How to Apply for Undergraduate Scholarships

You’re heading to college in the fall! You’ve submitted all your applications and now you’re eagerly awaiting offers of acceptance. There’s nothing to do but coast through the rest of your senior year and enjoy the ride. Not so fast. If you haven’t already done so, now’s the time to think about applying for scholarships. The good news: this is your opportunity to obtain funds to help defray college costs. The bad news: you may have to write a few more essays and complete a few more applications. But, it’s well worth the effort so you won’t have mammoth-sized student loans to repay when you graduate from college.

Know where to find them.

Don’t miss out on scholarship opportunities by not knowing where to look. Here are several places to start.

1. Your high school

The guidance department at your high school likely has all the information you’ll need to help you obtain local scholarships in your area. Some high schools will have information sessions to help you navigate through the scholarship process and determine your eligibility for various scholarships. Bedford High School in Massachusetts distributes approximately $75,000 per year through Citizen’s Scholarship Foundation Dollars for Scholars program. The awards are based on need and merit, and the process is streamlined so students only need to fill out one application in order to be considered. Additional scholarships available to Bedford students are updated on Naviance, a web based service that partners with schools to help students with college planning.

Carbondale High School in Illinois maintains an ongoing list of scholarship opportunities. Students are encouraged to check the page regularly so they don’t miss any deadlines. Interlake High School in Washington also keeps an updated list of local scholarships as well as several helpful links to scholarship sites. Find out whether or not your school has opportunities like this.

2. Your college

If you know where you’ll be attending in the fall, go to the university’s website to learn more about scholarship opportunities. The process can vary from school to school. At some schools, applying for a scholarship is relatively simple and may not require extra work. George Washington University’s website says, “Applicants are automatically considered for merit scholarships as part of the admissions process and no application is required.” Other schools may require a separate application for scholarships. The University of Wisconsin states “please note that the vast majority of scholarships at UW-Madison require that students apply for them.” To complicate matters, different scholarships may require different applications, different essays, and different deadlines. Fortunately, many universities make it relatively easy to keep track of your scholarship applications and their status. At UW-Madison, you can set up and use an online account for your scholarships which makes the process much easier.

Attending Villanova in the fall? There are many academic scholarships available, such as the Villanova Scholarships. In order to apply, students must meet minimum requirements based on class rank, SAT/ACT scores and GPA. For the 2015-16 academic year, over 1,000 admitted students received Villanova scholarships for a total of $6.88 million. How do you apply? Get your admissions application in before November 1 and you’ll be notified mid-January if you’re a finalist.

3. Scholarship search engines

Once you’ve tapped into local and university scholarships, don’t stop there. There are many more scholarships out there, just waiting for the perfect candidate’s application. Scholarship search engines are useful tools to help you find scholarships. They do the hard work for you. They use your information to filter for scholarship opportunities. To help maximize your chances of receiving scholarship funds, you may want to use a few of the search engines and not limit yourself to one.

Here are some great search engines:

The College Board
Scholarship Monkey

For more information about the differences among the search engines, check out this article by College Rank.

4. Organizations you or your family belong to

The process of applying for scholarships can be as daunting as the college admissions process itself. If you look carefully, you may find very specific scholarships for which you are eligible but others aren’t! Your chances of obtaining scholarship money go up if there isn’t that much competition. Sometimes, a parent’s employer may offer a scholarship to children of employees. Perhaps there aren’t that many employees with graduating seniors – that fact alone will give you a better chance to obtain this scholarship.


Applying for scholarships can be a lot of work! Need to get motivated? Check out the tuition costs for your school. In-state residents who attend UMass Amherst next year will pay more than $27,000 per year for tuition, room and board. At a private university like Ithaca College, you can expect to pay over $56,000 per year. Scholarships are a great resource for undergraduate funds and can go a long way toward making the costs more reasonable. What are you waiting for? Get started now!