Top Eight Tips for Optimizing Your Scholarship Search

Planning your scholarship search effectively can save you time and effort. The following steps will help you focus on the key components of your scholarship search to ensure that you use your time most efficiently and realize the greatest rewards.

  1. Meet with Your Guidance Counselor

    Guidance counselors often have information about local and regional scholarships that you might not be aware of. Also, your guidance counselor knows you and your interests and may be able to help you focus on those scholarships that offer you the best opportunities.

  2. Apply Only for Scholarships You Are Eligible For

    The types and criteria of scholarships vary widely. It's important, then, to make sure that you are eligible for a scholarship before you send in your application. Thoroughly review the scholarship description and make an honest appraisal as to whether or not you're a good fit for it. Scholarships that don't have very detailed descriptions will attract a wide range of applicants, which makes standing out from the pack more difficult. It's best to put these lower on the priority list.

    Since many scholarship deadlines are in March, you should focus your scholarship application efforts in the preceding months on only a small number of categories that may include family heritage, lifestyle, interests, religion and your anticipated college major.

  3. Get Organized

    Getting your recommendations and transcripts in hand can take time. Plan accordingly by giving yourself substantial lead time to accomplish each task and think about ways to prioritize your time and be efficient. For example, tackle applications in order of which deadline is coming first. Or, if you need to submit transcripts for multiple entries, request them all at the same time so you only need to worry about it once. It may be helpful to create a spreadsheet that tracks the scholarships you're pursuing, where you stand in the application process and the application deadlines.

    Before beginning any scholarship application, make sure you can reasonably meet the deadline. If you can't, all you will be doing is wasting time that you could be spending on other applications.

  4. Research the Sponsor and Tailor Your Answer

    Customize your applications as necessary and address sponsor-specific details. Research the background, history and goals of the scholarship and the organization presenting it. Direct your application toward satisfying those goals, thereby increasing your chances of winning the award.

  5. Develop a Personal Statement

    Think about your accomplishments from the entirety of your high school career and write them down; this will help you identify your strengths and prepare a better application. This can seem hard at first unless you've already been thinking about it. The easiest way to do this is to build your list as you fill out applications.

    Don't neglect to include any community service work you've completed. In addition, any essay requirements for college applications could serve as a good starting point.

  6. Proofread

    Make sure that you check your applications multiple times. Do not assume that the automated spell checker has caught all the mistakes. The vast majority of mistakes are small errors that spell checkers don't pick up because those only focus on misspellings.

    It's very important that you include other people in your reviews as well. Make sure you take their criticism constructively and be ready to make edits based on their feedback.

  7. Make Copies

    Prevent any potential issues by making a copy of each scholarship packet you fill out and keeping it on file.

  8. Be Professional

    Present yourself in the best possible light – be confident, be yourself and be honest. Maintain positive relationships with those that recommend, interview or help you; saying thank you can go a long way. Use a professional email address, such as Search for your name and make sure you have a professional online profile – review the content of your social media accounts to remove any inappropriate and immature material.

There are many online resources to help you research and apply for college scholarships. Below are a few that offer free and easy-to-use resources. We've compiled this list based on the number of scholarships and total value of awards they offer. Many other resources exist. We recommend finding a few websites that you're comfortable with and that work for you. Remember, you should never need to pay a fee to access such information.


Fastweb lets students create personalized profiles that can be matched against its expansive databases of colleges and scholarships. As the oldest and most popular free online scholarship matching service, the database has more than 1.5 million scholarships totaling over $3.4 billion.

Student Scholarship Search

This site provides students and parents with free and unlimited access to more than 1.5 million awards and billions of dollars in scholarships, grants and prizes. There are several ways to use this site to discover the best scholarships including: Featured scholarship contests, the Scholarship Matcher for personalized scholarship results, Scholarship Lists curated by other similar students and helpful Scholarship Indexes that match scholarships to a specific pursuit, talent or trait.

Since its founding in 1999, has had one goal: to help students find money for college. More than a decade later, is recognized by high schools, colleges and universities nationwide and remains a trusted option for students and parents navigating the college and financial aid processes.


With a thriving community of over 1.6 million members, Unigo is the premier network for current and future college students to get to where they're going. Unigo provides cutting-edge tools, compelling content and essential information, empowering students to make the best decisions about their college experience. The site maintains information on over 3.6 million scholarships worth over $14 billion.

Career Info Net

Presented by the U.S. Department of Labor, the Scholarship Search is an interactive, online tool to help you locate scholarships and other financial assistance for education. It includes over 7,000 scholarships, fellowships, loans and other opportunities. Select criteria for your search in the Category Search or use the Keyword Search to search by words and phrases.

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