Finding money to pay for college is a top priority for many incoming college students. So getting a scholarship can be the deciding factor in attending college. Scholarships differ from loans in that you are given money that you never have to repay. You do not have to be at the top of your class or the captain of your soccer team to be eligible for a scholarship. All you need to do is be organized and set aside some time to search for the scholarship most appropriate to you.
First consider why you would be a candidate for a scholarship. Are you a member of an underrepresented group? Have you excelled in a particular subject? There are many scholarships available for students who excel in music, science, art, sports, and theater, but also many that are need based, cultural based, and interest based.
Searching for scholarships takes time. Students typically begin searching at the start of senior year of high school. (But remember the PSAT can help you with a National Merit Scholarship so you should review that opportunity sooner.) The best ways to do research include talking to high school counselors, surfing the Internet, and going to local libraries, business, and service organizations. Most scholarship committees mail their scholarship applications straight to all high schools where they are put on file by the counseling office. All colleges have some list of scholarships on their websites, but do not assume that is all that is available. Many scholarships are not heavily advertised and are given with little competition.
Once you have found as many relevant scholarships as possible, start applying! Organize your applications by due date and do not try to do everything at once. This process can take many weeks, so give yourself time and do not rush. Do not be afraid to apply for a large number of scholarships, even if they have small award amounts. A few small scholarships can significantly help cover college fees.
For applications that require an essay, be sure to make it as personal and specific as possible. The scholarship reviewers need to get to know you as a person, not just a regurgitated list of your accomplishments.
Lastly, make backup copies of all your applications in case one is lost in the mail. Send in the material well before the due date so it is not late.