The Do's and Don'ts of Applying to Scholarships for High School Seniors

The Do’s and Don’ts of Applying to Scholarships for High School Seniors

Applying for scholarships for high schoolers is a lot of stress. This is a huge responsibility and it may be the deciding factor regarding what schools you’re going to be able to attend!

College financial aid for high schoolers who are entering college is competitive. College is always getting more expensive, and if you want to avoid debt, you need to commit to writing as many applications as possible.

We want to help with a list of “do’s” and “don’ts” for applying to scholarships for high school seniors. Read on for our high school senior scholarship guide.

First: What Should you Do?

Let’s start with what you should do when you’re looking for and applying for high school scholarships. There are no rules, per se, for applying to scholarships (aside from the guidelines of each specific scholarship), but there are a few things that you should try to do if you want the best chances of success. 

Remember, this is a serious process. Your scholarships will determine whether or not you end up with student debt (and how much student debt that you accumulate). 

Here are a few “must-dos.”

Do: Start Early

Many people don’t consider scholarships until it’s almost time for them to graduate. While you can continue applying for scholarships even while you’re in college, there are some specific scholarships for high schoolers that you’ll want to apply for while you’re still in school. 

Often, you can start planning for applications (and even applying, depending on the scholarship) while you’re in your junior year. This is especially true if you’re someone who is lucky enough to graduate early. Check on the guidelines for the specific scholarships that you’re aiming for to see if they only accept applications from specific grades.

Do: Take Your Time

Starting early gives you bonus time to finish your applications, and you’re going to need it. While some people are able to put together a superstar application in no time, you shouldn’t rely on this being the case. Instead, give yourself some breathing room.

Remember, you’re going to be balancing several scholarship applications, college applications and preparation, graduation plans, a social life, and all of your current schoolwork. You don’t want to lose track of time and rush when you get too close to the deadline.

It’s always better to be finished ahead of time. 

Do: Ask for Help

You don’t have to do this alone. While you’re the only one that can write and submit your applications, you have other resources to help you.

Use your teachers and school guidance counselors as resources. They’re there to help you and they want to see you thrive. They’ve also helped countless students through this process, so they’re able to find scholarships that you wouldn’t find on your own and help you navigate the tips and tricks that you need to succeed. 

Make appointments with these people to make sure that you get dedicated time. 

Do: Research Thoroughly

Research is crucial when you’re applying for scholarships. Once you know how to find scholarships, use this knowledge to find as many as possible and read through the information for each one. 

Research scholarships for individual schools as well. Many colleges offer funding for underrepresented groups or people below a certain income bracket. 

Do: Pick Everything That Might Apply

So you’re browsing through the scholarship directory and you’re getting overwhelmed. All of the scholarships are running together. Which ones even apply to you?

Too many students get caught up on the details when they’re trying to send out applications. They think that they don’t fit the specific profile that the application is looking for, so they don’t bother applying. 

While it’s important that you don’t lie to get a scholarship (more on that later), remember that the scholarships are often less specific than they look on the surface. For example, a scholarship offered by an arts council may not necessarily require that the student is going to an art school.

Look through each qualification of the applications that you’re looking for. If you think that you at least somewhat fit the bill, it doesn’t hurt to apply. The worst that can happen is that they say no, and you’re no worse off than when you started. 

Remember, if the qualifications are confusing or vague, it may mean that other people are having the same thoughts that you are. They might not apply, and that gives you an advantage. 

Do: Look at Instructions

It’s easy to breeze through scholarship applications without a care in the world, but different scholarships ask for different things. If you don’t look at the instructions carefully, you might end up making some serious mistakes. 

Sometimes applications will ask for test scores while other scholarships don’t require them. Some will ask for portfolios of writing or artwork and others might ask for social media information (if applicable). 

Some want letters of recommendation while others have no interest.

If you’re sending through essays and submitting without paying attention to the details, you’re disqualifying yourself from these applications without even realizing it. Also: it’s unprofessional. Even if the scholarship team gives you another chance, it’s not a good look. 

Do: Write Great Essays

You’re going to need to write the best essays you’ve ever written if you want to compete with all of the other applicants. While essays aren’t everything when it comes to your scholarships, they’re still important enough that you can’t neglect them. 

When you’re in high school, you can also coast by without having to put excess work into your essays. You may be someone who doesn’t need multiple drafts. This isn’t the case when you’re writing your application essays. 

Always start with an outline. Make sure that you look at the essay requirements for each application and break down your outline into the appropriate sections. 

