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Managing Editor
Carrie Sealey-Morris has covered bootcamps, careers, and higher education for College Consensus since 2017. Carrie is a graduate of the University of New Mexico where she earned a B.A. in American Studies. 
Founder/Senior Editor
B.A., M.Div.
Jeremy Alder has spent over a decade researching and writing about higher education to provided students with the information they need to achieve their goals. He has significant personal experience with career transitions, working as a freelance writer and editor, non-profit director, community organizer, preacher, teacher, retail manager, and carpenter prior to founding College Consensus. Homeschooled from the second grade, Jeremy is a graduate of the University of Texas at Austin (B.A., Philosophy) and Duke University Divinity School (M.Div.). He currently lives in North Carolina with his wife, five kids, and a Labradoodle named Hank.

The Federal Student Aid website says when you’re looking for a scholarship, find as many as possible and apply for all of them. All of them! Paying for college is expensive, and every scholarship makes a dent in the amount you’ll have to pay. Scholarships cut down on those student loans too. Students should treat applying for scholarships like they treat every other part of preparing for college – be systematic, be organized, and take it seriously.

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How Do I Find Scholarships For Me?

There are literally thousands of scholarships offered by schools, companies, religious groups, and nonprofit organizations. Best of all, you don’t have to pay back the money you get from scholarships.

But can you get more than one scholarship? Absolutely! You can get money from all the scholarships and grants you want. You just have to qualify! Most organizations will want proof that you’re in school. Some will ask your GPA. But you can have as many scholarships as you can earn. There’s no limit!

There are so many types of scholarships available and some are incredibly specific in how the student can use them. They should make sure that they are using the scholarships as intended. 

The first thing to do is contact your school to see what scholarships, grants or loans they offer. The financial aid office will have a list of all scholarships and grants that school offers. They can explain the requirements. Schools offer their scholarships only to students who are enrolled or have been accepted at that school.

Once you’ve done that, dive into the many resources online providing contact information for scholarships that may meet your needs in helping you pay for college.

How Do I Find Scholarships in My Area?

In every state, there are scholarships just for residents. Looking for weird scholarships in Alabama? This is the place! Here are some of the best from each state.

Are There Scholarships for Online Students?

Yes, there are scholarships just for online college students! Here are some of our favorites:

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Best Scholarships for Online Students

Are There Scholarships for Minorities?

Colleges used to be very closed spaces to women and minorities. But today, colleges all over the US are working to admit the best and brightest of all backgrounds. Here are some scholarships for minority students.

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Biggest Scholarships for Black and African-American Students
Biggest Scholarships for Latino and Hispanic Students
Biggest Scholarships for LGBTQ Students
Biggest Scholarships for Women

Are There Scholarships for Disabled Students?

Just like with minorities, students with disabilities used to be shut out of most colleges. But today, colleges realize students with learning differences and physical limitations make their school a better place. Now there are many scholarships for disabled students.

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Scholarships for Students with Disabilities

Scholarships for Students with Learning Disabilities

Scholarships for Students on the Autism Spectrum

Are There Scholarships for Specific Majors?

There are lots of college majors that use major-specific scholarships to attract students. Some are looking for underrepresented students. Some just want to grow their field. For example, there are computer science scholarships for black students, because minority students often faced exclusion in the past.

So if you’re looking for scholarships for design students or scholarships for mental health counseling programs (for just two examples), you’ve come to the right place.

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Art and Design Scholarships
Business School Scholarships
Counseling and Psychology Scholarships
Computer Science Scholarships
Education Scholarships
Law & Criminal Justice Scholarships
Liberal Arts Scholarships
Nursing School Scholarships
Social Work Scholarships
STEM Scholarships
Trade School Scholarships

What are the Highest-Paying Scholarships?

Cut to the chase – which scholarship gives the most money?

When you start researching, it’s amazing how many scholarships there are. The big college scholarships – the big money scholarships – are extremely competitive. But you might not need the highest paying scholarships. There are lots of smaller scholarships out there that have hardly any competition.

So don’t just go looking for the largest scholarships. A high-paying scholarship that has thousands of applicants might not be as good a fit as several small scholarships you can get easily.

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Biggest College Scholarship
Biggest Scholarship for First in Family
Biggest Scholarship for Veterans and Their Families

What Are Some Criteria for Scholarships?

The US Department of Labor has a scholarship finder that provides students a way to search for any scholarships and grants for which they might be eligible. The US Department of Education also has a website with information about scholarships for each state. They list the best scholarship websites for college available within each state.

