Begin your search and application process at least one year in advance of when you would like to use the scholarship. Most deadlines are in the Spring for the following academic year. Although, keep searching year round for new opportunities.
A lot of students think they aren’t eligible for any external scholarships at all. The truth is actually the complete opposite. Every student can find something about themselves that can be used to help them get a scholarship.
Use scholarship online search engines, local libraries and local neighborhood organizations such as your parent’s employer, high school and religious organizations to help you target specific scholarship programs. Check out colum.edu/externalscholarships for a list of scholarship finders.
Visit Columbia’s Learning Studio for writing tips, our library resources to search trade magazines, the Portfolio Center for work reviews, ask instructors, administrators, club leaders, check bulletin boards in your major department’s office, and watch out for SFS Scholarship Workshops. Check out colum.edu/externalscholarships for links to scholarship finders and informational sites about scholarships.
Applying for scholarships should always be free. There is no reason a reputable organization would require your SSN or banking information to process a scholarship application. If they ask for this information, stop the application. If they ask you for money “Give us $300 to secure your pre-‐approved $10,000 scholarship!” stop the application. Applying for scholarships should be free and be wary when you’re told something is “pre-‐approved”.
Collect letters of recommendation, and carefully prepare a standard essay for application. Use these items to systematically apply for many scholarships with the same core materials. Keep and calendar and follow up on applications in a timely manner.
When searching scholarship sites that require a profile, create a new email account that you dedicate to scholarship emails, such as email@example.com, to keep these important messages organized.
Visit www.fafsa.gov in February of each year to complete your FAFSA. Most scholarship applications will require you to document financial need by printing and submitting the Student Aid Report (SAR) with a scholarship application.
Don’t apply for just one award. If you apply for only one award and then wait to hear if you received it or not, you may be missing out on other scholarships you would be eligible for. Try and apply for as many awards as you possibly can because, “You miss 100% of the shots you don’t take”. –Wayne Gretsky.
Most students apply for over ten to fifteen scholarships before receiving one and most scholarships are between the $500 and $2000 range. It may not seem like much but these will add up and eliminate any dollars you will have to potentially borrow and pay back with interest.
It may not seem worthwhile to write an essay for a scholarship worth only a couple hundred bucks but the awards with lesser amounts can sometimes be the best to go for. Everyone applies for the high dollar scholarships so the competition is high both in numbers and quality. With the smaller awards, less people are going to be applying which means more opportunity for you to stand out and a higher probability of getting the award.
It may seem cliché but when applying for scholarships just be yourself. Don’t try and construct your application or essay to fit what you think the scholarship committee is looking for. More often than not, trying to tell them what they want to hear will actually hurt you more than help you. Scholarship committees want to see who you really are and not who you think they want you to be.