The scholarship search is a significant undertaking; it's not something you can accomplish on a Saturday afternoon. Though applications and requirements may vary from year to year, it's never too early to begin.
Here are five things you can do to jumpstart your search and yield strong results:
Go to their website or call the financial aid office. If you meet the qualifications, find out how to apply. Don't assume that by applying for admission, you're applying for scholarships. It's often a separate process. Be aware that scholarship deadlines can be different from those set for the admissions application. In fact, some schools ask you to submit an application for scholarships prior to your application for admissions.
If you are currently a student, you likely have access to an advisor or counselor. Take advantage! He or she may know about a scholarship that's a good fit for you. If there is a dedicated office for students heading to college or graduate school, find out what services they offer their students.
Do you belong to a church group or a local chapter of some national club? Are either of your parents a member of a union? Does either of them work for a large corporation? Many of these organizations offer scholarships to members and their children.
When using a search engine, we recommend you refine your search. Simply typing in "scholarships" will yield thousands upon thousands of hits. Use qualifiers such as specific schools and programs of study to help narrow the field.
A word of caution: You should never pay money to investigate scholarships. Scholarship providers don't offer their awards to students who pay to find them; they offer them to all students.
Deadlines vary by scholarship; some are the summer before your senior year, others in the fall or as late as spring. To stay organized and keep track of due dates, we recommend keeping a calendar, and making your earliest deadline the deadline for all of your applications. Finally (and this cannot be stressed enough), do not miss your deadlines. You'll have no recourse if your application arrives late, and you will have zero chance of receiving that award.
A final word: You may review 100 scholarships before you find one that applies to you. Be patient and stay the course. Eventually you'll uncover a good match. And you'll appreciate all your research when you secure some funds!