Often students do not realize that scholarships are not all based on need or high grades. Some of them are based on having leadership skills, or studying a certain major, like nursing. Some of these scholarships are awarded based on where the student lives.

There are countless scholarships for all kinds of demographics. You can find multiple scholarships you qualify for!

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Many groups offer scholarships to their members or their members’ families. Check with any groups you’re already in – you might be surprised what’s available! Even your employer might offer scholarships to you or your kids. The key is to ask – you never know until you try!

Most people think scholarships are just about financial need, but that’s not always true! There are actually tons of scholarships out there that don’t consider your finances at all. Online search tools can help you find scholarships that fit your interests and background. These websites often have millions of scholarships listed, and you can filter them based on what you’re looking for.

While most scholarships target college undergraduates, especially freshmen, there are options for all ages! Just remember, even if you win a freshman year scholarship, it might not last all four years. You’ll likely need to reapply each year. To keep that money flowing, focus on keeping your grades up!

There are many scholarships given based your planned major or career path after graduation. Some career paths have a big need students in that area, and they offer many scholarships. Students in areas such as healthcare, especially nursing, education, and engineering are known to receive generous scholarships. But even if you’re not sure of your major or what career path you want to take, there are many other scholarship options available.

Scholarships come in all shapes and sizes, not just for top grades. You can find them for writing skills, leadership, community service, and even your favorite hobby. There are online databases that can help you search for scholarships based on your interests!

Not everyone gets to be a superstar athlete, but there are still sports scholarships out there! While many schools offer them to top athletes, local groups and organizations might have scholarships for talented young players in your area.

Even if you are still in high school, it is not too early to start looking for scholarships. There are some scholarships available for high school juniors to use during their freshman year of college. When you’re choosing schools you’d like to attend, you should also look for scholarships to apply to.

What’s the Scholarship Application Timeline?

As soon as you start to seriously think about and look at colleges, you should also consider scholarships. Many students are applying for scholarships, so it is best to start the process as early as possible.

Even if you’re already in college, that does not mean that you should stop applying for scholarships. They are available at all levels and you should continue to apply each year. The SallieMae site offers advice on when to begin applying for scholarships. They suggest applying as early and often as possible.

Pay close attention to the deadlines of the scholarships. Some of them are the year before college starts, so it is important to be aware of the dates. For many scholarships, you don’t even have to know to which college they are going. Most scholarship applications are fairly simple, but it is important to make sure you meet all of the criteria before applying.

Don’t rush scholarship applications! Give yourself plenty of time to fill them out and gather any extra documents. A tiny mistake can mean missing out on the money. Read everything carefully, including the fine print. Call if anything is confusing. Most applications now are online, but if it must be handwritten, use your best penmanship and keep it neat – no wrinkles, smudges, or dirt! Get a second pair of eyes on it – ask a parent, friend, or teacher to proofread your essays and answers before hitting submit.

The most important thing to remember is to follow all the rules and criteria of submission. Students will be eliminated for not following the directions completely. Students should make sure if the scholarship can be emailed, or if it has to go in the postal mail. They should always make sure to submit everything on time. Students should give themselves enough time to apply and not wait for the last minute.

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Can I Apply for Scholarships Online?

Yes, you absolutely can apply for scholarships online. Not only that, but for most, you can apply for scholarships online for free. Students should not have to pay to apply for a scholarship. If a site or a particular scholarship is asking for a fee, or payment, avoid that site. It is most likely a scam.

There are a few exceptions. Some scholarships come from groups that require membership. Some of those groups have annual dues or membership fees. These fees are required to be a member of the group, not to apply for the scholarship, and those fees are there whether or not you applies for the scholarship.

The financial guru and podcaster, Clark Howard, has an article that provides some tips on how to apply for scholarships online. They also provide links to websites students can use to apply for free scholarships. One thing to keep in mind, while applying for scholarships online is easy, always make sure you meet the criteria for the scholarship. Someone has to actually read these applications. Don’t waste your time and theirs if you don’t qualify.

Applying online saves time and hassle! You can reuse essays and answers from previous applications by storing them on your computer. Some scholarship sites even let you save info to pre-fill future applications. The online process is generally easier, and the more you apply, the quicker you’ll get at it. But remember, deadlines are strict! Don’t miss out on a scholarship because you forgot to hit submit on time. Stay organized!

