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How to Find and Apply for Scholarships

Congratulations! You’ve been accepted to your first-choice university and are one step closer to obtaining a college degree. Now that you know where you’re going, you’ll have to figure out how to pay for it; four years of tuition, housing and materials costs add up quickly!

Luckily, scholarships can make your education expenses significantly more manageable. Offered by thousands of schools, employers, individuals, private companies, nonprofits and organizations, scholarships are valuable gifts for many future students. Here are a few tips to help you find and apply for the scholarships you’ll need to get through college debt-free.

Organize Your Materials

Before you start applying for any scholarships, be sure to compile any and all important documents you might need. This includes:

  • High school transcript
  • Standardized test scores
  • Financial aid forms such as the FAFSA
  • Parents' financial information, including tax returns
  • Letters of recommendation

While this is not an exhaustive list, it’s a good start. Some scholarships are only available to students of a specific community or demographic, and thus may require some proof of eligibility as well. Having all of this information in one place before you begin your applications will make the process that much simpler.

If you want to get really prepared, consider putting together individual folders for each scholarship you apply to. You can then sort them by due dates so you’ll never miss a deadline.

Research What’s Available to You

There are thousands of scholarships available, but you won’t necessarily qualify for all of them. Many scholarships are geared toward specific people or groups to minimize the pool of potential candidates. While this might seem unfair in certain circumstances, it actually means you’ll have a better chance of being chosen for any scholarships for which you are eligible.

Some scholarships are merit-based, meaning you can only earn them by meeting or exceeding certain standards set by the scholarship-giver. Merit scholarships might be awarded based on academic achievement or on a combination of academics and a special talent, skill or interest.

Other scholarships are based on financial need – this is where your parents’ financial information will come in handy. If your parents claimed you as a dependent on their taxes, the government and many other financial aid agencies assume that they’re willing to help you pay for school. As a result, many financial need scholarships are only awarded to students whose parents can’t afford to send them to university.

No matter your situation, spend time researching which scholarships you qualify for. The more you can apply to, the higher your chances are of being awarded the money. Many high schools and university admission offices curate extensive lists to help you narrow down your search.

How to Apply

Because scholarships come in many forms, there’s no one way to complete an application. Each scholarship has to be approached with your full attention. Be sure to read all instructions thoroughly before starting; filling out an application incorrectly can immediately disqualify you.

Some scholarships are essay-based, requiring you to write up to a particular word count. The topics can vary from “why do you want to study this subject?” to "what would you do with a million dollars?" Regardless of what your prompt is, put your best foot forward; have someone edit your paper for any errors before submitting.

Once you’re ready to submit, go over all your materials and make sure you’ve included everything that is required for this particular scholarship. Of course, when you’re ready, be sure to turn in the application before the deadline. If your application is accepted and chosen, you’ll be that much closer to an exciting new semester of education!

Upper Iowa University gives you the opportunity to earn a degree on your terms. Contact us today for financial aid information or to learn about our many academic degree programs!

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