7 Questions to Help Improve Your Scholarship Search


With 1000s of scholarships available to the average student, there are many different factors to consider when deciding if a scholarship is right for you. Scholarships are a good source of money for school because they don’t have to be repaid and they’re available for every level of education and field of study. If you’re applying to opportunities weekly, you could amass a somewhat lengthy list of potential scholarships over time, so it’s essential to know the details for each scholarship and have some guidelines on hand to help you organize the scholarships you find.

Here’s a list of questions to ask about each scholarship you’re interested in to help you improve your search:

Am I eligible for the scholarship?

Consider the criteria you must meet as an applicant to qualify to win the scholarship. Scholarship requirements can be based on merit or need or only open to students within specific demographics, locations, or fields of study. There could also be special requirements like a minimum GPA, a certain number of community service hours worked, or participation in specific activities.

What documents or items do I need to submit with the scholarship application?

Many scholarship applications require the applicant to provide various types of information to qualify for their scholarships. This information is used to verify an applicant’s credentials or learn more about the applicant by way of an essay, for instance. Depending on the number of documents or information that must be submitted for an application, completing the application could take from less than an hour to multiple weeks and consume as much time as college applications. Common documents that scholarship applications require include:

  • Official or unofficial transcripts

  • One or more personal essays

  • Test scores (ACT, SAT, GRE, GMAT, LSAT)

  • A tuition statement

  • Letters of recommendation

  • A resume

  • Proof of residency or citizenship

  • Monthly budget

  • A list of other financial resources

How much is the scholarship worth?

Scholarships are awarded for various amounts that range from a few hundred dollars to hundreds of thousands of dollars. Based on the cost of your tuition, a single scholarship can cover the entire costs, or on the other hand, mean you have to find additional sources of funding like students loans or grants. Just remember, every little bit counts, so don’t be hesitant to apply for scholarships of every amount.

When does the scholarship expire?

Some scholarships are one-time awards that are paid out in full upfront. Others are distributed over time and can last as little as a few semesters or the length of your education. Most scholarships will provide details in the application about whether a scholarship is renewable over time. It’s important to consider this factor when prioritizing what scholarships you apply for.

Does the scholarship organization’s mission align with my personal beliefs or identity?

Scholarship organizations provide funds to high-achieving and/or needy students in order to fulfill a mission and to help students get an education. When it comes time to answer the scholarship application question, “why should you receive this scholarship?”, you want to be sure your reasoning aligns with the mission of the organization, whether it be a religious institution, a sports association, and or an LGBT advocacy group, to increase your chances of winning the award. It’s also important to know that you’re personally ok with accepting money and support from an organization considering their principles and vision.

Does the scholarship application require an interview?

While most scholarship application processes don’t require an interview with the applicant, some do. Be sure that you can conduct the interview whether it's in the first, second, or final phases of the selection process. The scholarship application requirements should list:

  • If an interview will be required to select winners

  • During what time frame interviews will occur

  • If the interview will be by phone, video, or in-person

  • Details about who will conduct the interview

What can I use the scholarship funds for?

A lot of scholarships restrict their funds to being used for only tuition, room and board, or fees and are paid directly to your school’s finance office. For these scholarships, granting organizations usually require awardees to return or forfeit any funds over the amount required to pay tuition and fees in full. Other scholarships permit winners to use scholarship awards for any type of school or living expenses and are paid directly to the recipient. While the latter type of scholarship, may sound more appealing, you should keep your search broad to maximize your scholarship opportunities.