Frequently Asked Questions About Scholarships
Last updated January 23, 2023
Here are some common questions students have when searching for and applying to scholarships - and our answers! Don't see your question answered here? Text #Scholarships to 33-55-77!
When to apply
When should I start applying for scholarships?
We recommend starting your search the summer before your senior year. If you find scholarships that aren’t open yet or aren’t due for a few months, be sure to save them to apply to later. By starting your scholarship research early, you can familiarize yourself with typical scholarship requirements, begin brainstorming and drafting any required application essays, and give your educators plenty of time to write you letters of recommendation. This preparation will leave you feeling more confident to begin applying in the fall!
Should I apply for scholarships before or after I’m admitted to colleges?
We recommend applying to as many scholarships as possible before being admitted or committing to any college or university. More time spent applying can lead to receiving more money for college!
I’m already in college. Is it too late to apply to scholarships?
No! There are SO many scholarships out there available to students of all ages, years in school, major, and more! It’s never too late to find money for college, so consistently searching for scholarships is key.
Where to look
Where should I look for scholarships?
How do I know if a scholarship is legit?
First and foremost: trust your gut! If you come across a scholarship or website that seems off, it probably is - so leave the website and keep searching elsewhere. There are also some things we urge students to keep an eye out for when they come across a scholarship they’re considering applying to:
- Does the website list previous winners? Legit scholarships will typically list previous winners somewhere on their scholarship homepage, so if you can’t find that anywhere, it’s usually a red flag.
- Does the website require payment to apply? Legit scholarships will NEVER require you to pay to apply. EVER. If you find a scholarship that requires payment, leave the site.
Legit scholarships will be transparent with applicants about required application materials, deadlines, timelines, and more. Always use your judgment when applying!
Do I need to complete the FAFSA in order to apply for scholarships?
Yes. Almost all scholarships will require you to have completed the FAFSA before applying. Even if you don’t think you’ll qualify for need-based aid awarded through the FAFSA, it’s still important that you complete it, since it’s a requirement to receive other forms of financial aid like scholarships, loans, and grants.
Does taking a gap year hurt my scholarship chances?
Potentially, yes. Some scholarships are only awarded to students transitioning directly from high school to college. If you already received a scholarship and now are considering a gap year, be sure to communicate clearly with the scholarship organization about your plans. They may not be able to award you the money until you begin school.
How can I best stay organized when applying to lots of different scholarships?
You're in luck! We made a free scholarship application tracker to help you stay organized during your scholarship search.
Do I have to re-apply for scholarships every school year?
It depends on the scholarship. Some are one-time scholarships, while others can renew each term or school year depending on your grades or any specific requirements the scholarship has for students to keep it. If you receive a scholarship, be sure to ask about any renewal requirements you will need to follow.
Are scholarships universally accepted by all colleges? How are they processed?
They should be. Private scholarships will likely mail a check to you that you can give to your school’s financial aid office to lower your student balance. If they can’t process it, be sure to talk to someone who represents the private scholarship as well as a financial aid officer at your school to troubleshoot. Scholarships awarded directly to you by your college or university will be applied directly to your student financial aid account.
Are there scholarships for students with a GPA less than 3.0?
Of course! Google “scholarships with no GPA requirements” or check out Niche’s list to start looking.
Do most scholarships require test scores?
All scholarships will have different submission requirements (like essays, test scores, etc.) so it’s super important to thoroughly read the requirements of each individual scholarship. Some may require SAT/ACT scores, while others won’t.
How long should my scholarship essay be?
It depends on the scholarship you’re applying to. If you’re required to write an essay, the organization should give you a prompt, essay length, and any other important information you need to write and submit your essay. If they don’t specify the length, a good general rule is to make it around 5 paragraphs long, including an introduction and conclusion.
For scholarships that require a letter of recommendation, can you reuse past letters of recommendation?
Typically yes - but ALWAYS:
- Check in with the person who wrote you a letter of recommendation to give them a head’s up before submitting it. This way they’ll be prepared in case someone from the scholarship organization reaches out to them to talk.
- Be sure the letter of recommendation doesn’t reference a different scholarship.