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Questions to Help You 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. 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 open to certain students based on demographics, location, or field of study. There could also be special requirements like a minimum GPA or number of community service hours.

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. 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 its 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 tuition, room and board or fees only 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.

List of Websites to Start Your Scholarship Search

There are a number of scholarship databases available online where you can start your scholarship search. Bookmark the sites and check them early and often as new scholarships can pop up every day.


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Types of Scholarships

Scholarships come in various types and can be awarded for different aspects of an applicant’s identity, academic accomplishments, or extracurricular activities. Here are a few different types of scholarships you can apply for:  

Scholarships for Minorities

Many different types of scholarships are available to minorities which include students of color, LGBTQ students, and international students. Minority-identified students can qualify for these scholarships based on a number of factors including academic merit, athletic ability, and interest in specific fields of study.

Scholarships for Women

There are also scholarships available today to help women (and feminine identifying people) pursue higher education. A wide range of local, national, and international organizations offer scholarships specifically for women to help alleviate the financial burden of attending college. Some are geared towards women returning to school after raising children or for women who are a part of ethnic minority groups. Since women have been historically underrepresented in higher education and the workforce, many of these scholarships are offered to women who are working to close the gap in educational attainment, particularly in fields like science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM). Check out womens’ organizations like the American Association of University Women or your local League of Women Voters chapter to start your scholarships search.

Athletic Scholarships

An athletic scholarship is awarded based predominantly on an individual’s ability to play a sport. Most often, athletic scholarships are awarded by universities to high achieving athletes who play Division I or II sports for their school. This usually entails the student signing a letter of intent which cements their commitment to enroll at the school and play the sport for which they were recruited. Aside from Division I and II schools, many private organizations also offer scholarships for students who have excelled in athletics.

Religious Scholarships

Religious scholarships are available to students who are actively involved with faith-based religious activities or a part of a particular religious community. These scholarships help students of varying religions attend college when they otherwise might not be able to.

Scholarships for Veterans and Military

There are a wide range of scholarships available for military service members and veterans. Some of these opportunities are specific to a particular military branch (like those from the Marine Corps Scholarship Foundation). These scholarships are not only available to service members. Many military-related scholarships are also open to dependents and spouses of active duty and veteran military members are also eligible for a wealth of financial aid opportunities and other benefits. There are also scholarships available that are reserved for women military members and veterans including funding from the Women’s Overseas Service League.

LGBT Scholarships

Due to the hardships lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer students have faced in the past, scholarships for LGBT students are available from both private and public organizations. These scholarships exist to help LGBTQ students overcome the barriers that are a result of their sexual orientation or gender identity. The Human Rights Campaign, local PFLAG chapters, and groups like the Pride Foundation, all offer scholarships for LGBTQ students who are headed to or currently enrolled in college. The Human Rights Campaign website features a database of LGBTQ scholarships which you can filter by state. LGBTQ scholarships are also available to those who advocate for LGBTQ rights or are otherwise active in the LGBTQ community.

College-specific Scholarships

Individual universities and colleges offer many scholarships specifically for students who attend their school. These scholarships, which are sometimes offered in conjunction with an offer of admission, are provided to help students ease the financial costs of attending the granting institution as well as encourage the student to choose the school over one offering fewer incentives.

Scholarships for Graduate Students

Scholarships for graduates students, including PhD candidates, those in med school, STEM majors, among others, are available from local, national, and international organizations. Grad school scholarships can be merit or need based and like scholarships for undergraduates, they can be granted based on other factors like field of study, personal identity, residency, or school.

Koodoos - Providing Expert Help with Personal Statements and College Admissions Essays