What information do I need when applying for scholarships? Let’s start with what you will NOT need. Most scholarship sponsors do not require an application fee. Don't pay anyone who claims to be “holding a scholarship or grant for you.” If you have to give money to get money, it might be a scam. Most legitimate sponsors do not require an application. Of those legitimate organizations that do charge an application fee, most will waive the fee if the applicant is determined to have financial need. If you suspect a scam, research the legitimacy of the organizations with the Better Business Bureau at bbb.com. Report the information to the State Bureau of Consumer Protection, State Attorney General's Office and the National Fraud Information Center at 800.876.7060 or e-mail Scams at Finaid.org.
1. Start looking early!
While searching for additional scholarships takes time and energy, it is well worth it if it helps reduce tuition costs. The more time you dedicate to your scholarship searches, the more options you will have.
It is not a bad idea to start looking during the summer before senior year. Once the fall semester is in full swing, students tend to be busy with class assignments in addition to college admissions applications. So, it is a good idea to look and apply during the summer for any scholarships that may have a deadline in the fall.
2. Organize scholarship materials.
Each scholarship may have a separate application deadline and specific criteria.
Many scholarships require one or more of the following:
3. Follow instructions and proofread.
Complete the application accurately and fully. Include all required materials. Ensure your applications and essays are legible and free of grammatical or spelling errors. Do not forget to sign and date the application.
4. Make copies of everything.
If your application is lost, this will make it much easier to resend your application.
5. Apply early!
Keep a calendar of application deadlines. Consider using certified mail or return receipt. While many deadlines may not be until spring of senior year, others will be earlier.
So, ideally, by the end of February your applications for admission are submitted, the FAFSA is filed and the CSS Profile is complete.* What should you do with all of your free time? Search for scholarships of course! As you wait for your acceptance letters and financial aid award packages, now is the time to focus your efforts on searching for additional college funding. A good place to start is by applying for local scholarships. Here are some FAQs about scholarships to help you get started.
*Note: If this doesn't describe your status, don't fear! There are still options and support to help you get to this stage quickly. Keep reading, but check in with you school counselor and call our office anytime to get on track. We're here to help.
"Outside" scholarship funding includes awards to students from various organizations or charities outside of a college's financial aid program intended to help students manage college costs. These programs are intended to help students pay tuition and other costs associated with higher education like room and board, fees, or books and supplies.
If you are fortunate enough to be awarded outside scholarship dollars, the funds are typically sent on your behalf directly to the college you have chosen. Once you are notified of your award, contact the college's financial aid office to determine how the college will treat outside scholarships. In many instances, the funds will be applied directly towards your balance. In other cases, such as if you receive more scholarship funding than you require to pay the cost of attendance, a college may reduce the amount of financial aid they have offered. This depends on a number of factors including your EFC (Expected Family Contribution), your initial award package, and the college's policy. Do not let this possibility discourage you from searching and applying for outside scholarships and grants. If receiving an outside scholarship reduces your need to work or borrow, it is still well worth the effort.
A few of the largest databases of national scholarships can be found online at fastweb.com, collegeboard.com, and collegetoolkit.com. Scholarships are free money; so, why not apply to as many as you can? But, it is important to remember that these are national opportunities that will have much bigger applicant pools. Still, if your credentials or background fits the program, go for it! Somebody has to win, why not you? Some examples of national scholarships include the Coca-Cola Scholars Foundation or Duck Tape's Stuck at Prom contest. Often students report that a majority of scholarship dollars came from local opportunities which presented a much higher chance of award.
Students often find great success in searching locally for college scholarships. Your school’s guidance office will have the most comprehensive source for local and regional scholarships. Your school may also have its own procedure for applying for local scholarships.
New Hampshire Charitable Foundation (NHCF) is the largest provider of publicly available scholarships in New Hampshire, awarding over $5 million to 1,700 promising students each year. Four of the Foundation’s scholarship programs are:
For information on these programs, please click here.
Many scholarship applications can be downloaded right from the Web. The applications may require a copy of your transcript, a letter of reference, or a personal essay similar to those you have written for college applications. Many will ask for a copy of your Student Aid Report (SAR) from the FAFSA. Whether you complete a paper version or submit online, remember to complete the application fully and accurately. As with your college applications and financial aid documents, deadlines are critical. Get your application in by the stated deadline to ensure your eligibility.
"Millions-billions of scholarship dollars go unclaimed every year."
While there is a small amount of money that may go unclaimed each year, this only speaks for very specific or restricted scholarships. For example, some scholarship applications restrict criteria to blue-eyed, left-handed children of sea captains in the Hillsborough County. Other "unclaimed dollars" simply are not available to the public, such as company benefit dollars.
"My buddy and I got accepted to the same college. He decided not to attend. Where did his scholarship money go?"
Offers of aid are based on an expected “yield.” Colleges are remarkably accurate in their prediction of the number of students who will attend their schools. One student’s choice will not mean additional scholarship dollars for others. You can be sure that your buddy’s decision not to attend will not impact your eligibility for aid.
"You're invited to a free seminar or financial aid interview."
You may receive a letter advertising a free financial aid seminar or interview for financial assistance. Sometimes the seminars do provide useful information, but often they are cleverly disguised sales pitches for financial aid consulting services, investment products, and scholarship matching services. Check with your school counselor or local college for advice about such programs.
"If I apply for a loan, it will lessen my chances for a scholarship."
Students and parents often mistakenly think that if they get student or parent loans colleges will reduce any scholarship money that might have been awarded. This is not so. In most cases, if a reduction is required, loans are the first component affected.
"We have a 100% success rate."
This kind of percentage reflects the scholarship search company's ability to match the student with information, not with actual funds. Remember that your chances improve greatly with local scholarship opportunities.
"You'll get access to our private network of information."
There is no secret database of information accessible only to scholarship search companies. In most cases, these companies are searching online. You'll be able to find the same information by exploring the Web addresses recommended in this pocket guide. Also, utilize your libraries, guidance offices, and bookstores. Do not pay for someone to help you find information that is readily available.
"We guarantee you $5,500 for college or your money back."
Every first year college student may borrow $5,500 through the federal student loan program. Learning about the financial aid process is critical to funding your education and avoiding scholarship scams.
"Spending time looking for scholarships isn't worth the time."
If someone offered you a part-time job for $25 an hour, would you take it? Of course you would! That is how you should view applying for scholarships – as a part-time job. If you spend 20 hours searching and applying for scholarships, and win just one $500 scholarship, you just earned $25 an hour for your efforts. Do the math – scholarships are definitely worth your time!
While much importance is placed on searching for private scholarships (those offered through the local community or civic organizations), there is some information to be aware of. It is possible that the private scholarship could change the original amount of financial aid offered.
When a student is offered a private scholarship, they are required by federal law to report that to the college they plan on attending. Once this is done, the college’s financial aid office must re-evaluate the student’s award package to determine whether or not they have been “over-awarded.”
What this means is that if the student was offered federal grants, institutional grants, loans, or work-study any of these could be reduced in favor of the private scholarship – in essence keeping the amount required to pay the bill the same.
In many cases, private scholarships will help cover the gap left between the financial aid package and the Expected Family Contribution (EFC), which is the amount the federal government determines after a student’s FAFSA is filed. However, if there is no gap, the student could possibly see reductions in aid originally offered.
Each college will have their own policy on the treatment and procedure for handling this type of situation, so it is important to discuss that with the financial aid office in advance.