Scholarships 101: Everything Students Need to Know About Getting a Scholarship

This is the ultimate guide to scholarships, including what they are, where to find scholarships, how to apply, writing scholarship essays, and more. Read Scholarships 101 now!

Whether you’re still in high school, just graduated, or already at university, you’ve definitely heard the word “scholarships” thrown around constantly.

But, what is a scholarship, exactly? What types of scholarships are right for me? Do I need a scholarship to apply to university?

And finally, how do I get the scholarship I’m looking for?

No worries!

In this guide, Scholarships 101, we go through everything related to college scholarships in detail, from the definition of a scholarship to scholarship applications and beyond!

download the goodwall app image 3

Want to showcase yourself in the best way possible to future employers or universities? Sign up to Goodwall!

  • Develop skills & experience
  • Highlight accomplishments
  • Network globally
  • Find top jobs & internships

Download the app now to get started!

Scholarships 101 Table of Contents:

Section 1: Scholarship Basics

  1. What is a Scholarship?
  2. Why Are Scholarships Important?
  3. Types of Scholarships to Consider

Section 2: Applying for Scholarships

  1. Where to Find Scholarships
  2. How to Apply for a Scholarship
  3. Use Goodwall to Improve Your Chances
  4. The Scholarship Essay
  5. Sending In Your Scholarship Application

Section 3: What’s Next?

  1. Writing a Scholarship Thank You Letter
  2. Get Ready for University!

Section 1: Scholarship Basics

1. What is a Scholarship?

A scholarship is a set amount of money awarded to a college student or prospective college student which is then applied towards the cost of attending university. 

According to Google, the definition of a scholarship is a “a grant or payment made to support a student’s education, awarded on the basis of academic or other achievement.”

If you require financial assistance to attend the university of your choice, you’ll want to apply for a scholarship. 

You can apply to one, or you can apply to several. Scholarships can be difficult to be awarded, but if you continue reading this guide, it’ll all get clearer and easier.

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

2. Benefits of a Scholarship

But, why are scholarships important, anyway?

There are several great benefits of getting a scholarship:

Scholarships Provide Access to Education

Scholarships open doors. Whether you receive a scholarship for the full tuition amount or just a portion, it definitely eases the financial burden. And, it opens up many more school choices you may not have considered otherwise.

Scholarships Open Up a World of Support for Students

Scholarship donors want to see you succeed, which is why they provide scholarships in the first place. On top of the monetary award, many of them provide scholarship winners with support in other ways, such as network contacts, mentorship, and more.

Scholarships Free Up Your Focus

College can be prohibitively expensive, to say the least. Rather than making ends meet by working during your non-class hours at the local bar and sacrificing sleep and study time, scholarships let you focus on what’s important—your university studies. 

And much more!

For the full list of benefits of scholarships, check out our post on why scholarships are important and why you should consider applying.

Related Read: Why Are Scholarships Important? 7+ Benefits of Scholarships

3. Types of Scholarships

There are a few main categories of scholarships to consider, and each one has its own factors to consider and qualification criteria. 

Here are the basic types of scholarships to think about:

1. Academic Scholarships

Academic scholarships are awarded to students with a stellar academic record and impressive grades. If you’re at the very top of your class, consider applying for an academic scholarship. 

2. Personal Scholarships

Personal scholarships are usually handed out by companies, nonprofit organizations, or individuals, and they focus on goals, beliefs, and accomplishments. Examples of a personal scholarship include a scholarship for community service and scholarships for dedicated volunteer work.

3. Immutable Characteristic Scholarships

Immutable characteristic scholarships are granted to particular groups of students. They’re somewhat niche scholarships, and examples include women in STEM scholarships, minority ethnic group scholarships, and scholarships for people from a certain country. 

4. Athletic and Activity Scholarships

Athletic scholarships are awarded to college students or prospective students based on an impressive level of athletic performance. These can be broken down into the various sports a college supports. Activity scholarships are similar, but awarded to high-level output in areas such as the performing arts.

