Student News

8 Scholarship Tips You Haven't Heard Before

Fastweb Editor, Shawna Newman, shares expert scholarship advice with PHEAA.

Kathryn Knight Randolph

December 15, 2023

8 Scholarship Tips You Haven't Heard Before
Be prepared for the scholarship search with expert advice from Fastweb’s Managing Editor, Shawna Newman.
At Fastweb, we always say that applying for scholarships is a numbers game: the more you apply to, the better your chances of winning. But when should you start? What's the best way to search for scholarships? How can you protect yourself from scholarship scams? Fastweb's Managing Editor, Shawna Newman, covers these questions and more in her interview with Tiffanie DeVan from the Pennsylvania Higher Education Assistance Agency (PHEAA). Read on to learn more about the best ways to navigate the scholarship search and application process.
  1. 8 Scholarship Tips for All Students

    1. Know the different types of scholarships.

    There are two broad scholarship categories that awards will fall into: merit-based and financial need.

    Merit-Based Scholarships

    Merit-based scholarships are distributed to students based on their academic performance, extracurricular involvement, or community service hours. These scholarships are given to students by colleges in recognition of their hard work in high school and to entice students to attend by lowering the cost of attendance. Students may also find merit-based scholarships within their own community or from private organizations.

    Financial Need Scholarships

    Financial need scholarships require students to demonstrate their need for financial assistance in order to attend college. Typically, these applications will require students to complete their Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) as this is the best way to demonstrate individual financial need. These need-based scholarships will come from college as well as private organizations. This is just one reason why it's crucial for students to complete the FAFSA, especially students that come from low-income households.
  2. 2. Search early for scholarships.

    The sooner you familiarize yourself with scholarships and the financial aid process, the better off you'll be. Educating yourself before junior year will give you a leg up on other candidates who wait to begin their scholarship search until senior year of high school. Use your freshmen and sophomore years to build a strong academic foundation, get involved in activities, and start volunteering. In doing so, you're turning yourself into a great scholarship candidate. Connect with your high school counselor early in your academic career. They will know about scholarship opportunities exclusive to your community, and they'll also be able to guide you through the college and financial aid application process.
  3. 3. Gather information and follow instructions.

    One of the keys to being successful in the scholarship search is to stay organized. Start by creating an electronic scholarship folder, which can house your letters of recommendation, transcripts, essays, and any scholarships that you've found that you may be interested in. When you apply for scholarships, be sure you're following all the instructions precisely and have someone review your application. Failing to follow directions or making a mistake on your application is the quickest way to get it rejected.
  4. 4. Apply for small scholarship awards.

    While big brand name scholarships will come with a higher scholarship amount, they will also come with a bigger applicant pool. For example, the $100,000 Dr. Pepper Tuition Giveaway receives thousands of applications. Smaller awards for a few hundred dollars will have smaller applicant pools. This makes your odds of winning the scholarship greater. Students should be applying for both large and small scholarships. Those smaller awards may be able to cover books and supplies for a semester, which can be an extra expenditure that sneaks up on college students. A dollar won is one less dollar a student will have to borrow. So don't discriminate against scholarships because of their smaller award amount. Apply to all of them!
  5. 5. Create scholarship application goals.

    Set application goals for yourself, like applying to two scholarships per month or per week. Create goals that are attainable for you based on your academic and extracurricular schedule, and then make pursuing these goals a habit. If there are seasons in your life that are especially busy, stick to your goals by applying to quick and easy scholarships. These are scholarship applications that require just a few minutes of your time; they may simply be a form to fill out. During those seasons that you do have more time, set aside a few hours each week to work on essays or video submissions. Use your free time to apply for awards that require a bit more work. These particular opportunities also have smaller applicant pools, so your odds of winning are greater.
  6. 6. Know the scholarship scam warning signs.

    Unfortunately, there are scholarship scams that students need to be mindful of as they're searching. You should never have to pay to apply for a scholarship. Beware of scholarship applications that ask for your social security, bank account, or credit card numbers. Also, scholarship sites that guarantee you'll win a scholarship are not legitimate as well as any organization that requires you to pay a scholarship "disbursement" or "redemption" fee. Conducting your scholarship search on a platform like Fastweb can protect you from scholarship scams. Each scholarship in our database has been verified by a real person on our research team. Consider Fastweb a "scholarship scam firewall" that will make sure each award you see is legitimate.
  7. 7. Use social media to find scholarships.

    You're on social media for hours a day anyway, right? You might as well use it to help you along the scholarship search. Many organizations will advertise scholarship opportunities on their social channels, and Fastweb oftentimes features noteworthy scholarships for our followers to apply to. To find scholarships on social media, utilize hashtag searches and follow us on Instagram, TikTok, Facebook, and Twitter at @payingforschool.
  8. 8. Continue the scholarship search after high school.

    So many students do themselves a disservice by limiting their scholarship search to the junior and senior years of high school. There is a plethora of scholarships for college, grad, vo-tech, and nontraditional students. Make applying to scholarships a habit that continues throughout your academic career. Additionally, searching for scholarships can be a family affair. Parents can create a Fastweb profile to help their students find relevant scholarships as well. Working together as a team can make quite an impact to a student's scholarship search and application journey. Fastweb is a free scholarship matching service. To take advantage of our services, you must simply create a profile. Once you've completed the registration, you'll be directed to a list of scholarships for which you qualify based on your academic aspirations, extracurricular involvement, work experience, and more.

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