When do I start?
Start early! Don’t Wait until the last minute. Look for scholarships throughout your academic career. Develop a list of scholarship prospects suited for YOU.
Make time in your life for scholarship searching and applications. Think of it as a research project — take it step by step for the best results, and ask for help when you need it. If you are persistent and effective, your time and effort can bring you money.
Remember, scholarships are a competitive process — and you must be your best advocate. You know best which scholarships fit you situation.
Start Today! And don’t stop until you graduate. Even if you’ve just missed an important deadline, there are always more scholarship deadlines. Although the majority of scholarship applications are due in the spring, don’t forget community-based scholarship applications can have summer and fall deadlines.
Where do I start?
What’s the difference between financial aid and scholarships?
Financial Aid is governmental funding coordinated through the Office of Financial Aid at colleges and universities. Federal grants, (i.e., Pell grants) work study, and student loans, are forms of financial aid. Most aid funds are limited; it is critical that you meet your college priority date by submitting you Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) on time. The date may vary from year-to-year, but is usually mid March.
Scholarships are competitive awards offered by various sources. Business, corporations, civic and social clubs, churches, individuals and colleges offer scholarships with specific eligibility criteria. These national or local scholarships are open to the general college population. Colleges also offer scholarships through major/minor departments and endowments, and these are for students attending a particular college.
Is scholarship money taxed?
Scholarship money in excess of the cost of tuition and fees, books and supplies, is subject to federal income tax under the Tax Reform Act of 1996. Contact your local IRS office for more information. Ask for IRS Publication 520 (1991)
How will scholarship money affect my financial aid package?
Scholarship money will affect your financial aid if you are offered an amount over the “unmet need” listed on your Award Offer. If you do receive more than your unmet need, the amount will be deducted from your loans before it affects grant or work-study money. If you have any concerns about financial aid or have been offered a scholarship, talk directly to your personal financial aid counselor to clarify your situation.
What Criteria are considered?
Eligibility criteria vary greatly and are usually based on the values or goals of the group offering the scholarship. Some of the more common criteria include grade point average, financial need, sex, age, race, ethnic identity, religious affiliation, major or minor, geographic location, talent, athletic ability, community activism, hobbies, and/or membership or involvement in a particular organization. You must meet all the criteria for a particular scholarship in order to be eligible.
What does the application process involve?
The application process for each scholarship is different. A typical application consists of a one-to-two page form requesting general biographical information and an essay. Essay topics also vary. The essay is a critical part of the application because it is often the only information the selection committee will have about each candidate.
When are scholarship applications available?
Scholarship applications are usually available four to eight weeks prior to the application deadline. If the deadline for application is in early May, the form should be available by late February or early March. The application process usually takes place a semester prior to the semester that you receive the money. You are responsible to obtain the application form either from the campus scholarship office or directly from the organization offering the scholarship.
How much money should I expect?
Scholarship awards vary in amount from $50 to thousands of dollars. The most common scholarship amount is about $500 on a one-time basis. You should have other financial resources lined up to help pay for your education. You are allowed to receive more than one scholarship at a time.