Stand out on your scholarship applications

Looking for scholarships is an important step in getting ready for college. Higher education can be costly, fortunately there are many scholarships out there that can help you with the cost. To get the most out of scholarships it is important to start your search early. Though you may be applying for many scholarships your senior year, it’s a good idea to start looking early to make sure you don’t miss any opportunities.

Before starting your search 

Consider making a new email that is dedicated to your scholarship search. There are many helpful scholarship search websites that require you to make an account, leading to a lot of junk mail. A separate email will ensure your main inbox doesn’t get filled.

Along with your new email, it is a good idea to create some kind of tracking tool (like this spreadsheet) to help you remember the scholarships you applied for and important deadlines. The last thing you want to do is miss a scholarship because the deadline has passed.

How to find scholarships

There are many ways to find scholarships. A great place to start are online scholarship search engines. You will find thousands of scholarship opportunities and you can narrow your search for scholarships that fit your criteria! Outside of online search engines, there are many methods you can use to find scholarships.

Local scholarships

A great opportunity you won’t want to miss are local scholarships. Many organizations and businesses want to see local students in their community succeed and the competition is much smaller than well-known, national scholarships.

To start your search, talk to your high school counselor. They can provide you with useful resources and can connect you with local organizations and foundations that have scholarships. Another helpful tool is your public library’s website. Many local libraries will share local scholarships on the reference section of their website.

The Opportunity Rising Foundation offers four types of scholarships for people who live in DHA supported housing. Learn more about these scholarship opportunities and how they can support your educational path.

Check with the university/college you plan to attend

Many universities and colleges offer scholarships to their students that won’t be on scholarship search engines. These scholarships can vary based on your involvement in high school, your GPA, your family history, or even what major you declare. Many colleges want to help make education more accessible for prospective students, so check with the financial aid office at your future school to see what assistance they can offer. If you’re not sure how to, ask your guidance counselor for help.

Employer scholarships

Some corporations offer scholarship opportunities or tuition reimbursement to their employees. If you or your parents work for a relatively large corporation, it is worthwhile asking if there are scholarship opportunities.


Now that you have the tools to find scholarship opportunities, here are some helpful tips on how to stand out:


Follow all the instructions

Make sure to read the instructions carefully and check the qualification requirements. Applying for scholarships that you are eligible for will help you maximize your success. It is important to take note of deadlines and to include necessary supporting documents (this is where your tracking tool can be very helpful). You don’t want to be disqualified because of an incomplete application. Ask your school counselor if you are not sure of what needs to be submitted.

Check for grammar errors

Grammatical errors in your application will take away from how amazing of a candidate you are. Take the time to proofread your application multiple times and have another set of eyes take a look at it. Many times, grammar errors occur when we are rushed. Give yourself time to thoughtfully answer the applications questions and plan for a couple days of proofing.

Create list of accomplishments

Before you begin answering application questions or writing essays, take some time to reflect on the last few years and start to gather a list of all your accomplishments, awards, and recognitions. Refer to this list when filling out your application so as not to forget the impressive work you’ve accomplished. This is your time to shine!

Ask for letters of recommendations

Not all scholarships will require a letter of recommendation, but it is useful and can help you stand out. Don’t just ask anyone to write a letter, you want it to come from someone with authority that knows you and your work ethic. When you ask for a letter make sure you let them know when the letter is due and give them your resume to help when writing. (Insider tip: When you ask for a letter of recommendation, give them a colored index card with context information. Things to include: your name, GPA, number of years you have attended this school, any extra curricular activities you are involved in and any hobbies you enjoy. This information will help your writer develop an authentic and well-thought out letter.)

You know where to look and how to stand out, now go out there and apply it. Make sure to give yourself plenty of time to dedicate to filling out the application and apply to as many as you can. Good luck!

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