How Do I Find and Apply for Scholarships?

How Do I Find and Apply for Scholarships?

There are millions of scholarships awarded to students each year, totaling in the billions of free aid. Knowing where to look for the right scholarships can save students from all walks of life thousands of dollars a year.

Get to Know the Types of Scholarships

It’s easy to assume that all scholarships are the same. As you start researching college scholarships, however, you’ll find they fall into a few different categories. Those can include:

  • Merit-Based Scholarships: These funding opportunities are awarded to students based on academic, special talent or athletic achievements.
  • Need-Based Scholarships: These scholarships are designed for students who demonstrate an appropriate level of financial need. You’ll typically need to fill out the FAFSA® to qualify for one of these.
  • Demographics-Based Scholarships: These funding opportunities don’t depend on your grades or your level of financial need. Instead, they’re awarded to college students who fall into certain categories, such as ethnicity, religion, or gender.

Finding Scholarships

Finding scholarships, particularly those for which you qualify, requires some digging. Fortunately, there are some resources available to make the search easier.

Scholarship Databases

Did you File FAFSA® Yet

We recommend searching the following databases for scholarships that fit your circumstances:

All four databases have a wide range of scholarships, from program-specific scholarships to scholarships pertaining to your hobbies.

School Counselors

Contact counselors in high school and college and let them know you’re looking for scholarships. They’ll help you narrow down what kind of scholarships you may qualify for, and where to look for them.

Teachers and Coaches

If you’re interested in continuing any specific academic or athletic pursuits in college, reach out to teachers and coaches at your high school for help. Even if they don’t know of any specific scholarships, they’ll be able to help you present yourself well on the scholarship application.


Organizations that serve specific hobbies, pursuits or demographics will also have information about relevant scholarships. There are thousands of scholarships available across the country for specific interests, activities, and communities.

State Scholarships

Contact your state’s education agencies to find out more information about their merit and need-based scholarship programs.

Web search

Never hesitate to do a web search for a specific scholarship you’re hoping may exist. You’ll be surprised at the depth and breadth of scholarship offerings.

How Do I Apply For Scholarships

Every scholarship has a different application process, but many of those requirements overlap. While some local organizations may ask that you fill out a physical application, most applications are filed online.

Typical academic-based scholarships will require proof that you meet the eligibility conditions, as well as an essay based on a given topic or prompt.

Athletic and talent-based scholarships will also ask you to provide evidence of your proficiency in the given field, which could mean a live performance, a portfolio, or a film of your athletic achievements.

Essay Writing Tips

When writing a scholarship essay, it’s best to start early. Make sure your essay fits the requested topic, and do plenty of research. Ask a teacher you trust to take a look at your essay and offer critiques.

The essay is your chance to set yourself apart from the rest of the candidates. Do everything you can to make sure it stands out.

Stay Organized

Unlike the FAFSA®, scholarships have their own deadlines. Make sure you stay on top of the application deadline and requirements for every scholarship for which you are applying.