Harper College

Be a sleuth when applying for scholarships

Finding scholarships to pay for college expenses can feel a bit overwhelming but in the long run they can really pay off! Here are some valuable tips to help you (or the college student in your family) find money.

Be on the lookout
College scholarships are everywhere. They are offered by companies, organizations, religious groups, not-for-profits, civic groups and other sources. Promoted nationally and locally, scholarship opportunities can be found at libraries, schools, and online databases. Scholarships are awarded to all types of students, not just straight-A students, top athletes, or lower-income students.

Apply! Apply! Apply!
It can take time to apply for scholarships. Read the application requirements and qualifications to see if the scholarship is a good match with your interests and education goals.

  • Apply for as many scholarships as you want. The more you apply, the more chances you have.
  • Scholarships offered nationally may have a higher award, but the applicant pool may be larger and more competitive than local scholarships.
  • Apply for small scholarships. These awards can add up!

Separate yourself on your application
Application questions and essays allow you to tell your story. Writing about yourself can be challenging, so keep these in mind:

  • Draft a list of key points you want to include in the application.
  • Make your responses memorable by providing personal, detailed examples that demonstrate how you meet the qualifications required for the scholarship. Include information about your relevant leadership, life experiences and goals that make you stand out from the pack.
  • Complete and submit the application early. Avoid the temptation to submit it on the last day that it is due. Reviewers can spot a rushed job by the incomplete thoughts and grammar errors that are more likely when you hurry.
  • Prepare a draft and ask others who know you well to critique the application responses and essays.

Get Organized
Create a scholarship file and master calendar to keep on task. Each scholarship has its own application, deadlines, and instructions.

  • Know each application deadline and plan ahead.
  • Read and follow the application instructions carefully to not miss a critical step. You may need time to gather information and documentation.
  • Double check that you answered every question completely.
  • Write your name on each page of the application.
  • Keep back-up copies of each application if there is any follow-up needed with the scholarship sponsor.
  • Track when scholarship award recipients will be announced.
  • Keep scholarship award information for those you receive. Identify any steps you need to complete with the scholarship sponsor and/or the college.
  • If the scholarship is renewable, know what steps you need to take and when.

Beware of Scholarship Scams

If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is. The Federal Trade Commission has prepared resources to protect consumers against scholarship scam services.

If you have questions, ask. Reach out to financial aid experts at the college, counselors at the high school and the scholarship sponsor. We all want to help you achieve your educational goals!

Looking for more resources?

Check out Harper’s Ultimate College Planning Guide. You’ll find in-depth information about finding a college, choosing a major, applying for college, paying for college and so much more.

Last Updated: 3/14/24