The Scholarship Application Process

When is the best time to start your scholarship search? Once you’ve found scholarships to apply to, how do you keep track of all of them? What do you do after you win a scholarship? Here are some answers to your questions about the scholarship application process.

Search early. Search often.

Begin your scholarship search as early as you can in your high school career. While most scholarships are for high school seniors, there is still a vast amount available for high school juniors, sophomores, and even freshmen. You might be surprised at what you find. And the buck doesn’t stop there! Many students are unaware that there are tons of scholarship opportunities for students throughout their college career, even into graduate and post-graduate school. So just because you are already enrolled in college doesn’t mean you should stop searching for scholarships.

The best time of year to search for scholarships is any time! At any given time of year, there are plenty of scholarships with open application windows. There are, however, a slightly larger number of scholarships that expire in the spring. These scholarships tend to open for applications in the fall and winter. So if you had to pick one time of year to really buckle down and search, start in the fall and continue through the spring. Though that shouldn’t stop you from taking advantage of those summer months when you’re not in school to search for other scholarship opportunities with deadlines in the fall and winter. Long story short: Keep your search going throughout the entire year.

Some scholarship providers offer a very large window for students to submit applications, sometimes even the whole year leading up to the deadline. On the other hand, some providers only give students one month or so to submit an application. Most application windows, however, last about two to four months. Because application windows vary greatly between scholarship providers, it’s important that you keep up with your search. Searching for new scholarships at least twice a month is a good pace at which to work.

Read everything.

Before you start devoting time to applying for a scholarship, be sure to carefully read all the given information about the scholarship, the criteria, and what you have to do to apply. The first step is to be certain that you qualify. Applying for a scholarship that you do not qualify for not only wastes your time, but also the scholarship committee’s time. Be sure you also completely understand what you need to do to apply. If the scholarship requires a more effort than usual, then you know you will need to get started on it sooner rather than later. If you are unsure about anything, contact the provider. It’s better to get the facts straight than to make any assumptions.

Don’t procrastinate.

Be sure to give yourself plenty of time to complete and submit your scholarship application by the deadline. This is especially important for scholarships that require more work and for those that require the help of someone else, such as those who are writing a letter of recommendation for you. (For help with letters of recommendation, check out our Letters of Recommendation resource page.)

Keep track.

Keep yourself organized by maintaining a tracking sheet of your scholarship activities. Whether you keep a simple handwritten list or create an elaborate chart on your computer, it will help to have a place where you can easily check and see which scholarships you’ve already applied to and which ones you still need to work on. Include helpful information such as the name of the scholarship, the organization offering it, the award amount, the website where you found the information and the application, the requirements, the deadline date, and the date that you actually applied.

Write thank-you notes.

If you win a scholarship, most scholarship providers do not require you to do anything further after they have given you the award. But it is very important to let them know how much you appreciate the gift they have given you. Write a thank-you note to the scholarship committee to tell them how grateful you are. Be sure to also specify how the scholarship will help you both in your education and in your future career. Not only is it polite, but it will also reassure the scholarship committee that they made a great choice in picking a scholarship winner.

If applying for scholarships seems like a lot of work to you, it might help to keep in mind that if you win a scholarship, all that time and effort you gave will certainly be worth it.