black graduation cap with text scholarship on top of many 100 dollar bills

How Do Scholarships Work?

Scholarships are a type of financial aid for post-secondary education based on merit or by financial need. The scholarship does not have to be paid back.

Post-secondary education is expensive, and many students find it challenging to finance their education independently or would prefer not to go into debt to pay for it.

Outside of government grants, businesses, organizations, and other specialty groups offer scholarships to assist in paying for a student’s education, including tuition, supplies, and living expenses. The qualifications and rules for keeping the scholarship, depend on the stipulations set out by the issuer of the scholarship.

How to Get Scholarships in High School

The scholarship process can be daunting and take time to research, create applications, gather your documents like reference letters, and send them in before the due dates. So, it’s smart to start the process early, in some cases, even before you apply for college.

Start by researching scholarships for high school students and charting which ones match your qualifications. Then, review the application and note the criteria, documents, and other requirements to create and qualify for the scholarship.

The next step is getting organized. Gather all the documents you need early. Set reminders on your calendar when applications are due, and be sure to apply at least a couple of days before.

Customize your application for each application. Though there are some pieces of vital information that you can copy and paste across applications, do your best to make sure your application suits the specific requirements of each scholarship.

circle with orange banner reading scholarship and also scholarship around circle

Choose your references wisely. Teachers, coaches, employers, and community leaders are all good choices for reference letters. Be sure that your choice knows you and your quality of work and can write about it with understanding.

They need to know both the application criteria and why you are a good candidate. It’s helpful to give some information to help them develop their letters. Give them lots of time to prepare their letters.

Carefully proofread each application before submission. Ask a trusted advisor to review it for you and use an online grammar checker, like Grammarly, to assist in the proofreading process.

Make your application unique to who you are. Don’t be afraid to brag a little. Your application is your moment to stand out from the thousands of other applicants while being true to yourself.

How Do I Qualify for a Scholarship?

Qualifications are varied and depend on the scholarship you are applying for. Each has their own qualifications, such as:

Merit – Academic, sports, artistic, or some other achievement.

Need – Financial need, like for low-income students.

Faith/Community – Religious and cultural affiliates.

Field of Study – Professional organizations that sponsor students entering that field.

Minority Group – Such as indigenous students and gender, e.g., STEM scholarships for teenage girls.

Special Qualifications – Members of the military, seniors, and children of single parents.

Unusual Qualifications – Defined by specialty groups often about increasing public awareness of their cause, e.g., vegetarianism

Where to Look for Scholarships

Scholarship Application 1

Some of the most popular places to search for a scholarship for teenagers are:

     •    School’s financial aid office

     •    School’s website

     •    Private financial aid consultants

     •    Government resources

     •    Online searches and online application portals

As well as:

     •    Your or your parents’ employers

     •    Cultural groups, clubs, or religious groups

     •    Professional associations

     •    Non-profit organizations

     •    Various corporations

     •    Individuals

Are Scholarships Easy to Get?

The applications process takes time and effort to complete successfully. However, if you treat it like a job, it will give you a leg up over other candidates taking the process less seriously.

Create a list of possible scholarships for teenagers and track the eligibility requirements. You can apply for and receive more than one scholarship at a time. So, it’s wise to apply for as many as you are qualified to do.

Determine how much money you need to receive from scholarships and what you need to cover, like tuition, education supplies, and housing. For example, some scholarships for high school students only cover tuition costs and often pay the college or university these fees directly.

However, some scholarships are cash awards directly to the student, so they have the opportunity to use the funds to best suit their educational needs.

With effort and planning, it is possible to receive enough funds to pay for your entire education, supplies and living expenses, even to post-graduate and Ph.D. studies.

How Much Money do you Get with a Scholarship?

The amount a student can receive is dependent on how many scholarships they apply for and the number they are qualified to receive. An average is approximately $5,000 to $10,000, but it can be significantly more in the case of tuition scholarships.

If you’re asking yourself if scholarships are “free money,” the answer is yes, as you do not have to pay back the money you receive from the scholarship once you graduate.

However, there may be other requirements to keep the scholarship, like a minimum grade-point average, that if not achieved, result in the loss of the scholarship. Scholarships are unlike student loans.

Where Can I Use a Scholarship?

You can use your scholarship to cover essential educational costs, like tuition, but depending on if you are awarded a cash scholarship or not, you may also use the funds to cover the costs of textbooks and software and educational supplies.  You can also use the funds for housing, the cost of living, and transportation.

Tips for Successfully Applying for a Scholarship

scholarship application form

  1. Learn as much as you can about the organization administrating the scholarship and include it in your essay to express why you are the best candidate.

  2. Gather all documentation and information required before you begin the application process. Be sure to read the instructions first carefully.

  3. Give the individuals supplying your references lots of time to complete and submit them before the deadline.

  4. Take your time to write a concise personal essay that reflects who you are as a person and student and expresses how you are the best candidate for their sponsorship.

  5. Chart your progress. You should hear if you’ve been awarded the scholarship within a few weeks. Check if they have an online portal to check your application’s status and check the application to see if there is a date they expect to notify applicants.

  6. Be proactive and follow up if the deadline has passed and you haven’t heard back regarding your application. However, be mindful that smaller organizations and individuals can take longer to process applications and send out approval letters.

  7. Submit as many applications as you feel you are qualified to win. Submitting more applications increases the chances of being awarded a scholarship.

Keep Working Towards Your Goal

The scholarship application process can be overwhelming, but don’t let it get you down. With some preparation and research, it’s possible for any student to win scholarships and make their post-secondary dreams come true.

By: Robert Puharich | December 14, 2021 |

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