Though high school students might assume that scholarships are only available to high school seniors or that they are only available at a certain time of year, high school students of all ages and in all grades can start applying for scholarships with a guarantee that they’ll find opportunities year round. So, in short, the most direct answer to the question “When should high school students start applying for scholarships?” is: right now!
However, here are some more comprehensive tips and information to help prepare you for the scholarship application process.
The most important piece of advice you’ll hear is that you should start applying for scholarships as early as possible. The earlier you start, the more scholarships you can access and the fewer deadlines you’ll miss. Once you begin the search, you’ll likely find that opportunities seem endless. But, they can also seem daunting.
Though you can start applying for scholarships even before high school, remember that once you apply for college-focused scholarships, you’ll likely need to fill out the FAFSA (Free Application for Federal Student Aid) in case scholarship applications require it.
Therefore, it is best to start looking for scholarships for high school students as early as freshman year. Prior to senior year, many of these opportunities will be merit-based, require an essay, or ask you to submit specialized work like an art portfolio, film, or entrepreneurial idea. This early start will give you more time to spend on each application, as some might require more materials to submit.
Once you hit senior year, you might notice that you’ll find more specific scholarships meant to help seniors pay for the college of their dreams.
Keep an Organized List
Since so many scholarship opportunities are out there, start keeping an organized list of possible scholarships, their deadlines, and their requirements.
Then, you can start planning when you’ll complete the applications. Some students might find that completing a certain number of applications each week or month helps to spread the workload, while others prefer to complete several applications during school breaks or long weekends.
Just make sure that you know each deadline as early as possible so that you don’t miss out on any of your potential opportunities. This will help divide the workload required for application and thus make the entire process a bit less daunting.
Focus on “Scholarship Seasons”
Though scholarships are offered all year, you can definitely keep track of scholarships during the busiest seasons. Fall scholarships are available from August through December, spring scholarships are available from January through May, and summer scholarships are available in June and July.
Students might wait until winter break to complete applications for scholarships, but be careful not to miss any deadlines in this case, as some scholarships do have summer or fall deadlines. You can divide these deadline “seasons” in the list we discussed above.
Leave No Resource Unexplored
When you’re looking for scholarship resources, remember that scholarships can come from various places, not all of which will come to mind naturally. For example, not only do institutions offer scholarships for students based on merit and need but various companies, religious organizations, alumni networks, and community clubs also offer scholarships for students applying to college.
The best way to find scholarships that are right for you is to think about all the connections and resources you have in your life, from your own high school and prospective colleges to your family members’ employers and any local organizations with which you’re involved. Another way is sign up for scholarship-based websites, which will provide lists of pooled scholarships from various companies and organizations; these will be filtered out based on your interests and background.
This is another reason to begin looking as soon as possible. Be sure to write down any potential opportunities that come your way. Make a list of your interests and special talents, and search for scholarships related to those activities or skills. Once you’ve exhausted all your options, you’ll likely have a long list of potential scholarships you can apply for now.
Master the Application Essay
And finally, as you may have heard about, it can all come down to the essay. Like the colleges and universities you’re applying to, many scholarships will require an essay attached to your application. These essays usually ask you to respond to a particular prompt, or to offer some information about you as a student simply.
The best way to prepare for scholarship applications is to start practicing your essay writing skills. Search for scholarship tips and advice. For example, when you write a personal essay, offering details unique to you is always a better strategy than trying to predict what readers might be looking for in an applicant. A secret truth is this: the readers do not know what they are looking for, so it’s best to assume they are looking for a specific and unique individual just like you. And who knows you better than you?
Therefore, start getting creative. As you begin your search, brainstorm about moments in your life that have taught you the most valuable lessons, experiences you treasure, and values you hold dear. All these unique perspectives will help you write an essay that is unique to you and will also help you shine in any scholarship application.
The scholarship process can be a bit overwhelming, but like everything, it just takes time and determination. If you begin early, stay organized, and stay true to what you want and aspire to be, you will find the right scholarships for you. And remember, do not take any rejections personally, there are a lot of students out there doing exactly the same thing you’re doing.
If you have any more questions or curiosities about the scholarship process, don’t hesitate to visit NSHSS for further insights. We believe you and can’t wait for others to do the same. So now it’s time to begin your search.