When Should I Start Applying for College Scholarships?

Applying for scholarships without a plan can be overwhelming. Here, we outline when you should start applying for scholarships.

September 27, 2021

When Should I Start Applying for College Scholarships?

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Scholarships help reduce the cost of college. They allow students to lower their debt or graduate debt-free. With deadlines throughout the year, many students wonder when to apply for a scholarship. Applying early makes the process much easier.

You should start applying for scholarships before you begin college. Instead of waiting until deadlines approach, submit applications early. By getting organized and starting early, you can increase your chances of winning free money for college.

Understanding Scholarships

true Q. What Are Scholarships?

A scholarship provides free money for college. Unlike loans, which borrowers must repay, scholarships don't require repayment. As a result, they're among the best forms of financial aid. Applying for scholarships can help students pay for their degree without taking on debt.

Scholarships usually require an application. Applicants may need to provide transcripts, a resume, recommendation letters, and scholarship essays. Some scholarships let recipients renew the award for multiple years.

true Q. What Scholarships Are Available?

Scholarships come in many forms. Most scholarships are merit-based or need-based. Merit-based scholarships evaluate applicants on their academic record and potential. Need-based scholarships require proof of financial need. Both scholarship types often set a minimum GPA for consideration.

Some scholarships offer one-year awards. Others provide multiple years of funding. Some scholarships let recipients reapply.

Scholarships also cover different expenses. While some only cover tuition, others pay for any education-related expense, including housing.

true Q. Who Can Apply for Scholarships?

Every scholarship sets eligibility requirements. Before completing an application, make sure you qualify. For example, some scholarships only fund undergraduates or graduate students. Others require proof of financial need or full-time enrollment.

Nearly every college student qualifies for some scholarships. International students also meet the requirements for certain scholarships. When you identify a possible scholarship, make sure to read the eligibility requirements closely.

true Q. What Expenses Do Scholarships Cover?

Students can use scholarships to cover many education-related expenses. However, scholarships list rules about how recipients can spend the money.

Some scholarships send the award to the student's financial aid office for distribution. Others send the money directly to recipients. When applying for scholarships, check the rules on how you can use the funds.

true Q. Where Do I Find Scholarships?

Students can find scholarships through their school's financial aid office, scholarship websites, or independent research. School counselors can also help students find scholarships.

Resources like Fastweb and the CareerOneStop scholarship finder list thousands of scholarships. The federal student aid office also recommends where to find scholarships. In addition to national scholarships, make sure to look for local scholarships. Some programs only award money to graduates of a particular high school or residents in a certain county.

Timelines for Applying for College Scholarships

Students researching when to apply for a scholarship quickly notice that scholarship deadlines fall throughout the year. Unlike college applications, which are typically due from Nov. to Jan., scholarship deadlines fall in every month. In fact, students can start applying for scholarships before they start college.

When should you start your scholarship applications? Incoming college students should start researching scholarships as soon as they apply to college. Continuing students can look for scholarships throughout the academic year and over breaks.

When you are thinking about when to apply for a scholarship, always start the application as soon as possible. If you miss a deadline, you may miss out on free money. Creating a scholarship schedule helps. List final deadlines. Also create your own deadlines to request recommendation letters and write scholarship essays. Some students like to work on their applications during summer break or between terms when they have more time.

Will Getting Private Scholarships Reduce My Financial Aid?

Scholarships can affect your financial aid eligibility. Schools calculate a student's financial need based on the gap between their expected family contribution and the cost of attendance. Many colleges reduce their financial aid package if students receive private scholarships. This is known as scholarship displacement.

Colleges must post their scholarship displacement policies. For example, scholarship displacement cannot affect federal grants or the work-study program. Schools may also offer an exemption. Some schools ban scholarship displacement to avoid discouraging students from applying to scholarships. Research the policies at your college so you know what to expect.

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