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How to Find & Apply for Scholarships for College

When it comes to financing college, scholarships are a smart way to do it. Offered by public foundations, private organizations, and schools, scholarships provide students with money for tuition or other college expenses.

You've likely heard of these financial awards and may think they're not for you. Think again. One of the biggest mistakes you can make when heading off to college is not tapping into the wide world of scholarships. 

To help you get started on your college scholarship search, we've created this crash course on the essentials: how to find scholarships, what you need to qualify for scholarships, and how to apply for scholarships of all kinds.

We also provide advice from college advising expert and Founder of Parenting for College, Suzanne Shaffer. So let's get started. 

How to Find Scholarships 

If you're ready to start looking for scholarships, the first thing you'll need to do is think about your eligibility. Before even looking for scholarships, make a list of your hobbies, interests, and passions. Whether you excel at them or simply love to do them, these activities are your keys to attaining a scholarship. Write them down, and then you can start your scholarship search.

There is an incredibly extensive range of scholarships out there. The more you research, the more you'll uncover. To help you think through some of the interest areas or requirements, we've shared a list below. 


Consider Your Scholarship Eligibility

Many scholarships award academic excellence in the form of good grades, test scores, or demonstrable aptitude in certain subjects. Others award athletic excellence, while others still award excellence in extracurriculars such as the arts or volunteer projects. Some scholarships are reserved for certain demographic groups, while others are open to all. Naturally, different scholarships have different requirements.

Here are a few common characteristics or qualities that could earn you a scholarship:

  • GPA or academic history
  • Ethnic background
  • Athletic ability
  • A history of volunteer work
  • Extracurricular activities or hobbies
  • Your planned major or course of study
  • The school you want to attend
  • Demonstrated financial need
  • Unusual skills or talents
  • Religious affiliation


Save time finding scholarships

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Look in These 3 Places to Find Scholarships 

Now that you've made an initial list of hobbies and other ideas to get you started, it's time to start searching. Here are some ways to find viable scholarships. Note that these suggestions are for upcoming undergraduates, but we will also give some tips for current college students below. 

Research scholarships at the school-level

The easiest way to find scholarships for a school you want to apply to is to search for scholarship opportunities within the school itself. Visit your new school's website and search for scholarships that fit your criteria. You can also contact your new school's admissions office to get information on any scholarships they offer.

Ask your guidance counselor about scholarships

Haven't decided on a college to attend? Start your search at the school you're currently attending- your high school. Schedule a meeting with your guidance counselor so they can get to know you and what you're looking for. They'll be able to give you a wealth of information on how to get scholarships. They might also have insider knowledge and contacts you can use to improve your networking. 

Beyond your guidance counselor, you can also talk to your teachers or visit the administration office to see what they offer. You may find your full-ride ticket to higher education right in your current high school.

Leverage your community for scholarships

You can also use your local community to find and earn scholarships outside of school. In fact, community scholarships are often the untapped gems that can add up quickly to help you save thousands. Start by checking your local library for scholarship listings. Even if the awards are just a few hundred dollars, that money adds up. Every dollar you win is a dollar less you'll have to borrow.

Suzanne Shaffer, Founder of Parenting for College, suggests that students pay attention to what's going on in the community to find scholarship opportunities. She says to "watch the news or local papers, especially around graduation time, for scholarship announcements. Then reach out to the funder organizations directly to find out how you can apply too."

"You can also ask your family and friends if they know of any scholarships available from their religious organizations or service clubs. Go a step further and call local organizations and ask if they award scholarships," Suzanne continued. "Social media and blogs are also good places to look for scholarships. There are Facebook groups specifically dedicated to scholarships and giving tips on searching for those scholarships. Companies also post scholarships on Twitter as well."

If You're Enrolled in College, Search for Scholarships This Way

Scholarship opportunities don't dry up once you enroll in college. In fact, a wide range of college scholarships are available exclusively for students currently in college. Whether you're thriving on campus or just treading water, these scholarships can help jumpstart your collegiate journey and keep your costs in check. Wondering how to start applying for scholarships while in college? Here's how.

The scholarship search doesn't need to stop once you begin your undergraduate studies. Scholarship money still is available to you in college. Plus, some scholarship applications are only open to current college students.

First, swing by your financial aid office. Many institutions are aware of scholarships for students who are already enrolled in college. The staff will be a great resource to direct you to scholarship opportunities.

Next, reach out to other people at your school. Stop by a professor's office hours and ask if they know of any scholarships for students in your major. If your dorm has a bulletin board, read the announcements listed. There could be a flyer for scholarships targeting students in your major. Also, talk to older students in the same major as you. They could have excellent scholarship insight too.

