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Scholarships and Grants

Scholarships and grants are sources of free financial aid that award students money if they fulfill (or promise to fulfill) a certain requirement. That requirement might be to study in a certain field, join a professional group or write a winning essay about how an organization affects your life. It also might be as simple as being a member of a certain group or having your name drawn from many entries. Because the amounts and types of scholarships and grants vary, you might be eligible for several of each. Unless you earn an award that pays for all your college costs, you may receive more than one as well, so apply for as many as you can.


Who funds grants?

  • Federal, state or local government
  • Private companies and organizations
  • Colleges

How are grants awarded?

  • Merit (grades or accomplishments)
  • Financial need

How can you find grants?

  • Fill out Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA)
  • Visit your state's website for state grants
  • Request information from private companies
  • College financial aid office


Who funds scholarships?

  • Community organizations
  • Colleges
  • Employers (yours or your parents')
  • Private companies in career fields

How are scholarships awarded?

  • Merit (grades or accomplishments)
  • Financial need
  • Cultural, religious or other affiliation

How can you find scholarships?

  • Free, online scholarship searches
  • Request information from organizations
  • Library
  • School counselor
  • College financial aid office

Applying for Scholarships and Grants

 Doing a little work early on can increase your chances for scholarships and grants.

  • Get involved in camps, clubs and organizations. Many local, regional and national groups offer scholarships to their members.
  • Research scholarships throughout high school. You're more likely to be prepared and in place to win if you start early.
  • Develop a well-rounded resume by being involved in activities and doing your best in school.

Learn the Criteria

Understand exactly what qualifications each award is given for.

  • Family heritage, religious affiliation, grades, hobbies, economic situation or leadership accomplishments might be considered for the award.
  • Other scholarships are awarded based on community involvement, school activities and athletics.
  • Some scholarships are given for a combination of factors.

Get Organized

Keep track of your information, materials and various deadlines.

  • Make a copy of the application before you start.
  • Use the copy as a rough draft and save the original for your final.
  • Follow the directions on the application.
  • Understand why the organization is awarding the money.

Be Professional

Don't ruin your chances by overlooking the details.

  • Use an e-mail address that you'd let your grandmother see (not
  • Type as much of the application as you can and use professional fonts.
  • If you write by hand, be neat. Ask someone to rewrite your form if your handwriting is hard to read.
  • Answer every question; leave nothing blank.
  • Make your answers to the point.

Say the Right Things

Use this opportunity to bring your positives to the fore.

  • Give examples of why the selection committee should think you're the best choice for the award.
  • Be specific when you describe yourself. Instead of saying you're responsible, for example, share the roles and jobs you've held and what was involved.
  • Look at the bright side. If, for example, you aren't involved in any activities in high school, you could discuss how you held down a job instead and what you learned by working.
  • Say you're glad for the opportunity and thank the committee for considering your application.

Show Off (Just a Little)

Create a resume or profile that includes:

  • Membership in clubs.
  • Participation in sports.
  • Honors or awards.
  • Employment.
  • Future plans and goals.

Get Some Backup

Use letters of recommendation to advantage.

  • Ask adults who know you well (but aren't related to you). Try:
    • Teachers
    • School administrators
    • Counselors
    • Employers
    • Coaches
    • Activity advisors
    • Clergy members
    • Community leaders
    • Someone in the field of study you plan to pursue
  • Get as many letters as you can.
  • Allow the people who are writing letters at least two weeks to finish them, and follow up with thank-you notes.
  • Make copies of the letters. You'll use them for additional award applications and maybe job applications. (Don't forget to ask the references each time you use their letter or name.)

Wow Them

Write an essay you can be proud of.

  • Brainstorm ideas before you begin.
  • Create an outline.
  • Write an introduction that will make readers want to keep reading.
  • Show; don't tell. Use examples and stories to bring your writing to life.
  • Develop a theme to make your point.
  • Conclude smoothly. Write something that shows what you think.
  • Demonstrate that you've overcome challenges, but be upbeat.

Check It Twice

Make sure typos or sloppy work doesn't trip you up.

  • Proofread your essay and application.
  • Have at least one other person proofread them too.

Follow Up

Use your manners and get the details.

  • Send a thank-you note to the committee or donor.
  • Inform colleges you've applied to about any award you receive.
  • If you receive an award, check with the organization to find out whether the award is renewable, and if you need to maintain a certain grade point average or meet other requirements to keep it.
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