Related Read: 18 Types of Scholarships to Explore for Your College Needs

Section 2: Applying for Scholarships

4. How to Find Scholarships 🔍

Scholarships don’t require a treasure map and cryptic clues to locate. All you need to do is know where to look.

Head Over to Goodwall Opportunities

You don’t even have to leave this site!

On Goodwall, we have over $1.5 million in scholarships at any given time, including many that are exclusive to Goodwall members or visitors.

If you haven’t yet, sign up to Goodwall (iOS or Android), and get searching!

Check Your High School’s Website

Your local bank, bakery, and cable provider sometimes sponsor scholarships for students. Who do they send it to?

Your high school counselor, of course.

If you’re still in high school or just graduated, visit their website or see the school’s counselor to inquire about local scholarships.

🎁 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!

Visit Scholarship Websites

If you’re looking for more international or national scholarships, it’s time to visit dedicated scholarship websites. 

Some of the top websites for scholarships include:

Related Read: Best Scholarship Websites to Find Money for College

5. How to Get a Scholarship?

You’ve found the best places to look for scholarships.

Now, it’s time to apply.

Here are the general steps to getting a scholarship:

  1. Think big. Don’t just find one perfect scholarship and put everything you have into applying for it. Rather, find several—even many—scholarships, and apply for them all. You’re bound to get a few replies, at the very least.
  2. Gather documents. Get together all your report cards, grades, awards, academic achievements, important dates, and other key information so you’re ready to apply.
  3. Make a spreadsheet. To keep everything sorted, make a spreadsheet with various columns such as the scholarship name, status of your application, deadline, URL, organization or donor name, and so on. 
  4. Write a scholarship essay. This is the most difficult part of many scholarships, though it’s not a requirement for all. Also, proofread like your life depends on it! (We’ll talk about scholarship essays more in a bit.)
  5. Get recommendations. Many scholarship applications request letters of recommendation to be included alongside. Think of the best possible references, such as your high school principal, the general manager of the food bank you volunteered at, etc.
  6. Prepare for an interview. Some scholarships may have an interview process, so it’s important to get ready for the interview, just as you would for a job.
  7. Be patient. Try to avoid feeling impatient as you wait for the replies to get to you, even though you’re probably dying to find out. Also, be patient with positive answers, as well. If you’ve applied for several scholarships, you may get several no answers before finally getting a yes.

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

6. Use Goodwall to Get a Scholarship

Say you’ve had a successful few years in high school. Perhaps you won the state’s science fair, produced a powerful high school musical, and helped out at the animal shelter in the evenings.

How do you highlight these proud wins?

Goodwall’s online profile is exactly what you need! 🚀

Each and every high school student who signs up for Goodwall gets one, absolutely free! 

The Goodwall internet profile is your own personal profile page on the web, and you can put your custom link on scholarship applications to show off your achievements. On top of that, add skills, academic accomplishments, graphics, video files, personal experiences, personal contact details, and even a short description to introduce yourself. 

It’s the ideal way to showcase yourself in a modern format as you apply for scholarships and later during the university application process!

Here’s an example of what it might look like:

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

7. The Scholarship Essay

Scholarship essays are often the worst, most difficult part of the application process for many high school and college students.

But they don’t have to be!

Here are some tips on writing a scholarship essay easily and effectively:

