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Scholarship Best Practices

Get Organized

In addition to searching for scholarships, make sure you complete your Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). The FAFSA determines need-based federal aid such as grants and loans. The FAFSA also generates a Student Aid Report (SAR) which is used by colleges in determining need-based grants and scholarships.

Scholarship applications often require recommendation letters, resumes, family financial information, transcripts, and lists of activities, academic honors, leadership roles, work experience, community service and more.

Prior to starting your search, gather all these materials and save them in a folder for easy access. Having this information on hand will save time and ensure you do not forget important information to include in each application.

Get Smart

Scholarship applications should usually be completed six months to one year before the academic year they will be used.

High school seniors should be ready to start their scholarship applications in the fall. High school underclassmen should research scholarship opportunities and begin assembling application components so that they can prepare their scholarship applications in the fall of their senior year.

A common mistake students make with their scholarship search is limiting themselves based on scholarship amount. Small award amounts add up too, so apply for scholarships you are eligible for, even if the amount is smaller.

Never pay for scholarship information or advice! If you are required to pay money to get money, it could be a scam. Contact your Financial Aid office for guidance.

Get Looking

College is expensive! Many students have to combine multiple types of financial aid, as well as savings and income from student jobs to pay for college.

To put together a strong college financing plan, you should research and apply for multiple scholarships including local, college, and national scholarship opportunities.

Local Scholarships

It is easiest to start close to home. Local scholarships have a smaller applicant pool compared to national awards, meaning less competition and increased odds of obtaining funds. The MI Student Aid scholarship database is a great place to look for local scholarships. More local scholarship information can be obtained from high school guidance counselors. Local newspaper archives and old commencement programs from your high school will often list the names of scholarships next to the recipients. It is always a good idea to research family employers, unions, churches, and clubs as they may have established scholarship programs.

College Scholarships

Students who have selected the college they plan to attend should research that college's Web site for scholarship opportunities . High school students should search for scholarships for incoming freshmen. Scholarships for transfer students or currently enrolled students will also be available.
Financial Aid Sites

National Scholarships

Don't be afraid to go for those national scholarships. While they may be more competitive, there is a wide variety to apply for, and several are bound to be a good fit.

Use scholarship search sites to create a profile and identify scholarships that are the best fit. While these sites are free to use, you may receive solicitations or targeted advertising after creating your profile. Know that you should not be required to make any purchase in order to use their scholarship search services. MI Student Aid has a few scholarship search sites to get your started.

Get a Scholarship Calendar

Create a timeline that will allow you to set aside time to apply for scholarships. By scheduling your time, you will submit more applications than you would when applying only during downtime. Ideally, you should approach your scholarship searches as if they are another assignment due.

Creating a calendar of due dates is a beneficial tool. Always set your due date on or before each deadline. It is vital to keep track of all your scholarship deadlines so that you do not miss out on great opportunities. Most scholarship committees discard late applications.

Get Writing

In order to put your best foot forward, be true to yourself when developing your essay. The review committee is interested in your unique story. Make sure that your essay expresses your voice and experiences.

Continuously review and work to improve your application essays. It's helpful to save your work so that you can recycle application components that may be applicable to other scholarships. That way, you will not have to recreate the wheel when crafting your application.

Remember, the more scholarships you apply for, the better your chances.

Get Connected

Follow @mistudentaid for new scholarship opportunities, updates, and best practices on all of our social media platforms.