Applying for scholarships can be challenging, especially if you don’t how to start. But acquiring scholarship money can reduce – or even eliminate! – your college debt that would otherwise have to be paid back once you graduate. According to Melanie Hanson, research analyst and senior editor of Education Data Initiative, the average debt a student had in 2021 when they graduated was $31,100. So, it is worth looking for scholarships to reduce your financial burdens and allow you to focus entirely on your studies and future life.

What is a Scholarship?

Before we talk about applying for scholarships, you need to know what they are. states, “a scholarship is a financial support awarded to a student, based on academic achievement or other criteria that may include financial need, for schooling.” According to, some schools offer scholarships to attract talented students to improve their prestige and gain good publicity. Scholarships are also used to increase enrollment numbers, especially in underrepresented categories.

Even though scholarships are a type of financial aid, they are very different from grants and loans. Grants don’t need to be paid back but they are awarded based on financial need rather than merit-based achievement. Loans, however, must be paid back with added interest. Because of the minimal requirements to apply, loans are often more accessible, but they can result in decades of debt.

applying for scholarships

How Scholarships Can Help

According to Liz Knueven and Ryan Wangman, reporters for Business Insider, the average college tuition is $10,740 per year for in-state students and $27,560 for out-of-state students. And this does not include the costs of living, like rent, food, gas, etc. Many students and their families simply do not have this type of money saved up and they are ineligible for other forms of financial aid, like loans and grants. Luckily, scholarships can be the solution!

Depending on the amount of scholarship money obtained, you may not need a job while you are pursuing your college degree, which would allow you to focus completely on your academic pursuits. Furthermore, being awarded scholarships sends the message that you are determined and reliable. Thus, listing acquired scholarships to your resume can improve your chances of being hired for internships and jobs. Plus, scholarships can also help create relationships with the awarding organization and all people involved. Winning a scholarship means you’re a part of an exclusive community where you’ll be able to develop relationships that can be beneficial for your future. As you can see, applying for scholarships comes with many benefits. Here are some tips for how to start your scholarship application process now.

1. Finding Scholarships

In order to apply for scholarships, you first have to know where to find them. A great place to start is your college’s website. Look for pages about topics like financial aid, funding, tuition, or fees. Then search for information exclusively about scholarships (not grants or loans). Your school may also have a Financial Aid Office where you can ask for more info.

You can also register for independent scholarships. We love where you can find not only scholarships but also fellowships, grants, and other awards. is another fantastic resource. What makes this site stand out is the variety of categories it has like GPA, ethnicity, state, etc. And another favorite is because it matches you based on your background, such as being a child of divorced parents, being affiliated with a religious group, or the profession you are striving for. Each of these resources has tools to help narrow down your search, including filters for level of study, award type, where you live, where you’ll study, etc.

applying for scholarships

2. Avoiding Scams

Your scholarship search may have you come across some scams trying to trick you into giving them money. According to, scammers often use pressure tactics, such as “Buy now or miss this opportunity.” Scammers also tend to make promises, like guaranteeing financial aid.

Someone running a scam may also ask for your credit card and banking information. Remember to never give out personal information like this to a person or organization until you know they are one hundred percent legitimate. suggests that you can check these organizations by searching their name online alongside “scam” or “fraud” and see what others say about them. You can also ask what their refund policy is because scams typically make it hard to get your money back. Once you’re certain the scholarship is not a scam, you can start completing the requirements for applying.

3. Preparing the Requirements

While the specific requirements for each scholarship will differ, there are general tasks you must complete. For instance, you will likely need to submit school transcripts (official and/or unofficial versions). So make sure you know your school’s process for this in advance, as it often takes several weeks for the schools to provide transcripts. Also, be sure to have copies of your entrance exam scores (i.e. ACT, SAT, and the like), as funders for the scholarship will want to know your present aptitudes.

Letters of Recommendation

Letters of Recommendation are another common requirement. So start asking your teachers, bosses, coaches, and mentors in advance to give them time to write their recommendations. Be sure to choose references who can vouch for your character, skillset, and ethics You should also have an updated resume ready. Make sure it includes concise details of your relevant experience, like part-time jobs, volunteer work, and club membership. Additionally, it is advisable to review your social media pages (especially if they are public), removing any questionable content that may make the scholarship funders think twice before giving you a scholarship. And lastly, we recommend getting a professional photo of yourself to send to the funders if they need it for a press release or newsletter.

Application Essay

Another common requirement for scholarship applications is an essay. Funders view this as a way to learn more about who you are as an individual. Be sure to carefully read all of the requirements for the essays so you do not miss a single step. Even slight errors in following directions can cause your application to be rejected. When composing your essay, remember to stay genuine about who you are, instead of just saying what you think they want to hear. Inauthenticity is easy to spot. Focus on what you want the readers to know about you and make that shine in your unique way. WorldWise Tutoring has some resources to help, like our College Application Essays blog, General Essay Outline, and English Grammar and Usage guide.

applying for scholarships


Applying for scholarships can bring you many benefits like helping you pay for college, making you look good for your resume, and creating connections. However, you have to be wary of scams and be prepared for the scholarship requirements. Luckily, the professionals at WorldWise Tutoring can help with all of the phases of applying for scholarships. Find a tutor today!

Written by Xavien Timoll