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How to Apply for College Scholarships

Master the college scholarship search with expert advice from a financial aid director.

Navigating the world of scholarship applications can be tough and downright chaotic at times. You have access to thousands of college scholarships, all with various criteria, application processes and deadlines. Michelle Standridge, director of financial aid at Spalding University, and several students with firsthand experience had a lot of advice to help make the application process easier. Apart from the basics (apply on time, be sure the application is complete before submitting, proofread, etc.), there are unique tips that may not be immediately obvious to you.

Steps to Apply for College Scholarships

#1: Remember scholarship searches and applications should always be free.

In this case, spending money to make money is not a good thing. If an organization or application asks you for money, it is most likely a scam; do not apply.

#2: Open a separate email to be used just for scholarship information.

According to Standridge, a lot of scholarship applications are a ploy to get marketing and demographic information. You can use a separate mailbox to help keep your main mailbox free of annoying clutter.

#3: Seek outside scholarships listed on university websites.

“Many schools have a page on their website for outside scholarships. Search via school websites, and let the schools do the work,” said Standridge. “Our (Spalding’s) outside scholarship page lists scholarships that we know are legit; so it weeds out the junk that just an internet search pulls in.” So, be sure to include other institution’s web pages in your research for scholarships.

#4: Apply for scholarships even if you don’t think you’re a match.

This is the most surprising piece of advice as it is usually encouraged to actually meet the eligibility criteria before applying. However, according to Standridge, there have been instances of male students being awarded scholarships intended to female students because no eligible female students applied.

#5: Write a really good essay.

If you’re already in college, find out if your institution has a writing center, and use that as a source to help perfect the general essay. College scholarship applications tend to ask similar questions. It will save you a lot of work to tweak the general essay to the specific scholarship rather than starting from scratch every time.

#6: Think outside the box.

The most common tip from students is to be creative with your research. There are tons of local and national scholarships and contests for a variety of interests and talents. Also, think beyond your basic internet search; social media is a growing way to search for scholarship opportunities.