How to Apply for Scholarships

Four Parts:Scholarship TypesPreparing Your ApplicationAfter SubmissionSample Coverletter

For many students, the cost of a college education can seem impossibly high without financial aid. Scholarships allow you to earn money for your education without the worry of needing to pay it back. Here are a few things to keep in mind as you embark on the process of applying for scholarships.

Part 1
Scholarship Types

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    Know where to look. There are institutional scholarships and private scholarships. Institutional scholarships are provided by a college or university for students who attend. Private scholarships are provided through various organizations and associations that are unconnected to any single school.
    • Contact the financial aid office of the institution you plan to attend to learn more about the institutional scholarships offered.
    • Ask your high school guidance counselor for a list of local scholarships. Many high schools assemble a list of scholarship opportunities for their graduating seniors to make use of.
    • Search online. Once you know what type of private scholarship to look for, look for scholarship opportunities at the local, state, national, and international levels.
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    Search for scholarships based on academic merit. Academic merit is determined by grade point average, but it may also be affected by SAT or ACT scores.
    • Institutional academic scholarships are often divided into multiple levels. For instance, a college may offer a $3000 scholarship to incoming freshmen with a 3.7 GPA or higher or a $2000 scholarship for incoming freshmen with a GPA between 3.2 and 3.6. Even if you do not qualify for the highest level academic scholarship, you may still qualify for one at a lower level.
    • The GPA requirements for private academic scholarships vary depending on the organization.
    • The Burger King Scholars Program is open to graduating high school seniors with a cumulative GPA of 2.5 or higher and students may win a $1000 award. The James W. McLamore WHOPPER Scholarship is open to high school seniors or recent graduates with a minimum GPA of 3.3, and students may win a $50,000 award.
    • The Brandon Goodman Scholarship is open to high school and college students with a minimum GPA of 2.0. The award amount is $300.[1]
    • The Coca-Cola All-State Community College Academic Team Program has an award range of $1000 to $2000 and is open to students enrolled at a community college with a 3.5 or higher. The Coca-Cola Scholars program is open to high school seniors with a GPA of 3.0 or higher who plan to attend an accredited post-secondary institution.
    • The Elks Most Valuable Student Scholarship is open to any student, but its winners are determined, in large part, by which applicants have the most impressive academic history. First place receives a four-year award of $60,000. The lowest award amount is a four-year scholarship of $4000.[2]
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    Consider applying for an athletic scholarship. Institutions that are known for their sports programs are the most likely to give away an athletic scholarship, but there are several private athletic scholarships, as well.
    • The BigSun Scholarship is open to all student athletes, regardless of the sport they play, but students must submit a short essay. Winners receive a $500 award.[3]
    • The Cappex Student Athlete of the Year Scholarship is also open to student athletes from all sports, but they must also demonstrate leadership qualities. The award amount is $1000.[4]
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    Apply for need-based scholarships. Need-based scholarships are some of the most competitive. Applicants may or may not be required to submit proof that they live in low-income families.
    • Federal grants are the most commonly accessed form of need-based financial aid. Students must prove their financial need. The maximum Federal Pell Grant award is $5730. Winners of Federal Supplemental Educational Opportunity Grants can be awarded between $100 and $4000.[5]
    • The Edison Scholars Program is open to high school seniors entering the fields of math, physics, chemistry, engineering, materials science, computer science, or information systems. Preference is given to first-generation college students who have overcome notable obstacles, and up to 30 awards of $10000 are granted.[6]
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    Look for service-based scholarships. These opportunities are almost always made available by private organizations. Some only require students to be active in their community, while others look for students who provide service to a particular cause.
    • Stephen J. Brady STOP Hunger Scholarships are open to students in accredited institutions who have demonstrated a commitment to their community through volunteer services that impact hunger. Preference is given to students fighting against childhood hunger. The award amount is 500.[7]
    • AXA Achievement Scholarships are $10,000 awards given to students are active in their communities and who lead projects that benefit others.[8]
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    Take advantage of scholarships offered by special associations. These scholarships are only available to children of certain employees, union members, or university boosters. Large companies or national unions are more likely to put forth these opportunities than smaller associations.
    • The Boeing National Merit Scholarship is open to children of Boeing employees.
    • The Walmart Associate Scholarship is open to Walmart employees and the Walmart Dependent Scholarship is open to the children of Walmart employees.
    • UFCW International Scholarships are open to children whose parents are members of the United Food and Commercial Workers International Union.[9]

