Outside scholarships come from a wide variety of sources. High schools, local clubs, national organizations, foundations, and many others have private scholarships that students should always be on the lookout for.
Scholarship search services provide students with an efficient way to seek out scholarship opportunities. Scholarship search services should be free; we discourage students from paying for these services.
Students receiving a private scholarship are required to notify the Office of Financial Aid in writing. Their award may need to be adjusted in order to stay within federal guidelines. Whenever possible, we will reduce self-help aid (loans and work-study) first. In general, scholarships will be applied entirely to the semester in which funding is received unless otherwise specified by the awarding organization or prohibited by federal regulations.
- Preparation and Finding Opportunities
- Applying for Scholarships
- Receiving a Scholarship
- Beware of Scholarship Scams
Preparation and Finding Opportunities
If possible, students should start their junior year of high school researching what is required for each scholarship (letter of recommendation, qualifications, etc.). They should keep track of all the scholarships they plan to apply for as to not miss any opportunities or deadlines.
Research All Opportunities
Students should start locally and then move on to larger opportunities. Local and community scholarships generally have a higher rate of return.
Family and friends: Students should consider what organizations their family members are affiliated with (civic organizations, churches, professional organizations). Do any of their employers offer scholarships? If not, they should be asked them to start a program. Students shouldn’t forget about extended family members (grandparents, aunts, uncles, etc.); many scholarships are not limited to immediate family members.
High school: Students should check their school’s website and counselor’s office. They should ask their counselor and teachers whether they know of any scholarships that they could apply for or be nominated for. This can be especially helpful in the subject areas they are planning to study (i.e., those planning to study nursing should ask science teachers; those planning to study engineering should ask math and physics teachers, etc.)
Community: Students should ask local businesses if they offer scholarships. Many small businesses do not have an advertising budget, so all promotion is done by word‐of‐mouth. It never hurts to ask.
College: Students should check with their admissions counselor, financial aid office, and academic department to see if any have scholarships they can apply for or know of any specific outside resources.
Online: Students should perform their own searches through Google. Here are some helpful search terms:
“Geographic area” community or scholarship foundation: Southwest Washington Community Foundation, Santa Barbara Community Foundation, etc. This could be a student’s city, state, region, etc.
Attribute or experience that makes the student unique: Methodist scholarship, running scholarship, cancer survivor scholarship, etc.
Professional organizations: i.e., CPA scholarship, Better Business Bureau scholarship, Chamber of Commerce scholarship, etc. Get even more specific by adding in a geographic area, such as Oregon CPA scholarship.
Field of study: nursing scholarship, marketing scholarship, etc.
Diversity characteristics: female science scholarship, Hispanic scholarship, LGBTQ scholarship, etc.
Increase The Odds
Students should volunteer doing something they are passionate about. Volunteering gives one a great feeling and also provides experiences to write about in essays.
Students can create a separate professional email address for scholarship information so nothing gets lost. Using a separate email address for scholarship applications can also cut down on spam email to regular email addresses.
Students should apply to as many scholarships as possible. Think of applying to scholarships as a job. If one spends 10 hours applying for scholarships and gets one $1,000 scholarship, that is the equivalent of making $100/hour. If one worked a part‐time job at $10/hour, one would have to work 100 hours to make the same amount.
Students should keep a resume or record of all activities, including hours spent and any leadership positions held or awards won.
No scholarship is too small, so students should not ignore smaller scholarships. The pool of applicants is usually smaller which increases one’s chances of receiving the award.
Understand Scholarship Criteria
“Need” can mean a lot of different things depending on the scholarship. Some have specific income criteria while others use a more generic definition of financial need. Need does not always mean living in or close to poverty. Many middle class families are considered to have financial need as well.
“First generation” means that neither of a student’s parents completed a college degree.
“Diversity” does not always mean racial/ethnic diversity. Read the criteria carefully as diversity may mean things like a female studying in a predominately male field, a LGBTQ student or a male in a female-dominated field.
“Overcoming adversity” does not always have to mean overcoming something catastrophic. Everyone has struggles that they have overcome. If framed well, these experiences can be a powerful story.
Applying for Scholarships
Students should use a Scholarship Tracking Worksheet to stay organized and meet deadlines. They should start working on scholarships at least a month before the deadline, especially if it requires an essay or letters of recommendation. Students are encouraged to download our Scholarship Tracking Worksheet which allows them to record and track their outside scholarships. They should feel free to edit the spreadsheet based on their scholarship tracking needs. Scholarship entries will automatically be transferred to a monthly calendar so one can plan for upcoming deadlines.
Follow ALL Directions
Many scholarship applications will immediately disqualify students for not following all directions. Students should not let an oversight keep them from having an opportunity.
Write a Powerful Essay
Grammar, punctuation, and spelling count: Students should use the resources available to them at school/on campus such as tutors and writing centers.
Tell a story: Powerful essays bring the reader in and highlight one’s story.
Brag a little: Scholarship providers do not know students personally and want to know why they should give them a scholarship. What makes them special or unique? How did they get to where they are? What have they overcome and who helped them overcome it? How has this helped them to shape their future goals?
Do not reinvent the wheel: Several scholarships may have similar questions/prompts. Students should reuse a previously written essay (unless it is expressly forbidden), tailoring it for the new scholarship opportunity.
Proofread EVERYTHING: Students should review everything they submit carefully and have at least one other person read it. The more eyes the better.
Have a Great Recommender
Students should provide their recommendation writers with a packet of information to make their job easier.
Give recommenders plenty of time: At least 2‐4 weeks. Most recommenders are asked to write recommendations for many students; students should give them enough time to write more than a “form” letter.
Choose recommenders carefully:
Students should not ask a parent or relative, even if they are their teachers or have supervised them in volunteer activities.
If a scholarship focuses on a special skill set, students should ask someone who has seen them exercise that skill. For example, if athletics is considered, they should ask a coach or league official. If community service is considered, they ask a staff person or head volunteer of the organization.
If students know that a specific recommender gets many requests for recommendations, they should see if there’s someone else who might be a better fit. If someone is writing too many recommendations, they may not have time to write the best letter.
Remember, recommenders’ time is valuable, so students should provide the following information in a packet when it is asked of them:
The student’s full name and contact information
Name of scholarship and organization providing it
Where to send the recommendation letter – does it come back to the student or get mailed directly to the organization? If they are sending it to the organization, students should provide them with a stamped, addressed envelope.
Information about the scholarship and the selection criteria – this helps them tailor their letter to the scholarship.
A copy of the student’s activity chart/resume including any awards they have received.
A brief summary of the student’s history with them, including any special projects or accomplishments they had while in their class or with their organization. This could also include any challenges the student overcame during the same timeframe.
A copy of the student’s essay if they are submitting one for the scholarship.
Two copies of any forms they need to submit so they have an extra one if an error is made.
Follow up: Students should touch base with their recommenders one to two weeks before the recommendation is due to ensure they do not need additional information and will be able to meet the deadline.
Thank you note: Students should thank their recommenders for the time they have invested in their future.
Receiving a Scholarship
Write a Thank You Note
Scholarship donors like to know their funds are making a difference. It also leaves a positive reminder of the student in their minds. One never knows who may be on another scholarship selection committee.
Turn in Necessary Documentation
Students should ask the organization what they need from them to pay their scholarship. Common items may include:
Address: Get scholarship funds sent to the school by providing their address (our address is DigiPen Institute of Technology, 9931 Willows Road NE, Redmond, WA 98052)
Student ID number/SSN
Acceptance letter: Some scholarships will require proof of acceptance before they provide the student funds.
Copy of schedule or transcript: Some scholarship organizations will not release funds until the student provides proof of enrollment. Students should request documents in a timely manner to eliminate funding delays.
Contact the Financial Aid Office
All scholarships need to be evaluated to see if any adjustments must be made to the student’s financial aid package. At DigiPen, if an adjustment must be made, we will decrease loan eligibility before grant aid when possible.
Is the Scholarship Renewable?
If so, what does one need to do to renew it? Is there a certain GPA to maintain or application to fill out? Does one need to submit a copy of one’s transcripts? Students should not miss out on renewing their scholarship by missing a deadline.
Beware of Scholarship Scams
Unfortunately, there are some people who take advantage of students trying to finance their college education and cheat them out of their information and/or money. Here are some red flags to look for and what to do if one thinks they’ve encountered a scam.
“Guarantee”: No one can guarantee someone will win a scholarship. If someone is guaranteeing a student a scholarship, they are not being honest and it may be a scam.
Cost to apply: Free money should be free to apply for. Scholarship applications should not cost more than a postage stamp. If someone asks a student to pay money to apply for a scholarship, then it likely is a scam.
Cost for a service: Some people will claim to provide the service of finding and applying for scholarships for students. All of the information they can provide can be found for free using the steps we have outlined. Additionally, it’s unethical for someone to apply for a scholarship in another’s name as scholarship organizations want to award a scholarship to the student, not someone pretending to be the student.
Asking for bank account or credit card information: Legitimate scholarship organizations should not need a student’s banking or credit card information. Scholarship checks should be mailed to the student or the school they are attending.
Asking for a social security number: A social security number should not be needed on a scholarship application. If a scholarship application requests this number, the student should contact the provider and ask if it’s required and why. If they require it but do not know why or how it will be used, one should be wary and consider not applying. If the student is selected as a recipient, there may be a legitimate reason for them to request it, but one should always make sure and ask why they need it and how it will be used. If a student is still not satisfied with their answer, they should not provide it. It is the student’s identity; one should make sure they have a legitimate purpose for the information.
Think it’s a scam? Students should report it to the National Consumers League Fraud Center (www.fraud.org) and the Federal Trade Commission (www.ftc.gov).