It’s Scholarship Season! 3 Tips to Jump-start Your Scholarship Search

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Surely you could use one of these apps to remind you to search for scholarships!

January 1 until May 30 is what I like to refer to as “scholarship season.”

Scholarships usually have deadlines around this time because students are starting to think about the logistics of school again (i.e., financial aid applications, college admission applications).

If you’ve always wanted to jump on the scholarship bandwagon, there is no better time than right now! Here are three tips to help you crush it this scholarship season.

1. Dedicate at Least 1 Hour Each Week to Your Scholarship Search

An hour a week is the minimum time that any student serious about winning a scholarship should spend on their search.

New scholarships pop up every day, and old scholarships renew every year. If you just do one scholarship search in January and never check back, there is a good chance that you are missing out on a boatload of new scholarship information being posted.

Spend this hour checking your scholarship search engine results, using Google to search for scholarships, and reviewing your upcoming scholarship deadlines. Setting an alarm on your phone or calendar can help you to remember this time every week.

2. Use More Than One Scholarship Search Engine

At first glance, scholarship search engines may look like they all share the same list of scholarships, but they do not. Each scholarship search engine is different—you could find a scholarship on that isn’t on

To really maximize your scholarship search efforts, it’s in your best interest to create an account with as many scholarship search engines as you can find. Just prepare yourself with an email address with a strong spam filter and be sure to protect your personal information (e.g., your name, phone number, address).

Many scholarship search engines are free because they sell user information to third parties, so be careful what information you share.

3. You Don’t Have to Apply for Every Scholarship You Find

Just because you are eligible for a scholarship doesn’t mean that you have to apply. I never applied to historical essay contests, poetry contests, and any scholarship that required longer than a 700-word essay. I was able to find hundreds of scholarships to apply for even though I was being picky!

The whole point of applying for scholarships is to apply for as many as possible as soon as possible. If I were to spend a week studying up on the life of President Lincoln in order to write an essay about him, that’s time I could have spent applying to two easier scholarships. Bottom line: There are plenty of scholarships out there, and it’s perfectly OK to skip the scholarships that look too complicated.

Think of scholarship season as a 4-month sprint for free money. Dedicate yourself to the tactics I’ve laid out above and in my other blog posts, and you’ll be happy you did when your mailbox is filled with scholarship checks.

Happy hunting!

Have a scholarship question for Diane? Ask her yourself in our latest interactive webinar: Scholarships, Part 2: Writing a Winning Essay. It takes place TODAY at 4:30 p.m. ET. Sign up now! (UPDATE 2/27/12: This webinar is now available for live playback as a recording.)

(Photo: fnurl)

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  1. Tamara Krause February 12, 2013 / 11:16 am

    Scholarships are definitely not a 4-month sprint; they are a year-long part-time job that students can cash in on, if they put forth the effort. Although there are many deadlines in the spring, scholarships are offered every month of the year. Those who are successful keep applying throughout the year, so when one award ends there is another to take its place. To reduce spam, students can simply opt-out when registering for the free scholarship search tools.

  2. Diane Melville February 12, 2013 / 12:07 pm

    Thank you for the thoughtful comment!

    You are correct, scholarships are offered year-round and it is best for a student to apply for scholarships throughout the year. That’s how I paid for my education!

    However, in my experience, it is much easier to get students to focus on scholarships during a specific time frame than it is to motivate a student to apply consistently year-round. My goal is to get students to apply for as many scholarships as they can, but it’s going to take motivation and, frankly, some baby steps to get them there. Applying for scholarships is a lot of hard work and not everyone can just dive right in head first.

    As for the opt-out suggestion, that’s a great one! Caution though, depending on the site and their terms of use, opting out may not be as easy as clicking a button. To be safe, I like to just keep my scholarship email separate from my personal email.

  3. Tamara Krause February 13, 2013 / 11:14 am

    During my presentations at college and financial aid nights, I often find this tidbit helpful in grabbing the attention of students and parents. I ask them if they could get paid $50 an hour for a part-time job, would they do it? Everyone immediately answers ‘yes!’ and then I explain that if they put forth 20 hours applying for scholarships and receive just one valued at $1,000, they just earned $50 an hour. That usually motivates most of the students to dive in and start applying. I totally agree with creating a separate email, as it helps to keep things organized, too.

  4. Dan Anderson April 1, 2013 / 11:40 am

    This message is for anyone that may be able to help me, I graduated from Southern Maine Community College in 2005, and its now 2013 and after having a small carear in the florida keys come crashing down on me due to the recession, I am back in Maine and landscaping isnt cutting it for me, so I plan to attend the University of Southern Maine, but Ive been out of school since 2005, I did get a 3.6 Gpa though, I have filled out my FAFSA and will most likely get accepted, I have usually gotten accepted to schools its the money thats prevented me from attending, so Im 31 now, and want to go back to school, but I make in a good year 16,000 dollars so I need to pay for my dailey life, all while doing college again, does anyone have any advice for me???
    Thanks for any help at all, and just this site by its self has been a great help, thanks for helping us, Keep up the good work!!!

    • Ryan Lane April 1, 2013 / 5:58 pm

      Thanks for visiting the site, Dan, and for the nice comment.

      First and foremost, you’re going about things the right way by completing your FAFSA to get federal financial aid. You’re also on one of Diane’s scholarship posts, which makes me think you’re investigating that option as well. Good for you! Getting as much free money as possible will help you with those other costs. Check out her whole series here: Another post from Diane I’d recommend is this one: It talks about paying for community college, but you can use the lessons to make some supplemental income to pay for whatever you need.

      Hope this helps, and please keep reading!

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