Money Matters: Your Guide to Applying for Scholarships

It’s frustrating. We need an education to make money, but we need money to get an education. It seems totally unfair, right? That’s why scholarships are so important. How awesome is it that we can be awarded money for our education, and we don’t have to pay anything back?

Here’s some more good news: there are tons and tons of scholarships out there that ANYONE can win. Listen, just because your grades and standardized test scores weren’t so hot, that doesn’t mean you’re automatically out of the running for some scholarship money. While there are plenty of academic scholarships out there, there are plenty more that are suited for all different people. So don’t just count yourself out of the running – if you don’t try, you’ll never receive.

Regardless of what type of scholarship you’re seeking, you have to start somewhere – and the more you know before diving into the process, the better chance you have at getting selected. So, let this article be the first step in scholarship journey. We’ll guide you through the process, share some tips and tricks, and then it’s up to you to make the rest happen. You can do it!

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When to start:

We’re going to be upfront – applying for scholarships is a process. It’s important that you start early and really pay attention to deadlines. A good way to start is by compiling a list of all the scholarships you plan on applying to, then sort them based on priority – which ones will take the longest? Which ones award the most money? Which ones have the closest deadlines? Once you figure that out, it’ll be easier planning what to get done and when.


Where to look:

Don’t just look in one place. I repeat. Do not just look in one place. The amount of scholarships out there are astounding, and you don’t want to miss out on something you totally have a chance at winning. A good place to start, though, is within your own school. Talk to your adviser, or look up scholarships on your school’s website. After that, there are plenty of online resources you can use, which will help match you with the best possible scholarships based on the requirements that best fit you. Here are a few of our recommendations:

  • Niche
    • Niche allows students to browse scholarships in 9 different categories – general, career, interest, major, military, race, religion, and state.
  • Unigo
    • Unigo has millions of scholarships you can browse through, conveniently sorted into categories making it easier to find the best fit for you. They even have a category called “weird” scholarships, so we really were serious when we said that there are scholarships for everyone!
  • Big Future
    • Big Future allows you to enter in information about yourself, and then they’ll match you with the best-fit scholarships based on that information. Talk about a personalized experience!
  • Scholarships.com
    • Scholarships.com lets you create a free profile, and then you’ll instantly get scholarship results based on your profile. Or, you can search scholarships in a multitude of categories – they cover everybody! They also have an abundance of resources and information about scholarships in general, so any questions you may have can likely be found on the website.

What you’ll need:

Although each scholarship varies, most of them require the many of the same materials. This includes a letter of recommendation, your transcripts, a cover letter, an application essay, and sometimes a photo. This should make it clear why you shouldn’t wait until right before a deadline to apply. First of all, obtaining your transcripts can take some time. Second, when asking for a letter of recommendation, it’s courteous to allow your reference to write the letter when it best fits into their schedule. After all, they’re doing you a favor. Third, you want your essay to be a home run, meaning this is not something you should rush through. Listen, we’re talking about free money here!!

Some good news is, you may be able to recycle your essays for multiple scholarships. This is a huge time saver! A lot of scholarships use similar essay prompts, which is seriously convenient when applying for tons of scholarships. However, make sure you thoroughly read each essay prompt and make sure you’re following every instruction. You don’t want to miss out on scholarship money because you missed a small requirement within the essay!


Key tips:

  • Apply early!! We can’t stress this enough. Missing a deadline, even just by a day, severely decreases your chances of even being considered.
  • Apply to many. The more you try, the more you have a chance at earning. Even if you think you don’t have a shot, you never know! After all, somebody has to win.
  • Don’t rule out the small ones. Just because a scholarship is only a few hundred dollars as opposed to a few thousand, why would you rule that out? That’s a few hundred more dollars you get to keep in your pocket. Plus, if you apply for a lot (which you should), the money really adds up!
  • Read the instructions and requirements carefully. You don’t want to go through all the work of applying for a scholarship, only to find out you missed a small requirement. Even though it’s tedious applying for scholarship after scholarship, make sure you thoroughly read through each and every application.

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Congratulations on completing the first step of your scholarship journey! With this resource in mind, go out there and start applying. Good luck!

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