Use scholarship searches and resources
Most scholarships are gift aid, which does not need to be repaid. However, some scholarships come with requirements that, if not met, convert the award to a loan. Make sure you understand all terms and conditions before accepting any award.
Scholarships may be awarded based on a variety of things, including academic merit, athletic ability, field of study, ethnic background, religious affiliation, and special interests.
Many scholarship organizations require applicants to complete the FAFSA (Free Application for Federal Student Aid).
Scholarship search tips
- The earlier you begin your search, the better. Do as much research as you can, and apply for every scholarship for which you are eligible.
- It is never too late to apply for scholarships, even if you have already started you college career.
- Meeting deadlines is crucial! Most programs have limited funding, and may accept applications after the due date.
- Follow directions. Provide everything that is requested, but no more than is required.
- List all activities and honors. Highlight those that are relevant to the scholarship in your essays.
- Neatness counts. Complete your application using a computer if possible. If the forms aren't available online, then try to find a typewriter to complete the application.
- Make a photocopy of the application before you begin, if you use a typewriter or printing to complete. If you make a mistake, you can start fresh with a clean copy. Also make a copy of the completed application, so you can resend it if the original is lost.
- Ask for help if you need it. If you have problems with the application, don't hesitate to call the funding organization.
- Write an essay that makes a strong impression. Tell a story, use personal examples and be specific.
- Choose references who know you well. Give them plenty of time to write the letter of recommendation. If you know someone else applying for the same scholarship, try to use different references.
- Give your application (and/or essay) a final "review." Ask a friend, teacher or parent to proofread it.
Beware of scams
- Always read the fine print, and make sure you understand all terms and conditions before accepting any award.
- Be wary of companies that "guarantee" you'll receive a scholarship, especially if their offer was unsolicited and/or they are requiring that you pay money for their services.
- Never provide any confidential or personal identification information (including credit card and bank account numbers, your Social Security number, etc.) to an unfamiliar person or organization.
- Remember there are many free scholarship searches available, where you can get all the information you need at no charge.
- Contact the financial aid office at your college with any questions or concerns.
- Learn more about financial aid scams at the Federal Trade Commission's Scholarship Scams website.
- Call the federal Office of Inspector General hotline at 1-800-MISUSED (647-8733) to report suspected identity theft or fraud. A MISUSED online resource also is available
Start your search
- Talk to your high school counselor.
- Check with your college financial aid office.
- Visit the local library.
- Ask local businesses and organizations.
- Go to online scholarship search engines.