Updated: May 18
As emotionally moving as those college acceptance Instagram videos can be, we often tend to forget to focus on reality. For all of high school, most of us are working up to that email or letter sent in the Spring of our senior year, looking forward to the joy that’ll commence when you see those happy words: “We are pleased to inform you…” However, that buzz of relief can quickly disappear when you realize how much tuition is going to cost. But don’t worry, our Alumni and I are here to set you up so your transition from high school to college is as smooth as can be. Plus, for those of you less concerned about the financial aspect of college, stick around! Scholarships have benefits for everyone!
Q: Why should I apply for scholarships?
A: Scholarships hold countless benefits. Yes, the obvious one is the financial reward, however, they can also set you apart during the college application process. Scholarships that are recognized almost everywhere, such as the National Merit or Coca-Cola scholarships, can be a part of your accomplishments. They can often be held to the same or an even higher standard as other forms of competition. Competitive scholarships that require interviews and/or essays are also a great way to practice skills that are integral to your college applications. In addition to this, the process of applying for scholarships can lead to the development of hard and soft skills that many companies or organizations look for in job applicants (. Conversational, creative, organizational, and more kinds of skills you have to develop and practice during scholarship applications are what will get you the experience and abilities employers look for.
Q: What kind of scholarships should I apply to?
A: Be sure to increase your chances by applying for several. In reference to where to apply, local scholarships (ex. local organizations, clubs, nonprofits) are a good place to start. Because they are available to a smaller range of people, there is less competition. Try to focus on scholarships based on your interests (your anticipated major or even hobbies). You can enjoy the process of application more.
A final piece of advice is don’t let the work scare you away. Some scholarships will require more work than others. But, that work, whether it be essay writing or interviews, will allow you to gain invaluable experience for future job applications and college apps. These kinds of scholarships are also more likely to have less competition than ones that are easier to apply to.
Q: How do I find scholarships?
Scholarship Matching Tools
These can be a great start for finding scholarships related to your interests, your financial ability, your area, and other criteria. However, because these are widely used, they can sometimes lead you to scholarships with high rates of competition, or low chances of success. If you are new to scholarships, look into these scholarship searching engines:
https://www.cfnc.org/pay-for-college/scholarship-search/ (for North Carolina!)
Your school will often have scholarships for its students only. These can be based on community service, writing, athletics or general school involvement. Ask your counselor, teachers, or other school staff if you believe you’ve made an impact on your school!
A Google search can go a long way.
If scholarship search engines are not effective for you, take advantage of the internet. Oftentimes, helpful scholarships can be right in front of your cursor. Try searching with keywords, to find for more specific scholarships based on what you are looking for. For example, if you really enjoyed English classes, google scholarships with “creative writing” or “essay writing scholarships.” Add your location for an even more specific range of scholarships.
Know any upperclassmen or previous scholarship winners? Ask them for advice on scholarships. The best advice tends to come from those with experience. Most students and alumni would love to provide guidance, whether it be through sharing their own experiences, or even advising you on your own applications!
A great place to start getting advice from the experienced is Howard Alum '19 and John Hopkins Student '21, Fatou Sow, who gives advice on scholarships in her podcast here.
School Clubs and Organizations
Clubs and organizations like National Honors Societies, HOSA, National Beta club, and more all provide several thousands of dollars in scholarships on a yearly basis. If you are very involved in your school clubs, look into applying for their scholarships.
“I recommend doing a ton of Google searches and scouring for opportunities. It can mean the difference between having and not having student loans.”
Q: When should I apply for scholarships?
A: It is never too soon to apply. Although the majority of scholarships are intended for juniors and seniors, there are some for underclassmen to prepare or even apply for. So, look into scholarships for sophomores and freshmen. It is suggested, however, that the earlier you start, the better. If you began applying in your first few years of high school, you would have more time to prepare for the application process. But, if you happen to be an upperclassman, there are countless scholarships you can apply for now, and even throughout college. Here is a list of scholarships for juniors and seniors.
“As far as scholarships go, there are some you can apply to as early as 9th grade, if not earlier. You should always be searching for aid, if that is important to you. Alternatively, if you’re willing to think outside the box, know that you can pursue getting a degree in countries like Germany where college is essentially free and often taught in English.”
“Apply for scholarships during junior and senior year. Your school cultural groups or PTSO may offer some. Otherwise, apply for scholarships that pertain to the things you are good at. Try to apply for scholarships before and after college apps.”
Q: How do I prepare for scholarships? How should I apply?
A: It is important to work on your writing and interviewing skills. These are the two biggest factors in the application process, it can often determine how you are perceived. Seattle Pacific University provides some helpful technical tips for the application process. Keep in mind that every scholarship can be different. Educate yourself on what each scholarship expects, and make a point of emphasizing how your skills correlate with the kind of student they are looking for. It is also essential that you maintain an appropriate and professional presence online. It is likely that the admissions board may perform a quick Google Search to get an idea of who you are.
Find this helpful? Subscribe to our newsletter AlumniAlert for more advice and check out our Opportunities page for scholarships and other opportunities we’ve curated for you.
Sign up for AlumniAngles if you’d like to share your scholarship experience.
Any further questions or advice about scholarships, please comment below!