When it comes to paying for college, scholarships offer some of the best resources for students, because scholarships, like grants, provide money that students do not need to repay.
Though high school students might assume that scholarships are only available to high school seniors or that they are only available at a certain time of year, high school students of all ages can start applying for scholarships, and you’ll find opportunities year round!
The shortest, most direct answer to the question “When should high school students start applying for scholarships?” is: right now!
However, here are some more comprehensive tips and further information to help prepare you for the scholarship application process.
The most important piece of advice you’ll hear is that you should start applying for scholarships as early as possible. The earlier you start, the more scholarships you can access, and the fewer deadlines you’ll miss. Once you begin the search, you’ll likely find that opportunities seem endless.
Though you can start applying for scholarships even before high school, keep in mind that once you apply for college-focused scholarships, you’ll likely need to fill out the FAFSA (Free Application for Federal Student Aid) in case scholarship applications require it.
Start looking for scholarships for high school students as early as freshman year. Prior to senior year, many of these opportunities will be merit-based, require an essay, or ask you to submit specialized work like an art portfolio, film, or entrepreneurial idea.
Once you hit senior year, you might notice that you’ll find more specific scholarships meant to help seniors pay for the college of their dreams. The earlier you start looking for these opportunities, though, the more time you’ll have to get your materials together.
Since so many scholarship opportunities are out there to find, start keeping an organized list of possible scholarships, their deadlines, and their requirements.
Then you can start to plan out when you’ll complete the applications. Some students might find that completing a certain number of applications each week or month helps to spread out the workload, while others prefer to complete several applications during school breaks or long weekends.
Just make sure that you know each deadline as early as possible so that you don’t miss out on any of your potential opportunities.
Though scholarships are offered all year, you can definitely keep track of scholarships during the busiest seasons. Fall scholarships are available from August through December, spring scholarships are available January through May, and summer scholarships are available in June and July.
Students might wait until winter break to complete applications for scholarships, but be careful not to miss any deadlines in this case, as some scholarships do have summer or fall deadlines.
When you’re looking for scholarship resources, remember that scholarships can come from various places, not all of which will come to mind naturally. For example, not only do institutions offer scholarships for students based on merit and need but various companies, religious organizations, alumni networks, and community clubs also offer scholarships for students applying to college.
The best way to find scholarships that are right for you is to think about all the connections and resources you have in your life, from your own high school and prospective colleges to your family members’ employers and any local organizations with which you’re involved.
Start looking as soon as possible, and write down any potential opportunities that come your way. Make a list of your interests and special talents, and search for scholarships related to those activities or skills. Once you’ve exhausted all your options, you’ll likely have a long list of potential scholarships that you can start applying for now.
As you start applying for various scholarships, you’ll also notice that many scholarships require an essay, either responding to a particular prompt or offering some information about you as a student.
The best way to prepare for scholarship applications is to start practicing your essay writing skills. Search for scholarship tips and advice. For example, whenever you write a personal essay, offering details that are unique to you is always a better strategy than trying to predict what readers might be looking for in an applicant.
Brainstorm about moments in your life that have taught you the most valuable lessons, experiences you treasure, and values you hold dear. All these unique perspectives will help you write an essay that is not only unique to you but will also help you shine in any scholarship application.