Seek and Secure Scholarships for College

(UNDATED) – If your teen is counting on scholarships to bankroll his or her education, then check out these tips on how and when to apply for scholarships as well as the many options open to students.

Grants and scholarships share a common trait – this is money that doesn’t need to be repaid.

Grants are typically awarded on the basis of financial need, such as the federal Pell Grant for low-income students. Need-based grants are awarded at the federalstate, or college level.

Scholarships, however, are usually awarded on merit, whether it’s for academics, athletic ability, or a specific talent.

While some private scholarships are based on whether a student is from a low-income family, such as the Jack Kent Cooke Foundation College Scholarship Program, there’s usually a merit component. Private scholarships are typically awarded by private foundations, nonprofits, for-profit corporations, or philanthropists, to name a few sources.

Students should start their search with local scholarships since these awards are often less competitive, experts say. But it’s still important to sign up with a few national scholarship database websites.

Different types of national scholarships are listed on database search websites, including,, and

Students who aim to win multiple local scholarships can end up significantly outpacing those who apply only for highly competitive national scholarships, some experts say.

Here are steps students can take to find and win local scholarships:

  • Ask guidance counselors about local scholarships.
  • Research past local scholarships.
  • Use existing community connections.
  • Apply for local scholarships strategically.

While many high school students apply for college scholarships during their senior year, experts say they can begin their search and the application process much earlier.

Experts suggests filling out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid, or FAFSA, even if a family doesn’t think it will qualify, since some scholarship applications require a submitted FAFSA for eligibility.

College students can still apply for scholarships when they’re in school. In fact, experts say some of the best places for students to search for scholarships include their school’s financial aid office or academic department.

While many application deadlines are March 1, experts recommend students begin the process earlier to increase their odds of nabbing more scholarship money.

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