Tips to Succeed in Your Scholarship Search - College Services Tips to Succeed in Your Scholarship Search - College Services

Tips to Succeed in Your Scholarship Search

Is it worth the time to search for scholarships? YES, YES, YES. Paying for college has become the biggest factor in students’ ability to enroll and graduate from college.  Yes, there are many resources available through filling out a FAFSA or WASFA but many times it is not enough.

Fortunately, there are private scholarships if you are willing to put in the hard work to research and apply to them.

You would not believe how many untapped scholarship resources there are. Seeking out scholarships on your own can be overwhelming, so here are some tips for your search.

1. Scholarship Scams

There are a lot of scholarships online. But are they all legit? Nope!

How to tell if a scholarship is a scam:

  • Asking for application/processing fees.  They should never ask for financial information like bank info or your social security number. The FAFSA website is the only site that should ask for your SSN.
  • No phone number or contact info listed on the site, then it is likely a scam. 
  • Past Winners? If there is no proof of past winners, beware – it could be fake. Try Googling the scholarship name and past winners.
  • You won! (but didn’t apply).
  • Use common sense and intuition. If it doesn’t seem right or feel right, or is too good to be true, do some research.
  • Here is another scholarship vetting checklist!

Don’t get caught in a #ScholarshipScam

2. Legit Scholarship Opportunities

How to tell if a scholarship is legit:

  • Requires a short essay or short-answer responses.
  • Typically requires documents like transcripts, ACT/SAT scores, recommendation letters and resumes.
  • Check your campus website for posted scholarships. Your college will have vetted these scholarships.

Below are some trusted websites, but don’t limit your search. Get creative and look for unconventional scholarships. Do you have friends or family whose company gives out scholarships? Think outside of the box!

3. Ready, Set, Apply

Ok, so you spent time searching for scholarships, you qualify for them and now you need to focus on applying! Applying CAN be time consuming, set time aside and plan ahead.

Think about it this way, if you put in 20 hours of “work” applying for scholarships and awarded (4) $500 scholarships equal to $2,000 then your earning $100 an hour! Challenge: see how much YOU can make -can you beat $100 an hour??

Here are some excellent tips to the scholarship application process that will help you!


  • Know the application deadlines and give yourself plenty of time.
  • Prepare to write about your past experiences, lessons learned and accomplishments.
  • Do you have a draft of a personal essay? Use it to adapt to each scholarship you are applying for.
  • Some applications require official high school and college transcripts. If they do, give yourself time to order transcripts and be prepared to pay a fee for any official transcripts.
  • Complete your 2019-2020 FAFSA or WASFA and have a copy ready.


  • Use a calendar app to set application deadline dates. Many are due at the beginning of the year. Missing a deadline will eliminate your application.
  • Give your recommender at least 2 – 4 weeks to write a letter of recommendation.
  • Keep track of scholarship names, amount of scholarship $, website and deadline dates.


  • The #1 reason people make mistakes when applying is they do not follow all the instructions.
  • Focus on crafting a personal yet authentic essay. Only share what you are comfortable sharing. Remember you need to make yourself stand out from other applicants.
  • Highlight your campus involvement, leadership experience, community service, accomplishments (academic, personal or professional) and work experience.
  • Letter of recommendation can come from a professor/faculty member, employer, community leader, mentor, College Success Foundation coach, or any college support staff. (No family members). Provide them a copy of your resume, personal essay and scholarship information.

4. Other Helpful Hints and Tips

  • Don’t ignore small awards because they can add up fast! Focus on local and regional opportunities.
  • Save copies of all your applications so you don’t have to start from scratch each time.
  • Keep applying: Don’t get discouraged even if you don’t get a scholarship right away.
  • Make sure the scholarship is renewable, if it is not plan ahead on how to replace this funding for next academic year.
  • Find out if it is portable or if the scholarship is tied to your current major or school of attendance.

5. Get support on the process

Use. Your. Resources. Visit these on-campus resources:

  • Writing Center
  • Library
  • Student Support Services, Diversity and Equity/ Cultural Centers
  • Your department major (i.e Social Science Department for Social Science Majors)
  • Or reach out to your College Success Foundation coach. Contact: to get connected to your assigned coach.

Good Luck!

College Services Team