10 Ways to Win a Scholarship (Without Even Trying)
If you’re reading this, then you’re probably one of the thousands of college students who are seeking scholarships to help offset your high tuition costs. The average U.S. student graduates with $28,400 in student loan debt – and the average undergrad accrues about $4,000 per year! Yikes! So naturally, you want to do whatever you can to avoid taking out that much money in loans – especially if that debt will follow you well into your adult life and even longer into retirement. But where do you start? Below are ten tips on how to win a scholarship without even trying.
1) Set a Goal
To win a scholarship, set a goal and then figure out how you’re going to meet it. What are your skills and talents? How can you apply them to winning scholarships? Whether it’s academic, athletic or artistic talent, what do you have that will help you stand out from other students? Perhaps it’s an impressive work history or experiences volunteering in your community. But no matter what your skill is, for any scholarship application ask yourself these three questions: Who am I? Why do I deserve it? How will I use it if I win it? And make sure they’re addressed in some way on your application.
2) Join in National Activities
Participating in well-known national activities, like spelling bees or math competitions, can earn you scholarship money. Even if you’re not interested in participating, your high school guidance counselor will almost certainly encourage you to join for fundraising purposes. In order to participate, however, some of these contests require you to pay an entry fee. As with college applications and other types of fees, be sure that it’s within your budget. You could try looking into scholarships offered by spell-bee sponsors; these are specifically designed for students who want to participate in their local event but can’t afford it.
3) Get Involved in High School
It’s true—part of getting ahead in life starts in high school. While many scholarships are only open to students attending college, there are many that are also offered at both high school and college levels. For example, it’s easier for high school students to win scholarships for leadership and community service. Check with your guidance counselor for local and state scholarship opportunities as well as any awards being offered by specific organizations you may be interested in joining. The more involved you get in your school community, the better chance you have of winning a scholarship!
4) Start an After-School Activity
One of the best ways to gain exposure is by joining an after-school activity. For example, if you’re interested in business and want a scholarship, start or lead an entrepreneurship club at your school. In addition to showing off your leadership skills, you’ll get valuable experience managing projects and other people’s time. If being on stage is more your thing, join drama club or audition for plays—all activities that can help build confidence and make you seem like a candidate who isn’t afraid of speaking in front of others. Also consider joining or starting an organization that advocates for causes you care about; not only will it look good on your application, but it could also lead to scholarships from organizations dedicated to social justice and change.
5) Let Everyone Know
There are plenty of scholarships out there that don’t require an essay, so tell your family and friends, who might be able to nominate you. If your school participates in a national scholarship organization like The National Merit Scholarship Corporation or The Hispanic Association of Colleges and Universities, apply for their scholarships without even filling out an application. The search is completely online. Last year, I won two different scholarships from NMSC that totaled $3,500 without any effort on my part.
6) Keep up Good Grades
Failing to maintain good grades doesn’t just mean your GPA might suffer; it also means that you may lose funding for scholarships, grants, and other awards. While you don’t have to ace every class or be on top of your game all year long, make sure you can at least hold an A-average through high school.
7) Pick the Right College
You don’t have to win a scholarship from your school to get free money for college. You can also apply for national scholarships, like the National Merit Scholarship, and some states and cities offer their own versions. And remember that you aren’t limited by how many students apply or how many awards are available—the only limitation is your own skills in winning.
8) Take Advantage of Extracurriculars
Taking part in extracurricular activities is a great way to win scholarships. Whether you’re an athlete, performing artist, or student council member, colleges want to see that you’re involved and passionate about something outside of your academic life. Getting involved in various school groups not only looks good on your college application, but it’s also a great way to network with professionals in your field of interest.
9) Create Your Own Opportunities
You don’t have to be listed as a finalist or semifinalist to earn scholarship money. In fact, it’s often easier than that. Create your own opportunities by getting involved in your school and community, because scholarships can be based on merit, need or involvement. There are more than 3,000 scholarships that don’t require an application for students who meet certain criteria, so let us help you find them!
10) Don’t Give Up!
School is hard, but there’s more at stake than just your GPA. Scholarships are one of the best ways to pay for college, and they don’t require you to get good grades. If you’re looking for some more scholarship money—or if you want to feel less stressed about paying off your loans when you graduate—check out these 10 tips for winning scholarships without even trying. These can help bolster your income while in school and reduce debt upon graduation.