Applying for college scholarships may seem a bit overwhelming for a high school senior. There are several steps to follow to make your life easier and make college a lot cheaper!

Scholarship applications are very similar to the college application process. First, the student researches all the possible choices and creates a list that best meets their needs. Then the student creates compelling applications that are supported by achievements, recommendations, essays, and interviews.

Begin the Research Early

The sooner you begin searching for scholarships as a high school senior the better. The first thing you should do is meet with your guidance counselor and ask him for information on scholarships. Most guidance counselors have a certain area where scholarship applications are kept. Find this area and keep checking back frequently throughout your senior year. Counselors will always have new scholarship opportunities and applications coming in.

Scholarships will come from different places. Some scholarships are local such as a church or organization in your community. Others are based on a national level such as the Coca-Cola scholarship. Ask around your city to see if any local scholarships are available. Also, check your family history. Many times, there are different scholarships available based on your heritage or culture.

Below is a list of areas to research:

  • Research local scholarships first - You will most likely have better luck with local scholarships. Many organizations in your town will be awarding scholarships to graduating seniors at their local high school.
  • Check membership organizations and employers - Organizations of all types and sizes offer scholarships. Explore categories that you might not have considered such as military, union, religious, community service, and professional. Many large companies also offer scholarships or tuition programs for children of employees.
  • Use a free scholarship search service - A scholarship search service like Fastweb will collect information on hundreds of scholarships and compares the student’s characteristics with scholarship restrictions. It bases it on answers you provide on a questionnaire, and then you receive a list of possible scholarships. Keep in mind that you should never have to pay for scholarship information. If you review a website that asks you to pay, get off the site. It is a scam.
  • Contact your state department of higher education - Most states offer a scholarship program for residents who attend in-state colleges or universities. For example, the state of Florida offers the Bright Futures Scholarship to qualified students who decide to attend college in-state. Scholarships such as these will pay up to 75-100% of your tuition.
  • Research institutional scholarships - Research the types of scholarships that are available at the institutions you are interested in attending. The majority of money for scholarships is dispersed by college. Check out college websites, financial aid offices, and catalogs for this information. The eligibility requirements vary on a variety of factors.

Organize All Scholarship Material

Once you have done your research and have compiled all the applications and information needed, create a folder or file of some type and organize all the information. Highlight important information such as due dates.

Many scholarships require students to provide the following information:

  • Transcript
  • Standardized test scores
  • Financial aid forms such as the FAFSA
  • Parent’s financial information such as tax forms
  • One or more essays
  • One or more letters of recommendation
  • Proof of eligibility

Some scholarships may even request an in-person interview. Make sure to prepare for this if an interview is required.

List Your Involvement and Honors

Most scholarships will require you to list any activities, clubs, community involvement, honors, awards, and leadership positions that you have held. This section is very important to fill out completely. The reason for this is because they want to know what kind of person you are and why you should be receiving the money they are offering.

Make a list of everything that you have participated and received over the past 4 years in high school. Organize it by year and write down what you did your Freshman, Sophomore, Junior, and Senior year. This will be helpful in the application process.

Sending Your Application

Before sending in your application, make sure to proofread the application carefully. Don’t leave any items blank and follow all of the instructions that are listed. If you mess up on anything, there is a chance your application will not even be looked at so be careful. Make copies of everything you send in. Get your application in as early as possible, so you do not miss the deadline. It is easiest to place everything in a yellow envelope to mail. Then, mail it all in and breath!