What Are the Different Ways to Apply for Scholarships?

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  • Written By: Mary McMahon
  • Edited By: Nancy Fann-Im
  • Last Modified Date: 19 November 2019
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Students who want to apply for scholarships can automatically enter some competitions for funding through college applications, apply for school-specific funds, or seek out independent scholarships to assist with the costs of college. As students start to apply to colleges, they may also want to start researching scholarships to generate a list of scholarships they should consider. Organization is key for this process and may save students a substantial amount of time.

Most colleges and universities automatically enter all applicants into competition for certain scholarships. Students can increase the number of scholarships they automatically apply for by filling out the college's financial aid application to demonstrate financial need. It is also advisable to ask the financial aid office for a detailed list of scholarships offered by or in conjunction with the school, as it may be necessary to apply independently for some of these. Another source of information on scholarships can be a database of independent scholarships, often maintained by a government or nonprofit agency, or available in a school counseling office.


With a list, the first step should be removing all scholarships with qualifications the student does not meet. Some helpfully note criteria in their name. A Chinese student, for example, probably wouldn't qualify for a scholarship from the Latina Alumni Fund. Others list their criteria, often at the top of the information about the scholarship, to make it easy to find. It is important to review this information very carefully so a student doesn't waste time applying for scholarships she cannot receive.

This process should generate a narrower list the student can use to apply for scholarships. It can help to arrange the list by amount and deadline. Students should complete applications for large scholarships with close deadlines first, and can fill in with smaller scholarships and later deadlines as they go. It may also be useful to create a computer file with basic demographic information the student can cut and paste into different applications and to see if some scholarships allow students to use a common application. The student can fill out the information once and submit to multiple committees.

Application requirements can include essays, letters of recommendation, portfolios, and other materials. Students may want to set up a checklist to make it easier to apply for scholarships. They can list the materials they need and the dates to determine what to prioritize as they apply for scholarships; an application essay, for example, could be reworked in several ways to work with multiple scholarships. Likewise, a recommendation writer could be asked to make multiple copies of a letter at the same time to help the student apply for scholarships more efficiently.


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