Here are some examples of scholarships that current students might be eligible for:

The Davis-Putter Scholarship is for students involved in social or economic justice movements. Students of any age in college can apply. Applications are due April 1, and the scholarship amount ranges between $1,000-$10,000.

All college students also are eligible for the Appily Easy Money Scholarship. There's no GPA minimum or essay requirement to apply — just create a Appily account and apply. Plus, you'll get access to an extensive database to research other college student scholarships. 

The StudySoup Future Innovator Scholarship is for students who exemplify one or more of StudySoup's core values; be a knight, make an impact or succeed together. Students at any level in college are eligible for this scholarship. The award amount is $5,000, and applications are due May 1.

How to Apply for Scholarships

Once you have your list of scholarships, it's time to get moving on those applications. Again, planning is the best way to ensure your scholarship application process is successful. With a good plan, you'll be able to allocate a solid amount of time and energy to make your applications the best they can be — all while ensuring that you get everything submitted on time.

Note deadlines & application requirements

Do you need to send a high school resume, write an essay, get letters of recommendation, or create a video? Every scholarship is different, and you must include everything a scholarship asks for. If you're asked to submit your SAT or ACT scores, financial information, or letters of recommendation, you should have those things ready for the application. Writing all this information down at the start of the process will help you significantly.

Set an achievable pace for yourself

Whether that's applying to a single scholarship every month or each week is totally dependent on your workload. Once you've decided how many you want to apply to, start creating a game plan for when you will work on and submit each scholarship. Add this to your tracking sheet -  Write the full name of it, where to find the details, and then, most importantly, the due date.

Stick to your application schedule

It's easy to fall behind if you have a lot of scholarships you want to apply to, so explain that staying on top of your deadlines and the pace you decided on will be the best thing you can do for yourself. 

Make copies of everything you send

If you're sending your scholarship application by mail, you may want to send it with the return receipt requested. However, if you're running late and close to the deadline, you will want to mail your scholarship application by overnight service.

Be Smart About Scholarship Safely:

It should never cost you anything to apply for scholarships. If you're being charged for something, close that browser and move right along. It's not a legit opportunity and could be a scholarship scam. Because the whole point of scholarships is to reduce the money it costs to go to college. Paying to apply for scholarships kind of defeats the purpose, right?

If a scholarship asks you to send money, it is a scam. You should also be alert if a scholarship asks for unusual information, such as your credit card number or a Social Security Number. Never send information that could compromise your finances or identity.

If you have been the victim of a scam, report it to the National Fraud Information Center (NFIC) at 1-800-654-7060 or visit You also can report scams directly to the FTC by filing a complaint form or calling 1-877-FTC-HELP (1-877-382-4357).


Heave peace of mind when applying for scholarships

Appily takes the worry about by keeping an extensive database of scholarships up-to-date. Sign up to explore.


How to Get Scholarships 

You've done some soul-searching on areas you shine. You've researched scholarships, their requirements, and their deadlines. You've made a plan. Now it's time to put together your application. 

Here are tips for how to get scholarships. Take these suggestions to heart, and you'll be able to set yourself apart from other applicants.

Get help proofreading your materials

Your submission materials should come from your brain but should be looked over by someone else. Pick one person (or several people) whose perspective and expertise you trust. Guidance counselors, teachers, parents, and accomplished peers are all great choices. Ask them to read your submission materials and offer comments and edits. Revise and repeat. Make sure your application is perfect. 

And remember: if you used the essay for another scholarship, be sure it doesn't have the other scholarship's name on it. That's one of the more embarrassing mistakes that students sometimes make.

Start applying early

You don't have to wait until your senior year to apply for scholarships. You should get started as soon as you can. The earlier, the better; you'll be happy you got that head start. 

Remember that every dollar counts

Some scholarship awards seem pretty small compared to your looming tuition bill, but future-you will wholeheartedly thank teenage you for any amount of free money you can pick up. 

Write the essay, even when you don't want to

If a scholarship you're considering asks for an essay, don't let that deter you. On a genuine level, writing is never going to go away. Whether it's putting together a report at work, sending out company emails, summarizing meetings, or even simply conveying ideas to fellow classmates or coworkers, clearly and powerfully expressing yourself via the written will always be an essential skill.

But also, there will be other students who can't or won't take the time to write the essay. So you should so you can get the scholarship. 

Start Finding Scholarships with Appily!

If you've read this article from start to finish, you know that you have the potential to earn a significant amount of money for college through scholarships. Shortcut the process for finding them with a free Appily account. 

With Appily, you can search for and save scholarships matching your interests and eligibility criteria. You're also entered to win the $1,000 Appily Easy Money Scholarship just by creating your free Appily account. Click the button below to get started. 


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