Learn more about college scholarship applications

When paying for college, always explore scholarship opportunities before considering federal or private student loans. College scholarships are free money that you don’t need to pay back. There’s no limit to the amount of scholarships you can apply for—so apply for as many as you can.


Where to find and apply for college scholarships

Here are four ways to find scholarship opportunities:

  • Look at your hobbies in a new way.
    You may not think of your hobbies and interests as a way to help pay for school, but you should. There are college scholarships out there for everyone: crafters, gamers, vegans, green thumbs, Trekkies—you name it. Scholarships aren’t just for straight-A students or all-star athletes.
  • Register for Scholarship Search.
    Our free Scholarship Search tool gives you access to 5 million scholarships worth up to $24 billion. It helps you find scholarships that match your skills, activities, and interests. You can even set up customized alerts to notify you when a new scholarship that matches your profile becomes available.
  • Meet with your school counselor and others.
    Discuss your plan to pay for college with your school counselor and ask about scholarship opportunities that might be right for you. Also, keep your eyes and ears open in your community. You might hear of college scholarship opportunities through your church, your job, or your parents’ jobs.
  • Consider scholarships for minority students.
    If you’re a minority student, there are scholarships available that can help you pay for school.

When to apply for scholarships

Apply for scholarships early and often. Some scholarship deadlines are as early as a year before you start college. You don’t need to wait until you’ve made your final decision about your school to apply.

But don’t worry if you missed out on some of the earliest scholarship applications. There are lots of scholarship opportunities out there, all with different deadlines.

Apply for scholarships every year you’re in college, too—there are many scholarships for current college students.


Scholarship application tips

As you get ready to apply for college scholarships, keep in mind that different scholarships have their own qualifying criteria and require certain documents. These tips can help as you choose which scholarships to apply for:

  • Be careful.
    You shouldn’t have to pay for scholarships or for scholarship searches. School counselors and school financial aid offices can recommend reputable options, like our free Scholarship Search tool.
  • Be thorough.
    Don’t overlook smaller scholarships. Even a few hundred dollars can help offset the cost of textbooks and supplies.
  • Be honest.
    Don't exaggerate your grades, memberships, skills, or qualifications. You’re more likely to receive scholarships if you apply for the ones that match your interests and skills.
  • Be proactive.
    Apply for scholarships every year you’re in college. Approximately 50 percent of available scholarships are for students already enrolled in college.
  • Be diligent.
    Pay attention to details. Some scholarships require you to write an essay while others may want letters of recommendation. Send in what’s requested and proofread everything. Typos and missing materials can be the difference between winning or losing a scholarship.
  • Be on time.
    Some scholarships are very quick and easy to apply for. Others take a little more time. Meet all deadlines. If the scholarship application can’t be submitted electronically, use certified mail. Missing a deadline could disqualify you.

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