As a high school senior leaving for college in 3 months, the cost of tuition, books, supplies, and housing can be a daunting concept. My family doesn’t classify as low-income, so I’m ineligible to receive much financial assistance from FAFSA, grants, work study, etc.
This is why scholarships are the most valuable monetary resource for me. I have applied to over 25 scholarships and received nearly $5,000 thus far. However, applying for scholarships can be a lengthy process, which is what steers many seniors away from ever applying.
Throughout the past 9 months, I have gathered tips for current high school underclassmen, seniors, and anyone else who is interested in acquiring extra cash for college. Without further delay, here are those tips:
- Search locally.
Speaking from experience, nationwide scholarships are ridiculously competitive. I applied to several merit-based scholarships for students across the U.S. and didn’t receive a single dollar from these scholarships.
For this reason, I highly recommend starting your search at the local level. Don’t be afraid to talk with your counselor and ask if they provide a list of scholarships for you to refer to. Perhaps your high school or nearby community college offers a complete list of scholarships on their website for all students to view.
Be persistent in your search and apply for as many scholarships as you can. Remember to check the requirements to see if you qualify for the scholarship!
Another resource at your disposal is (obviously) Google. I live in Southern California, so I typically search for scholarships offered to high school seniors in my area. Scholarships at the city or county level are optimal (since the competition is not as crazy as the national level), but applying to other ones at the state or region level is always worth a chance.
- If you have a question, send an email to the scholarship coordinator to put your name out there.
Scholarship selection committees probably receive submissions from hundreds or thousands of applicants each year. To ensure your name is recognized by the selection committee before they begin reading applications, I always recommend writing an email with any questions or comments you may have pertaining to the scholarship.
Start your email by introducing yourself. State your full name, the high school you attend, and which school you will be attending in the fall (if you already know).
Make sure your questions aren’t easily found through a quick search on the scholarship website (“When is the deadline for the scholarship?” or “How many words or characters can we type on the essay?”). Remember to thank the person or committee (whichever one responds to your email) for their assistance!
- If an essay is required in the scholarship application, plan and proofread your final draft.
Test scores, grades, and class stats may impress the scholarship judges, but what will make a significant impact on your application is the essay(s) you write, if it’s part of the requirements. This is why it is paramount to thoroughly plan, organize, write, proofread, and rewrite your final draft.
Because this process may take several days or weeks, give yourself sufficient time to plan accordingly and work proactively. If the word count of an essay is particularly long, then I recommend giving yourself a minimum of 7 days to complete your scholarship essay. If you’d like, hand your essay to your English teacher or a trusted adult so he/she can provide additional feedback and proofread your writing even more.
- Set reminders on your phone of the scholarship deadline.
The modern world is purely digitalized. We use our phones every day for leisure and work on our computer or laptop for assignments, quizzes, and research. Why not digitalize the scholarship application process as well?
I schedule daily reminders on my iPhone for each scholarship I apply to, especially throughout the days leading up to the submission deadline. If silent reminders are insufficient for you, set an alarm each day letting you know it’s time to work on a scholarship essay for 30-45 minutes. Because this is a daily alarm, I recommend scheduling the alarm for a time after school so you won’t bother your teachers and peers in the middle of class.
- If you receive the scholarship or are selected as a finalist, send a thank-you letter to the scholarship selection committee.
Expressing your gratitude to the selection committee will go a long way and leave a lasting impression on the organization, donor, or person granting you the scholarship.
In your letter, be sure to acknowledge how the financial assistance has helped you and your family pay for your college fees, supplies, textbooks, housing, etc. Keep the letter short and sweet. Send the thank-you letter in a timely manner – preferably 2-4 weeks after you’ve received the scholarship – and double-check that you’re sending it to the correct address.
- Apply, apply, apply!
Whether you’ve been awarded 1 or 10 scholarships, keep applying! The more scholarships you apply for, the higher your chances are of earning more money. Use websites such as scholarships.com, chegg.com, collegegreenlight.com, naviance.com, or collegeboard.org to search for more scholarships. I’ve also written a blog post featuring more of my favorite websites to find scholarships, internships, and more.
Good luck in your pursuit for more cash for college!