Part 2
Preparing Your Application

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    Review the requirements carefully. While there are similarities between the vast majority of scholarship applications, each scholarship has its own unique set of requirements, as well. You should make sure that you meet these requirements to avoid unnecessarily wasting time on any applications.
    • Verify that you meet the qualifications. Most scholarships require you to meet certain academic, athletic, financial, or character-based criteria in order to apply. Some scholarships are also limited to certain fields of study, demographic groups, or geographic regions. Before you begin your application, you should review these requirements to make sure you qualify.
    • Understand all the steps involved in the process. The majority of scholarships require you to fill out the application form, write an essay, and submit letters of recommendation. Many scholarships also require you to send a grade report, financial statement, college acceptance letter, or other records.
    • Mind your deadlines. There are plenty of other students applying for the scholarship, so the scholarship board will not put things on hold for your application. In other words, you must send your application by its due date for it to even be considered.
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    Fill out the application form. Make sure that the form is complete and that the information you write down is as accurate as possible. At minimum, most scholarship applications will ask you to write down your full name, contact information, and a summary of your academic and extracurricular activities.
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    Write an essay. Not every scholarship requires its applicants to write an essay, but many do. Some of the questions might be specific to the organization providing the scholarship, but most questions tend to follow along similar themes or topics.
    • "How would winning this scholarship help you improve your community/state/country/etc.?" Scholarship sponsors who ask this question are interested in applicants who are mindful of society's needs and service-oriented. Briefly summarize how the scholarship will allow you to meet your academic goals while elaborating on how you plan to use your education to make a difference in the society specified by the question.
    • "What are your short-term and long-term goals?" The point here is to demonstrate how motivated you are. Write the truth, rather than the answer you think the sponsor wants to read. For short-term goals, touch on your desire to go to college, learn about your field, and get internship experience. For long-term goals, explain what you envision yourself doing with your degree ten years into the future.
    • "Explain why you believe that your field of study is important to today's society." Give a passionate answer. Sponsors who ask this want to see applicants who are passionate about their field of study since someone with passion is more likely to persevere through the hardships of education than someone who is indifferent.
    • "What do you believe is the most important issue facing your community/state/country/world today?" This is another question aimed at determining how involved students are with the world around them. Make sure to choose an issue that affects the specified level of society. Writing about affairs that are specific to your state is not a thorough answer if the question asks for an issue that affects the entire country.
    • "How have you demonstrated leadership ability in and out of school?" Obviously, if you are the leader of any clubs or a major participant in a community program, you would write about that here. If you aren't, write about more subtle demonstrations of leadership, like classroom behavior or examples of initiative from your daily life.
    • "How do you plan to finance your education?" For this question, you should try to strike a balance between demonstrating your responsibility and your need. An "I don't know" would be a bad answer to give. Spell out a clear plan, but make it clear that you require scholarship money to make your plan come to fruition.
    • "Who do you draw inspiration from?" The question will usually indicate if you should choose someone from your personal life or if you should choose a well-known figure. Explain the positive qualities of the person you choose and write about how you hope to adopt those qualities as your own some day.
    • Avoid overly-sentimental answers. Your mom might be your hero, but if your only reason why is because she always encouraged you to “do your best” and “reach for the stars,” you may not be taken seriously. Be creative and sincere, but maintain a serious, academic tone as you write.
    • Avoid answers that “kiss up” to the sponsor. If the sponsor is a well-known store chain, resist the urge to tailor all your answers to the store. Your hero should not be the company's CEO or founder, and your goals should not include “to someday work for a company as great as this one.” A little bit of brown-nosing can be okay, but too much will seem too obvious.
    • Avoid blatantly unrealistic answers. Do not give beauty-pageant responses to far-reaching questions. If asked to explain what you wish to accomplish with your education, “world peace” is not an acceptable response.
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    Gather up your grades. Some scholarships will only ask that you indicate what your grades are. Scholarships that are strictly based on academic merit may also ask for a high school transcript showing your GPA as well as a copy of your score report from the ACT or SAT.
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    Ask for letters of recommendation. Scholarships will often ask for both academic and character references.
    • Academic references should come from teachers and school administrators.
    • Character references can come from employers, pastors, or unrelated adults who you interact with regularly, especially if they are connected to a service-type activity you perform.
    • Avoid relatives and friends. Sponsors naturally assume that these sources are biased toward you and may not take them seriously as a result.
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    Include any additional information needed. If the scholarship sponsor asks for any financial statements, athletic records, college acceptance letters, or other similar documents, make sure to include them in the envelop with the rest of your application.

Part 3
After Submission

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    Note the waiting period. Every scholarship has its own waiting period. Smaller scholarships may reach a decision after a few weeks, but larger scholarships may take a few months, especially if there were multiple essays on the application.
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    Let the sponsor contact you. If you are selected as a scholarship winner, the scholarship sponsor will contact you to let you know. If you aren't selected, you will either get a form response or no response at all.
    • Calling before the results will not improve your odds of swaying the sponsor, but if there are circumstances that cause you to worry about the sponsor's ability to contact you, such as a change in phone number or address, you can call the sponsor to find out if there is a way to update your contact information.
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    Formally accept the scholarship once offered. Plans can change, and scholarship sponsors recognize that a student who planned on going to college may have changed those plans by the time the scholarship offer is made. As a result, most scholarships will ask that you write a letter of acceptance once they make the offer. The scholarship money may not be awarded without acceptance or acknowledgment.
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    Fulfill any obligations. Some scholarships will make certain demands of its winners, but these demands will have been spelled out during the application process. For instance, you might be expected to enroll early or provide proof of admission after you have been selected but before the scholarship is officially awarded.

Part 4
Sample Coverletter

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