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  • Amanda Madenberg

College Scholarships: Everything You Need to Know

Did you know you could win money for showing generosity to others? For surviving tough family circumstances? For getting good grades? For demonstrating interest in a particular area of study, even if you have not yet been admitted to college? Did you know you could win money and college scholarships just for being you?

Finances are one of students’ and families’ biggest concerns when thinking about the college process. Many colleges are very expensive, and this fact can seem daunting when considering college options. Fortunately, there are several resources to help students and families pay for college, including many forms of scholarships and financial aid.

This article will appear TeenLife's upcoming Guide to College Admissions. Stay tuned for this can't-miss resource, coming later this summer!

Types of College Scholarships

There are two overarching types of financial aid for college: need-based aid and merit aid. Need-based aid is provided by the government and/or institutions to students whose families demonstrate financial “need” in order to cover the cost of a two or four year degree. Merit aid is provided to students who meet particular requirements of merit, whether that is academic, athletic, or other kind of merit.

Scholarships are one of the most common forms of merit-based financial aid, though some scholarships do have some need-based components that consider student and family financial circumstances. Scholarships can range from smaller amounts of money that students can put towards any college-related cost, such as purchasing textbooks, to awards that cover a student’s entire tuition for four years. Some scholarships target specific groups of students, such as students who will be the first generation in their family to go to college or students in particular racial or ethnic groups. Other scholarships are open to all students.

Institutions sometimes automatically consider their applicants for scholarships in the college admissions process if they meet particular GPA or other requirements, and other schools ask that students apply separately to scholarships.

Scholarships can be awarded from the particular school that a student attends or from a separate group, such as religious or nonprofit organizations. Scholarship application requirements vary; some ask for short essays or personal statements, a letter of recommendation or referral from a school setting, a GPA and/or standardized test score, or sometimes nothing at all except for providing personal information.

Tips for Finding College Scholarships

Students can be eligible for scholarships at many points in their high school careers. While many scholarships target seniors in high school specifically, there are big scholarships to which juniors can apply and receive even before they have any idea where they are headed to college.

Here are some tips for high school students who want to consider college scholarships:

  • Create a profile on Fastweb, Cappex, and Student Scholarships. You can create an account at any point. These three websites allow students to create profiles with any identification information and select academic and extracurricular areas of interest in order to filter scholarships that may peak special interest.

  • As a senior in high school, if you want to make applying to scholarships a priority, set a weekly reminder to check the websites above. New scholarships are added to the above sites all the time! Throughout high school, you can ask your school counselor and/or college counselor, if you have one, for a list of scholarships. There are times when schools are asked to nominate a particular number of students for a scholarship, so it can’t hurt for your counselor to know you are interested in opportunities.

  • Plan ahead. Many scholarships have hard deadlines, meaning you will not be able to submit applications once the window closes. If the scholarship to which you’re applying requires documentation from your school, ask your school counselor for anything you need with enough advanced notice to make the deadline. If you think you may have missed the deadline for a scholarship competition, explore the website: it’s possible that there are multiple deadlines for submission.

  • Save essays that you write for scholarships. You may be able to use the same essay for multiple competitions!

  • Stay positive, even if you experience some rejection. Some scholarships are competitive, whether that’s due to the number of applicants, the qualifications, or the reward at stake. Similar to the college admissions process, applying to scholarships might subject you to feelings of disappointment if you don’t win. Keep applying!


Applying to scholarships may not only benefit you if you win the scholarship and money that comes along with it. The application process can also help you when applying to colleges. For instance, when applying to college, you will need to write a personal statement with the goal of sharing anything with colleges that demonstrates who you are outside of the data that colleges will already receive from your high school. The personal statement might be an easier task if you have already done some thinking about what sets you apart as a student and as a person.

Additionally, some scholarships require the submission of a resume of extracurricular impact, and this is a document that can significantly help you when completing the Activity Section of the Common App.

We know that applying to scholarships can sometimes be just as intimidating as applying to colleges and universities, but with this information in this article you can get a head start on making college affordable and worthwhile. We can’t wait to see what you do next!


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