There is no magical equation for receiving a scholarship, as each program is different. But check out our two-minute video on application tips and benefits, and some of the strategies below.
While You're Searching
Check in with the counseling office/career center at your high school, and let your counselor know you are interested in going to college and finding available scholarships.
Ask your local Dollars for Scholars chapter or other community foundations about scholarship resources. Often, scholarships go unclaimed simply because eligible students are not aware of them. (Your local Chamber of Commerce, United Way, or volunteer center can be helpful assets, as can local service clubs and organizations: churches, Elks, Junior League, Kiwanis, Lions, Rotary, Soroptomist, YWCA, Zonta, etc.)
Consult with postsecondary institutions you are considering attending. The financial aid office might be able to suggest local and institutional scholarship sources.
Last, but not least, you can do a scholarship search on the Internet. One word of caution: investigate the source, especially if it charges a fee for its scholarship search and referral services. Our Resources for Students page lists a wide range of reputable and useful services.
Before You Apply
Work hard to get good grades. Don’t sweat one bad grade, but always strive to do your best.
Get involved, and stay involved, in extracurricular activities. Sports, clubs, drama, band—they often count toward students’ overall scholarship application evaluation. So may paid work experience.
Begin your scholarship research early, by your sophomore or junior year of high school. Make special note of application deadlines—they can vary from late summer to late spring.
Apply for as many scholarships as you are eligible for—several smaller scholarships can add up to a lot of money.
During Your Application Process
Read the supplemental materials with the scholarship application to better understand the program’s focus (community service, academics, subject interest). Then, answer the questions with the focus area in mind.
Answer questions as they are asked. Don’t go off-topic.
If there is a financial component to the application, make sure you get accurate and complete information from all appropriate sources to assure your eligibility.
Take your time. Write down everything you can think of for each question, then set the application aside for a day before finishing.
Don’t wait until the last minute to complete your application, especially if you are applying online. Computer systems can get clogged with the large volume of applicants hoping to submit their qualifications during the last few days and hours before a deadline.
If a third party has to complete a portion of your application, such as provide a letter of recommendation, be sure to follow up early and as often as necessary to assure they provide you with the necessary materials.
Last but not least, review your application
with your parents to assure you haven’t left out something
The Dream Award
Scholarship America’s Dream Award is a renewable scholarship fund targeted toward completion.
These annually-increasing awards will be given to students selected from across the nation
who are entering their second year of education beyond high school.
Scholarship America's blog, The Scholarship Coach, appears weekly at USNews.com, featuring expert advice on all kinds of scholarship issues. Here on the site, we feature a new highlight from the blog every week, and you can also download a free Scholarship Coach e-book!
Scholarship America is dedicated to helping students get their degrees. Our 2013 Annual Report, Focus on the Finish Line, features statistics, stories, and student accounts of the importance of college completion.
Visit the online report to learn more and hear from our President, Lauren Segal.