When you write your first draft, don’t be afraid to “mind dump” onto the page. This means that you don’t have to be too careful about what you’re writing. Get all of your ideas on paper and refine the result later.

When it comes time to refine the paper, consider asking a friend, tutor, or writing center helper (if you have a writing center at your school) to help you or at least look over your work. 

Okay, What Should You Avoid?

Now that you know what to do, what shouldn’t you do when you’re applying to the scholarships that you choose? Sometimes knowing what to avoid is just as important as knowing what you should aim for.

Here are a few things that you should not do when you’re looking for and sending out your applications. 

Don’t: Rush

As we mentioned before, it’s important that you give yourself time and space to fill out these applications. We understand that your senior year of high school is hectic and that you have a lot on your plate. You still need to allocate time for the application process. 

Set out a bit of time every day to work on applications. It’s also important that you schedule breaks for yourself so you don’t burn out. Taking breaks is actually one of the best things that you can do for your productivity, but you won’t be able to take those breaks if you haven’t given yourself enough time. 

If you struggle with maintaining a schedule, get a planner. It’s going to feel tough at first to stick to it and fill in every detail of your life, but it will make it far easier to get everything done.

Schedule in all of your schoolwork, your “real” work (if you have a job), the time that you spend on homework, and any other responsibilities (like clubs or sports teams, which are also important when it comes to scholarship applications). 

Schedule at least an hour per day if you’re doing a lot of applications. You may discover that this is more than enough time, so feel free to wind it down once you find your stride.

Don’t: Limit Yourself

You’re going to see so many scholarships that you don’t think you’re “good enough” to apply for. You may think that they’re only for the best of the best, or for specific groups that you’re not in.

While this is sometimes true, going into your scholarship hunt with this mindset isn’t going to help you. You’ll get discouraged before you even send out your first application. 

Cast a wide net. Look at your work and life situation to determine if you might qualify. If you’re unsure, either ask your guidance counselor or submit it anyway. Again, the worst that can happen is that you get a “no.”

Don’t: Reuse The Same Essay

To be clear, there will be situations in which you can reuse an essay for the most part. You can have a “base” essay that you modify for several applications. 

That said, you shouldn’t blindly send out the same application. As we mentioned before, you need to read the instructions for each individual scholarship application and tailor your essay to match.

Also, it’s important that you double-check that you’ve addressed the right scholarship team. It would be embarrassing (and unprofessional) if you address the organization from your previous scholarship in your next one.

For example, addressing the “Dairy Association” when you’re applying for a scholarship from the “Council of Fine Arts” is a major no-no. 

Don’t: Neglect Your Resources

Too many people try to do everything on their own. This is a huge mistake. Instead, make sure that you use every resource that’s available to you.

High school seniors have the benefit of having a whole team of staff members to help them. You can also use online resources and tools to make your life easier. Doing things by yourself isn’t as commendable as you think that it is. 

Don’t: Lie to Get the Scholarships 

As we said before, you can cast a wide net and apply to things that you’re not sure that you qualify for. That said, there will be some things that you don’t qualify for at all. Some people are tempted to lie on their applications to slip under the radar, but this is a huge mistake.

You can end up losing that money. It’s also dishonest and you’re taking away a scholarship that could have gone to someone who needs it more (and who qualifies).

For example, if you find a scholarship that’s for someone from an underrepresented group that you aren’t a part of, it’s inappropriate for you to apply.

Don’t: Miss Deadlines

You’re going to want to write down scholarship deadlines on your calendar and cross them off as they pass by.

There is no one set “scholarship application due date” that you can count on. While many scholarships will be due on the same date, you still need to check ahead of time. 

This helps you prioritize scholarships. 

Don’t: Forget to Proofread

Finally, never skip proofreading. Everyone makes simple mistakes from time to time, even professional writers. While you might think that your application looks perfect, give it a day or so before looking at it again.

Have someone else read your application and essay as well. You want as many eyes on your application as possible. 

Bonus tip: Read your application essay out loud and have someone else read it to you. It’s far easier to catch mistakes or strange wording when you have to speak or hear it. 

Start Applying for Scholarships for High School Seniors

It’s time to start gathering your resources and sending out applications. Applying for scholarships for high school seniors is a big deal, but once you know the ropes, you’ll have acceptances in no time.

Remember, use your resources, take your time, and do your best. Try not to stress yourself out too much. If you’re diligent, you’ll get scholarships.

Are you looking for more information about thriving in college? What about helpful resources and benefits? Join the Honor Society today to be among like-minded people.

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The Do’s and Don’ts of Applying to Scholarships for High School Seniors

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