How to Get a Scholarship? 8 Tips to Help You Get Free Money for School

Does learning how to get a scholarship seem daunting to you? No worries! Here we list great ways to get scholarships easily and effectively.

It’s no exaggeration to say that college in the US is expensive. Most students are looking at an average of $21,000 to $48,000, depending on what type of school they choose to attend.

You likely already know that the student debt crisis is at its peak, with Americans over $1.3 trillion in debt.

Even if you do want to take out student loans, there still may be a gap between how much you can take out, and how much you need.

One sure-fire way to fund your studies is by getting a scholarship. In this blog post, we’ll go over how to get a scholarship, so that you can study without having to worry about huge loan repayments.

Related Read: What Is a Scholarship and How Do Scholarships Work?

Read on for more tips and tricks to getting a scholarship so you can attend the school of your dreams.

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1. Have Great All-Around Grades

Having good grades is one sure-fire way to get scholarships to help you get through college. Of course, it isn’t the only way to do so, but it is definitely one tried and true method.

Students with all-around good grades are typically the type of student one pictures when one thinks about a college scholarship. Remember that your sophomore and junior year academic performance count the most when it comes to applying for a college scholarship, particularly if you are applying as a traditional student.

Taking AP, or advanced placement, courses as much as possible will also help when it comes to wowing scholarship panels. Often, schools will weight GPAs as well, so that if you do take AP courses, your good grades in that class count for more than in other courses.

Remember, achieving good grades is key to unlocking your future, but it isn’t the only one. If you haven’t been able to perform to the best of your ability in high school for whatever reason, don’t despair. There are still plenty of other ways to fund your studies.

🎁 Click here to get our FREE scholarship application tracker! This spreadsheet will help you keep tabs on where and when you applied so you don’t miss any opportunities. Click on “File” > “Make a copy” to save it to your Google Drive for your own use. Good luck!

2. Excel in a Specific Subject Area

Not everyone knows what they want to do when they “grow up” as soon as they finish high school. That’s totally normal, and don’t stress if you’re one of them.

But some students show an aptitude for a specific subject early on, and their passion for it only grows as they get older. If you know you want to be an actor, a scientist or a historian, for example, then keep your head down and excel in that subject.

There are plenty of funding bodies that will give money to students who have excelled in the subject, or who have achieved awesome feats within it.

For example, there are funding bodies that will attend high school plays and award scholarships and awards to students giving outstanding performances. There are also funding bodies that will give money to kids who show promise in a specific subject, often ones like math or science.

So, if you’re a one subject or bust kind of student, don’t despair. You can still win a scholarship to help fund your studies.

You should, however, be aware that if you are a one subject kind of student, you do need to perform adequately in other subjects to win a scholarship. Unless you’re attending a very specific type of college in the US, you still need to pass your other classes to graduate.

Related Read: How to Use Goodwall’s Web Profile to Score a Scholarship

3. Win a Scholarship Through a Contest

Plenty of scholarships are available that are contest-based. While they may not cover your entire tuition fees, they can certainly help.

Contests are often for students who excel in a single subject. But instead of recognizing overall performance in the subject, it is about the performance in one task.

Contests can range from essay contests to science contests to singing contests. It is all dependent on the funding body and how they wish to award the students for their hard work.

Keep your eyes peeled for contests that you might excel in. Your school will likely give you information about contests that they come across for students like yourself as the year goes on. But your school definitely won’t be able to pass on the word about everything, so it is important that you also keep your eyes open.

Search online or in scholarship books to find contests best suited for you.

While they may be a bit nerve-wracking, they’re definitely worth the payoff. Many funding bodies will also award 2nd and 3rd place prizes that are more than worth the time it takes to enter the contest.

4. Look for Scholarships Based on Your Heritage

Scholarships based on your heritage are huge, and no matter where your family hails from, you’ll find a lot of scholarship money available.

There are many scholarships available for people of color, particularly for women of color. These scholarships can range from overall academic achievement to contests, but specifically to people of a certain heritage.

Your school will likely be kept abreast of these scholarships, especially if they have a lot of kids of a certain ethnicity. But, you can always look online or check out books to see if there are any other scholarships you’ve not yet heard about.

Even if your family has been in America for a few generations, there are still scholarships available for you. For instance, there are Polish-American or Irish-American institutes that are willing to give funding for these specific students’ education. Often, you’ll need to write an essay or participate in some type of event with the group to be considered. But it is well worth it if you can win a scholarship.

Related Read: 15+ Simple Ways on How to Save Money in College

5. Consider Scholarships the University Offers

Many universities offer scholarships to students and often mete them out as they’re accepting students. They can be for a variety of reasons, such as excellence in a specific academic area, overall excellence or even financial hardship.

Some universities may ask you if you would like to apply for these scholarships when you apply for the university itself. Always say yes when it comes to applying to university scholarships, as you’ll want as many chances as possible to acquire as much money as you can for school.

Before you apply to a school, you may also want to consider how generous they are with scholarships. Some schools are known to be more generous than others, so keep that in mind when you do apply. Stanford, for example, is known for being extremely generous to its students, and most students do not graduate with debt. While more universities are taking notes, they’re not all there yet. 

6. Need-Based Scholarships

With the student loan crisis coming to a head, some universities are offering students full scholarships if their family earns less than a certain amount per year. This is extremely helpful, as it allows students with limited means to pursue an education they may not have been able to otherwise.

When choosing schools to apply to, consider how well they meet the needs of low-income students. Make sure you apply to those who are generous and encouraging of students from all backgrounds to attend their school.

Related Read: 25+ Books for College Students to Read in University

7. Make Sure You Present a Fantastic Social Media Image

When you apply for scholarships, and for college in general, your social media trail is important. A school will likely look you up when you apply, as will many independent funding bodies. As such, you should have a professional and controversy-free social media presence.

This means that you should have things like a Twitter, Instagram and a LinkedIn, but you should use it in a manner that you wouldn’t mind college to see. As such, you should definitely refrain from posting anything crude or could be seen as controversial.

If you would like to maintain social media where you mess around with your friends, make sure that it is both private and not associated with your first and last name. You may be surprised how easy it can be for schools to find your social media, whether you want them to or not.

8. Apply to As Many Scholarships as Possible

A major tip we have is to apply to as many scholarships as possible. It can be stressful, given that you’re already applying to a lot of colleges and scholarships at this time in your life. But you need to remember that the wider you cast your net, the more likely it is you’ll catch something: and in this case, it’s an investment in your future. If you have the time, apply to scholarships you think you don’t have a shot at. You may surprise yourself. 

Related Read: 50+ Best First Jobs for New College Students

Get a Scholarship That Will Help You Excel

There are many ways to get a scholarship for college, and it doesn’t all come down to being an all-around athlete or someone who had no life outside of school. Indeed, the activities you’ve participated in outside of school may actually propel you forward into the school of your dreams, and then your future career.

Want more information on all things education? If so, be sure to visit that section of our site. There’s tons of valuable information about scholarships, internships, college survival, and more!

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Christian Eilers
Written By Christian Eilers
is a writer and expert on the topics of education, entrepreneurship, career advice, travel, and culture. On the Goodwall Blog, he covers topics including self-improvement, social impact, college preparation, career development, climate action, and more. Christian is originally from New York City and now resides in Kyiv, Ukraine after living in Warsaw, Poland for the past 4 years. At his desk, you're sure to find Pickwick, his Devon Rex cat, either attacking his fingers as he types or the monitor as the mouse pointer moves around.

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