How Do I Write a Scholarship Essay?

There are thousands of students applying for the same scholarships. In most cases, there is only one, maybe two, scholarship to award. Out of the thousands that apply, only one student will be selected. Those are tough odds and each application a student submits should be the absolute best it can be. Many scholarship applications require an essay. The essay portion of the application has to stand out and present you the best way possible.

Feeling overwhelmed by scholarship applications? Don’t waste time! Focus on scholarships where your skills and experiences shine. Read the essay topic carefully – is it a good fit for you? Here’s how to craft winning essays that get noticed.

Craft a Killer Essay:

  • Time Investment: This is crucial! Devote significant time to write a strong essay.
  • Repurpose & Revise: Reuse essays for multiple applications with minor tweaks to fit the specific prompt.
  • Length & Format: Follow the guidelines EXACTLY. Going over the word limit or using the wrong format disqualifies you immediately.
  • Research Matters: Learn about the scholarship provider. Tailor your essay to their values and mission.
  • Personal Touch: Stand out! Share a personal story, experience or passion that connects you to the scholarship.
  • Proofread Like a Pro: Go beyond spell check! Double check and triple check for spelling and grammatical errors. Get a second pair of eyes, ideally a teacher or strong writer, to review your essay for errors.
  • Stay On Point: Make sure your essay has a clear focus and avoids tangents. Keep the reader engaged!
  • Compelling Content: Write about what ignites you! Passion translates to a captivating essay.
  • Strong Presentation: This is your chance to shine! Show the selection team your best self through your writing.

Use resources like the Purdue Online Writing Lab (OWL) for essay writing techniques.

You’re going to really need to spend time on the essay. The essay might be the deciding factor in whether you get the scholarship or not. You may be able to use the same essay for multiple applications with just a few tweaks, but be aware of specific requirements. Every application is unique, and not following the rules may disqualify you immediately. The reviewers will not look any further at the essay if the rules are not followed.

Scholarship essays have to grab the reader’s attention and hold it. Write about stuff you really care about – that passion shows. Make sure your essay has a clear point and sticks to it. Reviewers are reading tons of essays, so don’t wander off topic or they’ll get lost. This essay is your chance to impress the scholarship committee, so make it your best work!

By following these steps, you’ll craft scholarship essays that stand out from the crowd and increase your chances of landing those awards!

What Can I Use Scholarships For?

Attending college is expensive. The cost of the tuition and books and room and board can be enough to put students in a position where they cannot afford to go to college. Then, there are other unforeseen costs such as furnishing a dorm room and extra fees and materials that are needed for classes. Students often need laptops and other expensive equipment for college. Fortunately, there are loans, grants and scholarships available to students to help with the cost of college.

Before jumping in and applying for scholarships, students should be aware of how they can be used. US News and World Report printed an article within the last year highlighting all the ways in which a student can use a scholarship. Some scholarships are clear in their criteria in the ways the student may use the money.

The money from a scholarship can usually be used for tuition first. Some scholarships can be used only for tuition. When a scholarship can only be used for tuition, the money is typically sent directly to the school. It is rarely sent to the student for the student to then give to the school. 

One thing to keep in mind is scholarship money may impact any financial aid that a student is receiving, so they should always check that. Often times, financial aid is reduced dollar for dollar based on the amount of the scholarship. If the scholarship is awarded for $2,000, then $2,000 may be taken away from financial aid. Students must always report any scholarships they have been awarded to their school.

Some scholarships can be used for any type of educational cost. The scholarship checks are sent directly to the student to be used for whatever needs he or she may have. This money can be used for books or room and board. Some scholarships can be used for living expenses, like food and furnishing a dorm room. Typically, when the money is sent directly to the student, there is no tracking as to how the money is spent. It is up to the student to ensure the money is spent on the intended purpose. The student will have to be responsible because if the money is used on unintended items, that will be less money the student has for book or room and board.

Scholarships may have tax implications for the student or the student’s parents. Money used for tuition, fees, books and other supplies is tax free. Money used for things such as living expenses or room and board are considered an income and therefore, taxable.

Another consideration for students when deciding how to use scholarship money is the degree they are working towards. Some scholarships are for a bachelor’s degree only or graduate degree only. Some scholarships require proof of the program to which the student is enrolled to ensure it is a specific degree program or course of study. Some scholarships also require a specific GPA and request proof of grades either with a transcript, or a record of the grade.


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Ready to start your journey?

Ready to start your journey?