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How to Find and Apply for College Scholarships

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Prepare for College and Explore Your Financial Options

Applying for college scholarships is a worthwhile time investment for students entering college. There are so many scholarships available to students based on a variety of factors. K12 is committed to helping students follow their post-graduation path to success by providing information on how to find college scholarships and how to apply for college scholarships.

Types of College Scholarships

There are many types of scholarships. Finding one depends on what kinds of college scholarships you’re interested in and which ones you might be eligible for. Students can apply for academic or merit-based scholarships and need-based scholarships. Scholarship funds are available for students based on many factors and affiliations, including their community, identity, religion, athletic accomplishment, employer-sponsored options, or military scholarships, just to name a few.

A basic distinction can be made between government scholarships and private scholarships. Government scholarships are awarded by local, state, or federal government, whereas private scholarships may be offered by a specific organization, foundation, or institution. Government and private scholarships often have specific requirements or eligibility criteria.

Merit or academic scholarships are usually awarded to students based on their skills or academic accomplishments. These could include test scores, grades, or more qualitative achievements like artistic abilities. These scholarships are often awarded by colleges themselves. The National Merit Scholarship Program is one third-party organization that awards merit-based scholarships, and students need to take the PSAT to be eligible.

These scholarships are awarded to students who identify as part of an underrepresented group. This could include students from specific ethnic or cultural backgrounds, those who identify with the LGBTQ+ community, or those with religious affiliations. Identity-based scholarships encourage more diverse participation in fields that still tend to be homogenous, and they’re most often offered by third-party organizations or foundations.

Athletic scholarships depend on the awarded student participating in a particular sport. The awards of these scholarships vary greatly, but some can cover the entire cost of tuition, books, and room and board. These scholarships usually require that a student continue to meet a certain GPA in addition to their athletic abilities.

These scholarships are awarded based on a student’s financial situation rather than their accomplishments or achievements. The basic eligibility requirements for these scholarships usually depend on the student’s household income. Need-based scholarships also offer varying awards or have additional requirements. Some may also have GPA requirements, while others may only cover a certain maximum of costs.

This type of tuition aid depends on companies supporting their employees who may be looking to continue their education or develop new skills. Whether an employer will cover tuition or how much they’ll cover is entirely up to the employer’s discretion.

All five branches of the U.S. armed forces (Army, Air Force, Coast Guard, Marine Corps, Navy) offer scholarships for students who are usually active or reserve service members.

How to Find College Scholarships

Finding the right scholarship depends on what type you’re interested in. After identifying that, students can find scholarships for college in a variety of ways and places. Two important places to start are with the financial aid office of the college you plan to attend andthe counseling office at your high school. It can be helpful to open a dialogue with someone, so they can identify which scholarships you may be best suited to apply for.

Before you begin searching online, it’s important to understand how to find college scholarships that may be potential scams and avoid them. Federal Student Aid, an office of The Department of Education, offers tips on how to avoid scams. Students can find scholarships through The Department of Education’s free scholarship search tool, as well as general online searches.

If you’re wondering how to find private scholarships, or scholarships not offered by the government, consider which foundations, religious or community organizations, ethnicity-based organizations, or civic groups may be applicable and see if they offer college scholarships. Depending on your field of interest, professional associations and organizations may also provide scholarships.

Students can also use tools like Tallo if they’re looking for the best way to find scholarships. Tallo is a platform that helps connect students with scholarship opportunities and build a meaningful network.

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How to Apply for College Scholarships

Applying for scholarships is an important part of completing your college applications. You should begin applying for college scholarships during the summer months before your senior year. For need-based federal aid, you’ll need to wait until the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) becomes available, usually in October. Watch for other important resources, such as the College Scholarship Service (CSS) Profile to become available during the fall of your student’s senior year. For those and other scholarship applications, follow these steps with your student for best practices in applying for college scholarships and ensure you’re putting your best foot forward.

  • Identify a list of scholarships to apply to. Remember that you may not know what school you’re accepted at yet, so specific scholarships may need to wait.
  • Carefully review the requirements needed to apply for each scholarship.
  • Make a list of the documents needed and who they need to get them from—if applicable.
  • Create a calendar of due dates.
  • Ask for recommendations if needed.
  • Work on any personal statements if required for the scholarship application.
  • Prepare for any interviews that may be part of the consideration process.

Resources for Students Applying to College Scholarships

Applying to College

Where to begin? Applying to college is an exciting and intimidating process. Learn more about the timeline for applying to college and how to prepare for applications.

Applying for College Scholarships with Tallo

Tallo is a digital portfolio platform for high school students and recent graduates that connects users to scholarships, college admissions, internships, and more. Tallo matches students with $20 billion in scholarship and award opportunities that can be used for things like tuition, books, and room and board. Build your Tallo profile to get started.

Earn Early College Credit

You could be applying to college with a jump start on credits. Eligible K12-powered students can earn college credits in high school through dual enrollment options. Learn more about the benefits of completing college-level coursework in high school and how to get started.

College Acceptances

Each year, graduates of K12-powered schools apply to college and are accepted at hundreds of postsecondary schools nationwide. See information about the most attended colleges and more details about the benefits of being a K12-powered graduate.

Not Your Typical Career Quiz

In the midst of applying to college, students are also considering what they want to study when they get accepted. What major can help your student on the path toward a fulfilling career? Your student can take this quiz to discover which career paths are most likely to lead them to success.

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Applying to College Begins with a Quality K through 12 Education

K12 offers several options for schooling that will provide your student with a strong curriculum and help them build the foundations for academic success—from kindergarten to graduation.