Note: Most of the scholarships you will earn will come from the colleges to which you are applying. Applying to the right colleges is the way to earn the most scholarship money for most students. This page offers tips for applying to outside scholarships; these are funds that will help fill in funding gaps.
Scholarships are not only for high achieving students; there are scholarships for unusual characteristics, skills and interests:
Unusual characteristics/skills (left-handed, extra tall or short, ability to duck call)
Essay contests (Toshiba: describe future technology for students K-12)
Health issues: search through organizations dedicated to that issue; always ask if there are other organizations addressing the same issue who might offer scholarships.
In order to win, you must apply! Start as early as 7th/8th grade.
The first few take a great deal of time and work, but you can adapt your essays for future scholarships.
Look at the previous winners’ essays for particular awards. Answer the questions they ask. (Show, don’t tell. Don’t just state that you have good character; tell the story of a time you were confronted with a difficult situation and describe how you handled it).
When you win awards, add them to your resume. This adds to your qualifications to receive more awards.
Apply for at least twelve, but preferably dozens of scholarships.
There are several big databases (fastweb.com, scholarships.com etc.; check www.finaid.org for descriptions of other scholarship resources) through which you can enter your information; they will send you frequent emails with scholarship suggestions; parents can help screen scholarships and help students decide for which to apply. (Note: When entering information in the databases, I recommend that you say ‘no,’ if they ask if it is ok to connect you with colleges that might be interested in you and ‘no’ to any ads you encounter in the process. Remember: there are over 3000 colleges in the US.)
Check any other organizations with which your family is affiliated (insurance, banks, credit unions, employee unions, veteran's organizations).
Go through state agencies. In Oregon: OSAC-Oregon Student Access and Completion (http://www.oregonstudentaid.gov/scholarships.aspx) Early bird applications from seniors are due February 15; final deadline is March 1. In Washington State, go to washboard.org.
Look on Naviance at your school. You can often get the guest password for Naviance at other schools to see if they list other scholarships. Check other private and public high schools websites. Wilson High School’s guest password for Naviance is: gotrojans.
Applying for scholarships helps you learn to express your belief in yourself, and helps you learn to share that belief with others. This is a skill that will help you throughout your life.
Kathy Garrett, College Counselor
Consulting with students in Portland, Lake Oswego and other Portland, OR suburbs about choosing colleges, and offering support, expertise and encouragement through the application process.
Kathy Garrett, college consultant, Portland, Oregon, Lake Oswego, Gresham, Beaverton