  1. Start early. Many scholarships which require essays usually ask for a variation of the “why do you deserve this scholarship essay.” Write this even before you apply, and you can tweak later with more specifics. Learn the best time to apply for scholarships here.
  2. Read carefully. One misstep or oversight when it comes to reading the scholarship application essay instructions, and it’s an immediate fail. 
  3. Get personal. Scholarship approval committees are keen on getting to know you. They want to see if you’ll be a great fit, academically and as a part of the student body. So, show them your human side as your write, rather than making it impersonal or just one achievement after another.
  4. Be positive. This was one of our scholarship tips for applying above, but we mean it differently here. Be upbeat in your writing, and don’t invoke self-pity or negativity to try to get their vote—it won’t work.
  5. Be passionate. If you get the chance to choose your own scholarship essay topic, pick one which you are passionate and enthusiastic about. Not only will you likely be better able to speak on that subject, but the enthusiasm will come across in your writing.
  6. Seek advice. You have a variety of people at your disposal, just waiting to help you. For advice, go to your parents, older siblings, teachers, school counselor, and others to make sure you write the best essay for a scholarship imaginable. 
  7. Proofread. Just as with not following the instructions, a scholarship essay with grammatical or other errors will likely get discarded immediately.
  8. Repeat. Remember, the more scholarships you apply to, the greater your chances of getting the financial award. So, once you’re finished with this scholarship essay, crack your knuckles and start the next one!

Related Read: How to Pay for College: Ways to Afford University w/o Expensive Loans

8. Sending in Your Scholarship Application

Many scholarships these days take place fully online, with forms to fill out, attachments to upload, and a big, colorful button to press.

However, some scholarships, especially those from local or smaller organizations, may require an old school letter or email to apply.

When crafting one of these emails or scholarship application letters, be formal. Use standard business letter formatting, including when addressing your scholarship application email.

Be professional in your email (though your scholarship essay attachment can get personal). Make it short and to-the-point, and avoid emoji, abbreviations, and other things which may turn them off.

Finally, if you’re sending an email, review your handle. You may have a cute email address from back when you were a kid, such as However, this doesn’t look professional, so consider using an email alias or creating a new email address to use for professional and academic purposes. Something like is perfect!

Related Read: How to Write a Scholarship Thank You Letter

Section 3: What’s Next?

9. Writing a Scholarship Thank You Letter 🙏 

It’s important to write a thank you letter to your scholarship donor because, fundamentally, it’s just good manners. They’ve given you a phenomenal gift in recognition of your hard work, and saying thank you is the polite thing to do. 

Also, it’s really not hard at all!

Write a sincere, heartfelt letter thanking them and their organization, if applicable, for their generosity.

Handwritten or typed?

Formal or informal?

We answer all these questions and more in our post on how to write a scholarship thank you letter. Oh, and there’s even a sample thank you letter for a scholarship to make it a breeze!

Related Read: Should I Go to College? Here Are 8 Benefits of University Education

10. Prepare for College! 🎓

Now, all that’s left for you to do is to get ready for classes at your chosen university!

Check out these guides to equip yourself with the right tools and knowledge for your first days in college:

Books to Read Before College – As you’re entering college, you may be sick of books at the moment. However, these books to read before college are sure to change your mind!

Studying From Home Tips – Whether you’re a high school student, college attendee, or young professional, here are our best studying and working from home tips for you.

How to Concentrate Better – Once you get into university, concentration takes on a whole new meaning. Read our guide for the best concentration tips to learn how to stay focused.

How Does Recycling Help the Environment? – Recycling is great, and we all know it. Plus, it’s important to set a good example for your fellow dorm mates. But, how does recycling help the environment? Here are the important benefits of recycling.

How to Save Money in College – Looking for how to stay on a tight budget in college? Here are money-saving tips and links to student discounts to minimize university expenses.

Niche Social Media Sites – Are the major social media platforms too broad or noisy for your particular interests? Here are 10 of the best niche social media sites to join in college.

Jobs for College Students – Is your scholarship not enough and you’re looking for a first job to make ends meet? Our article gives you all the best first jobs for college students to get you going.

Well, that’s it for our scholarships 101 article, and hopefully it’s helped you figure it out for yourself. Got any questions, feedback, or other scholarship topics to discuss? Let us know in the comments below, and thanks for reading!

Download our app today!

If you want more stories like this, a dose of inspiration, an awesome support network, and a place to share ideas and achievements, the Goodwall app has it all and more.
Download Goodwall from the iOS App Store Download Goodwall from the Google Play Store
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.

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *