The Scholarship System: 6 Steps on How to Win College Scholarships and Secure Financial Aid

5 Things You Need to Know About the Scholarship Process

The idea of applying to scholarships can be overwhelming for students and parents alike. Many people have a range of misconceptions about how the scholarship process works, when you can apply, where the money goes, and even if it will ever get easier. Luckily, there are answers to all of those concerns!

So, before you let the scholarship process turn into a giant black hole in your mind, here are five things you need to know.

1. It Takes Work

We all know the adage, “If it was easy then everyone would do it.” Well, the truth is that the scholarship process isn’t always easy. In fact, it takes hard work and dedication. But this is a fact that actually works in your child’s favor.

By being willing to put in the time and the effort, your child is functionally in the minority. Many college students don’t try for many scholarships because of the work required, so they are facing less competition. And less competition means better odds of winning!

If you take the time to look for lesser known scholarships, such as the Tall Clubs International Scholarship (available only to incoming college freshmen and meet the height requirements of 5’10” for women or 6’2” for men), Create-a-Greeting-Card Scholarship, or Chick and Sophie Major Memorial Duck Calling Contest, you may find yourself with even more notable odds of winning if you are able to seize the opportunities.

I have a free 45 to 60-minute online live training that shows you the exact steps your child needs to take to find hidden scholarships that have less competition. Click here to see when my next one is!


2. Your Child Can Apply For Scholarships Up to Their Senior Year (IN COLLEGE)

Another common point of confusion is based on the idea that scholarships are for incoming freshmen. And, while it is true that there are many opportunities for those looking to start their college adventure, it is also true that your child can apply to many scholarships up to your senior year IN COLLEGE (and beyond if they continue.)

Each scholarship is in control of the qualifications that determine a student’s eligibility, and many are available to undergraduates during any year of their education. So, even if you don’t get selected for a scholarship as an incoming freshman, you might get another shot to apply for your sophomore, junior, and senior years. In fact, some are even available to graduate students, so you might be able to go on to that Masters or doctoral degree without having to pay the full cost out of pocket.

Curious when the major deadlines are for scholarships? Check out our article on the 3 Scholarship Seasons and When Your Child Should Start Applying for Scholarships. From sophomores in high school to college students, it breaks down exactly what your child should be doing for each school year.

So, don’t stop looking just because the first round of deadlines passed, and don’t give up if your child don’t win the first time. Instead, save those websites and schedule a calendar reminder to check back when it opens up for the next year. Then, your child can make sure that you don’t miss out on the opportunity to get more scholarship money the next time around.

3. Winning Scholarships Gets Easier Once You Know What to Do

Here’s another point where an old adage really says it best, “Practice makes perfect.” While the phrase is certainly cliché, it is incredibly relevant when it comes to scholarship applications.

In the beginning, the scholarship process is unfamiliar, and even a bit scary. However, as more applications are completed, the easier it is to give the next one a try. And repeating the process this year also provides experience to build in next year, and the one after that, and so on.

So, don’t be afraid that the first ones won’t be perfect. It does get easier as you move forward.

4. Some Scholarships Funds are Sent Directly to You

Most students and parents assume scholarship awards are sent directly to the college or university that will be attended. While some scholarships do work that way (especially institutional scholarships), a significant portion actually sends the money directly to the student who won.

For some students, this can feel a bit intimidating, especially if this is the most money that has entered a bank account with their name on it. But it isn’t something to stress about. Instead, just send (or bring) a check (or cash, or debit card) to the school for the tuition, and everything will be set.

But, why would a scholarship choose to send the money to the student in the first place? Because it provides the winner some flexibility. And that flexibility applies directly to our next point.

5. Scholarships Can Be Used for More than College Tuition

While most people associate scholarships with paying tuition, that isn’t necessarily the only thing for which the funds can be used. Sure, some scholarships are restricted to tuition only, but many can be used for other school-related expenses.

One of the most common secondary uses is other mandatory costs. Things like textbooks and required software can be incredibly expensive, but they are necessary to get through the classes. Scholarships that allow some spending flexibility are designed to make these costs more manageable as well. And, if your child ends up with enough in scholarship awards, you might be able to eliminate these costs entirely.

But that isn’t where it ends either! Costs associated with room and board can be covered with certain scholarship monies. That means no out of pocket expenses for the dorm room, meal plan, or both. This means your student can have their classes covered, books and software needs met, a roof over their head, and food on the table, all without spending a dime of their (or your) own money.

That has to be the end, right? Actually, no, it doesn't. Some scholarship money is paid directly to the student so they can use it in any way that supports their education. Need a bus pass to get around? Use scholarship money. Need to replace a subpar laptop? Use scholarship money. How about a haircut before they start their internship? Yep, scholarship money to the rescue.

And it’s this potential for flexibility that makes getting as much as you can in scholarship awards really worth the effort. So, what do you think?  Will they still think it’s not worth the time and effort? Something tells me your child could have a change of heart.

If you want a hand finding great scholarship opportunities for your student, join our free next webinar where I cover my 6-step process of finding and securing scholarships for college. Together, we’ll help you get the ball rolling.

Not sure if now is the time for your child to start applying? Here is a quick article where we cover the 3 "Scholarship Seasons" in the year as well as when your child should start applying, breaking it down from early high school years, all the way through college.

Or, if you aren't sure if scholarships are a fit for your family, here is our 10-Point Checklist on helping your child secure money for college. Run through this checklist to see if your child has what it takes: