My Tips for Finding and Applying to Scholarships

Funding, Scholarships & Financial Aid

My Tips for Finding and Applying to Scholarships

Tips for Finding Scholarships

Speak to your school counselors. When I was in high school, my counselors always had a handout for students that detailed all of the scholarship opportunities that were available. Speaking to your school counselors is most helpful for finding local scholarships that may not appear from a simple online search. In addition, counselors should be able to help you find scholarships that best match your specific qualifications and eligibility status. Some scholarships even require a recommendation letter from a school counselor so it would be a good idea to start building a relationship with your counselor as soon as possible.


Well known companies often offer scholarships. Major companies like Google, Coca-Cola, and Dell all offer scholarships aimed at students heading to college. The great thing about these scholarships is that they usually offer a large amount of funding. Because of this, they also tend to be more competitive. Some of these scholarships even offer laptops and other gifts in addition to the monetary award. So, if you're just starting to search for scholarships, your best bet is to start by seeking out those offered by major companies.


Take advantage of the internet. There are countless websites out there that will help you search for scholarships. When I was going through this process, I used a website (scholarships.com) that allowed me to narrow down the list of scholarships to fit my personal background and eligibility status. Just remember to be persistent, as you sometimes have to wade through a good number of scholarships before finding one that truly appeals to you.


Tips for Applying to Scholarships

It may sound tedious, but this simple act can greatly increase your chances of being chosen for a scholarship. When you are reading through the description, be sure to especially pay attention to two major details: what the mission statement of the program is and what characteristics the program looks for in applicants. I've found that tailoring your essay(s) to incorporate these two topics is a surefire way to make your application stand out to the scholarship readers.


Remember to apply for “small” scholarships. Most of the students I knew in high school were only focused on applying for scholarships that offered large amounts of funding. I have to confess that I myself was guilty of this mindset. However, after speaking to students that I met in college, I've learned that it isn't always a good idea to pass over scholarships that only offer a couple hundred dollars in award money. Some of these smaller scholarships aren’t as enticing to students, so less people apply for them. This makes them less competitive, but the funding that they provide for you is just as useful as funding you receive from a larger scholarship. These small scholarships can add up and are a great way to supplement any awards you receive from larger scholarships.


Have other people read and revise your scholarship essays. As with any college application essay, it’s always a good idea to have your scholarship essays revised by other people. This process can give you a fresh perspective on your essay and may inspire you to approach an essay prompt in a more unique way. When I was writing my scholarship essays, I had my essays read by my sisters and some of my teachers, going through several drafts before finally submitting my application. Just remember: be proactive, be open to new ideas, and revise thoroughly.


Scholarships I received in high school:

  • QuestBridge Scholarship (http://www.questbridge.org/)
    • QuestBridge is a non-profit organization that connects bright, low-income students with its prestigious partner colleges. If you are accepted to one of the partner colleges through this program, you receive a full four-year scholarship to that college. This scholarship program has early deadlines, as the application opens around August of each year, so you should start thinking about your application during the summer (ex. start asking for recommendation letters early). One of the unique characteristics of this program is that you have two chances to receive the scholarship/financial aid. If you do not get accepted to one of the partner colleges in the early decision round, you can still apply regular decision and get very generous financial aid at most of the partner schools.
    • Short Version
      • Pros: full four-year scholarship, two chances to receive financial aid
      • Con: scholarship is only offered at partner colleges


  • Gates Millennium Scholarship (http://www.gmsp.org/)
    • This scholarship program provides students with a full four-year scholarship to any college of their choosing. It has one of the later deadlines, usually ending the application process in January of each year. However, you’ll need this extra time to prepare your application because there are eight essay questions involved (at least there were when I applied). This might seem like a lot of work, but it really is manageable and the reward that you get in return if you receive the scholarship is undoubtedly worth the time that you invest to complete the application. Additionally, this program is unique in that you are also eligible to receive funding for graduate programs in certain fields as well. So, if you plan on attending graduate school after college, this program might be a good endeavor for you.
    • Short Version
      • Pros: full four-year scholarship, two chances to receive financial aid
      • Con: scholarship is only offered at partner colleges


Additional great scholarship programs:


For Houstonians:


Links I use to find scholarships: