be found on scholarship databases and on college websites. The websites commonly used to find scholarships are-,, There are many other types of scholarship search engines available.

#12. Understand all the different scholarship types available

There are different types of scholarships available. You need to know what they are and their requirements, to enable you effectively determine what you want out of that college scholarship and the requirements.

There are the need-based scholarships, which are awarded based on your parent’s financial background. There are merit college scholarships which are given those students who demonstrate excellence in a specific area. 

Also, there are college specific scholarships which are based on a student’s major or specific program such as engineering or art. The criteria for each scholarship is different. It is important that you know these scholarships for you to effectively know what is required.

#13. Know the best time to look for scholarships

The best time to look for scholarships is as early as possible. You can even begin as early as 9th grade since there are some scholarships you can win as a freshman, sophomore, or junior.

However, many scholarships are only available to high school seniors, and students already enrolled in college. You don’t have to wait until senior year to start looking for scholarships when you will be already busy with college applications and the admissions process.

Most scholarships are due in September, when a new academic session is about to start. You might want to start your applications as early as March.

#14. Understand who the scholarship committee is, and what they are looking for

It is important that whatever scholarship you apply to; you know exactly what the scholarship committee is looking for when considering who they will choose as a recipient.

Your scholarship application should be tailored to the desires and goals of the selection committee. Find out what the scholarship is about and write in a “voice” that will clearly articulate why you feel you are the best candidate for this scholarship.

#15. Presentation and proofreading are important

How you present your scholarship application is important. Be clear and concise. If the scholarship application requires an essay, don’t exceed the word count, or pages allowed. Application readers have to possibly read hundreds of applications and if your essay is too long, it may not get read.

Also, don’t submit a sloppy application as it will leave a bad impression. This means properly following instructions, and filling out all the necessary parts of the application, adhering to guidelines and any parameters set forth. Also, if there is an in-person interview requested, dress as if you are going to a job interview looking professional, well-dressed, and well-groomed.

Grammar, spelling, sentence structure, and word usage is also important when writing scholarships and submitting applications.

Make sure to always adhere to basic writing guidelines and principles when writing scholarship essays and submitting applications, as this plays a factor in the selection process. Try as much as you can to proofread your work before submission.

#16. Keep on top of deadlines

There are many different types of scholarships, and unfortunately, each scholarship has its own deadline. Typically, the bigger the scholarship, the sooner the deadline.

Scholarships that offer lots of money from the big companies including Coca-Cola, Best Buy, the Dell Foundation, Gates Millennium Scholarships have deadlines that are among some of the earliest you will see as early as October in some instances.

This is because these scholarships are highly competitive, and usually receive thousands of entries. Though these scholarships are really competitive, don’t let this discourage you.

If you feel you are a good candidate, put forward your best effort to submit an entry because if you win, the payoff can sometimes be substantial.

#17. Stay organized

Stay organized. Remember that most scholarship requirements include sending letters of recommendation, transcripts, financial records, and other documents.

You’ll need to prepare these items several weeks in advance of the due date and take the time to ensure everything is ready to go well before the deadline.

Create individual files for each application and get into the habit of tracking your scholarship due dates on a calendar. This will make it easier to submit all application materials well ahead of schedule.

#18. Be passionate

Take each scholarship you apply for seriously and be passionate about the process. Be confident about filling out your scholarships and doing your best to represent yourself.

Work hard, focus, and be willing to put in a solid effort in looking for and applying for scholarships, because your passion, enthusiasm, commitment, and dedication can pay off with thousands of dollars in free money for college!

Frequently Asked Questions

Are college scholarships age based?

There are different types of scholarships. Some scholarships could be age based.

Is applying for a college scholarship worth it?

Yes. Applying for college scholarships would help you pay your tuition. It is totally worth it.

Must I follow the basics for applying for college scholarships

You must not. But following them would ensure you get the scholarship you desire

Can I apply for college scholarships from anywhere?

Yes. If the college scholarship can be applied for online, then you can apply anywhere. Find out what your scholarship needs before starting your application process.

Are college scholarships country based?

Yes, there are several scholarships that are country based.


I hope reading this has been enlightening. These basics of applying for a scholarship should always serve as a guide whenever you do not know how or where to start.


You May Also Like