As a former upcoming senior, there’s nothing more exciting than finally going to college. Some of you might have imagined thriving at your dream schools, dreaming about it even (i.e. days before QB Match results come out). But then you give the brochure a second look and find that $70,000+ yearly price tag that you know you can’t afford. Their ‘generous’ financial aid policies are scripted below to soothe your worries, but that voice in the back of your mind would never be at ease.
This is where outside scholarships come in. While they do make the college application process seem more overwhelming, they will save you time and money in the long term. Below, I’ve given some wisdom/tips on how to approach scholarship applications. I’ve also included a list of certain scholarships to start your scholarship search.
Fall Semester: Late August to December
- Time Management is Crucial! To people doing QuestBridge National College Match, applying Early Action to several schools, or applying to many schools in general, a lot of the big name scholarship deadlines are in the fall. The ones that come to mind are Gates, Coca-Cola, Jack Kent, and Horatio Alger. If the scholarship has essay requirements, complete them as soon as possible. Before October is ideal. If you’re mostly gunning for regular decision, you have more time but before December would be ideal.
- Pick Your Battles! There are some many scholarships out there and you can’t apply to all of them. In the fall, college applications are your priority. While it is better to apply to more scholarships, it’s not a good idea to apply to 10+ scholarships with similar deadlines and multiple essay requirements, especially if you procrastinate.
- Make use of your Breaks! Fall Semester saving grace is that you have more breaks. You’ve got three-day weekends, Thanksgiving, and Winter Break. The time could be spent on college applications but you also have time to apply for scholarships too.
- Miss a day of school if you have to! QuestBridge Finalists/Early Decision/Early Action applicants: Things can get overwhelming real quick especially during that last week of October, if not the entire month. You will want that extra time–either to cool down or work on college/scholarship applications. Take this as a last resort option. (Regular Decision Applicants: Winter Break has your back)
Spring Semester: January to May
- Apply, Apply, Apply! Now that your load is a little lighter, you can focus your efforts on scholarships up to the end of the year (and even the summer). Definitely pay attention to your local scholarships.
- Late-Game Big-Names! There are some really good scholarships you can watch for with January and February deadlines. Ron Brown, APIASF, Jackie Robinson, and GE-Reagan Foundation come to mind. Winter Break is your best friend!
- Reuse and Recycle! Unless you have terrible luck with scholarships (like me), most scholarships will have similar prompts and you will have written dozens of essays following said prompts. Save as much time as possible and reuse them (with some tweaks if applicable.)
- $1,000 Can Still Make A Difference! Most scholarships in the spring semester don’t offer as much money as big national scholarships in the fall, but $1,000 can still pay for books and personal expenses. For low-income students, it could make a difference between going to college for free and working in college. Add up your winnings and the amount can really be substantial.
- The Best Scholarships Are More Than Just The Money! Crazy right? As a recipient of the Gates Scholarship, not only do I have all my expenses covered, I also have access to a growing network of scholars and personal support throughout my undergraduate years. It takes more than just money to succeed in college and a lot of big national scholarships offer additional resources to ensure that the recipients can excel in college. Apply to at least one even if your chances are low.
- Don’t Put All Your Eggs In One Basket! Scholarships are never guaranteed wins, especially the big national scholarships like Gates and Coca-Cola. It’s like applying to colleges, but with even less chances of winning. Always apply to more if you can, but have the same expectation.
- Have a Method to Your Madness! Don’t apply to scholarships randomly. Some of them could be scams and some will never actually get back to you. Always assess the reliability of the source and have a plan on which to apply to for that given month/period of time. Remember: Time is money.
- “Why Are You Deserving of This Scholarship?” Questions! This is similar to the Why College essays and some scholarships have this. I recommend not recycling these kinds of essays because it requires research and reflection on the specific scholarships’ values and character. ‘How do you resonate with their goals/values?’ is how you can approach these questions.
- Know Your Scholarship Organization! Similar thread as #4 but being aware of what the organization stands for can help you showcase certain parts of your application in a way that highlights the best you. This could make a difference in what extracurriculars and awards you want to include or how to approach your essays.
Scholarship Starters List (Not limited to)
- The Gates Scholarship
- QuestBridge National College Match
- Coca-Cola Scholars Program
- Jack Kent Cooke College Scholarship
- Horatio Algiers
- Jackie Robinson Foundation Scholarship
- Burger King Scholars
- Church Community Scholars
- AXA Achievement Scholarship
- Bruce Lee Foundation Scholarship
STEM Specific Scholarships List (Not limited to)
- Davidson Fellows Scholarship
- Edison Scholars Program (Southern California)
- Siemens Competition in Math, Science, and Technology
- Regeneron STS
- Generation Google Scholarship
Scholarships for Juniors and/or Younger List (Not limited to)
- LEDA Scholars
- Carson Scholars Fund
- Coolidge Scholarship
- Cameron Impact Scholarship
- Jack Kent Cooke Young Scholars Program (Not for college but offers financial support)
All the links above (Original Scholarship Organization Sites)
“SCHOLARSHIPS.” Pathwaytouniversity, 2017, thepathwaytouniver.wixsite.com/pathwaytouniversity/scholarships?fref=gc. This was a really helpful resource for me when I was looking for scholarships to apply to.