The Ultimate Guide To College Scholarships

With college tuition and student loan debt on the rise, scholarships act as an invaluable asset for students. Unlike a loan, scholarships don’t need to be repaid. They are granted by a variety of entities — including businesses, schools, nonprofits, professional associations and the government. Here are a few key steps to follow to obtain a college scholarship.

When you’re applying to multiple scholarships, it can be easy to confuse deadlines. Stay on track by using a planner, calendar app or spreadsheet to organize applications. If you utilize the latter, include the title and link to the reward, how much it’s worth, the deadline, and any requirements. Catalog this information on a shareable spreadsheet to help keep parents up to date on your progress.

It is also crucial to gather all application materials. This will make your future application processes a lot easier when applying. Keep your resume, cover letters, transcripts, personal essays and letters of recommendation all in one place. That way, they’ll be easy to access when you’re completing applications.

Start scholarship applications well in advance so you’ll be ahead of the game. There are many types of scholarships available — such as ones for academic achievement, sports, underrepresented groups, first generation and more. For additional rewards, reach out to your guidance counselor, financial aid officer, coach or parents’ employers. Online search engines will also help you find scholarship opportunities — including many you may not have considered or didn’t know existed. Almost all online search options provide the ability to filter search results to match your qualifications with available aid.

Once you have a solid list of scholarships for which you are eligible, it’s time to review those results and prioritize certain ones. Start by focusing on the rewards with approaching deadlines and those you feel you have the best shot at winning. Always read the application form carefully — even the fine print. Some scholarships that charge a fee are most often scams.

Before submitting an application, be sure to proofread all materials. Run spell and grammar check on the application or have a mentor read your essays to catch any mistakes and offer feedback. If you’re reusing material — such as a cover letter — from another scholarship application, make sure you haven’t left any incorrect names. For more information on how to prepare, organize, search and apply for college scholarships, see the accompanying infographic.

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