There are many college scholarships that are due throughout the year. So, when should you apply for them?

The honest answer is: it depends. That’s because there are many different types of scholarships. Some scholarship opportunities are designed for high school students, while others are specifically given to undergraduate or graduate students.

Below, we’ll cover what you need to know about when to apply for scholarships. We’ll break down what’s important depending on your level of study. So, let’s get to the details that can help you win free money.

Is Now a Good Time to Start Applying for Scholarships?

If you’re currently enrolled in college or university, now is a good time to start applying for scholarships. Scholarships for undergraduates pop up all year long so there’s really no bad time to start.

When looking for scholarships, you should pay close attention to eligibility requirements to ensure that your age, level of study, and major meet the scholarship’s terms and conditions. You’re much more likely to win scholarships that match your profile. For example, merit-based scholarships require great grades (GPA) or extracurricular involvement. However, the aim of need-based scholarships is to help students who require a certain degree of financial support.

There could be other eligibility terms that are important to your application. These terms could qualify you for a scholarship or make you ineligible. For this reason, it’s good practice to read eligibility requirements carefully, always.

When Should High School Students Start Applying for College Scholarships?

It’s never too early to create a plan of success for scholarship writing. If you’re a high school freshman, sophomore, or junior, college scholarships are just around the corner. With this in mind, there are many things that you can do now to better position yourself to win scholarships as a high school senior.

               If You’re Not a High School Senior, You Can Still Plan

A lot of scholarships will have specific eligibility criteria, noting that you have to be accepted to or enrolled in a college program to win the prize. If you’re not a high school senior yet, this means you can’t win the scholarship money … at least for now.

If you’re in the 9th to 11th grade, examining scholarships now can help you understand what will be expected of you in the future. As you start searching for and finding scholarships, you may ask yourself: is there a prize that you see yourself applying to in the future? If so, how does your current profile align with the eligibility requirements?

The great thing about reviewing scholarships now is that you have time to enhance your student profile in a way that will make you more competitive to win a scholarship. Time is on your side, so planning now can offer great future benefits. 

               For High School Seniors

Your high school senior year is a perfect time to start applying for scholarships and bursaries. Again, you should always check eligibility criteria first. There exist many prizes that are specifically given to high school graduates, which means there is a narrow window for eligibility. You can increase your chances of winning a scholarship for high school seniors by combining this search criteria with more specific focus. For example, there are scholarships for students graduating from high school who plan to study a specific field or meet a specific identity criteria – scholarships for engineering students, scholarships for Hispanic students, scholarships for veterans, scholarships for women in STEM, etc.

Your high school senior year is when a lot of prizes become available to you, so start forming a scholarship list as soon as possible! Deadlines approach as early as September and continue throughout the fall semester. While you may not start college until the following year, you may be surprised by how many scholarships are available for you.

The More You Apply for Scholarships, the Better

For most high school and current college students, it’s highly unlikely that every scholarship application will turn out to be a winner. For this reason, you should apply for scholarships early and often.

Scholarships are competitive, but the possibility of rejection shouldn’t deter you from submitting applications. Winning scholarships can be a bit of a numbers game. The more you apply for, the better your chances. Also, it’s quite common for even the most decorated scholarship winners to tell you that rejections outnumber successes. Fortunately, no one will ever ask you how many scholarships you didn’t get. The only thing that matters are those that you won!

Considering this advice, you may ask what happens if you win more than one prize? Can you hold two scholarships at once? Is there a limit on the amount of scholarships you can hold? Remember, every scholarship has different eligibility criteria. Some scholarships will note that you cannot hold any other major prizes simultaneously. Others might not have any conditions at all. So, always check the fine print. Your answer should be there.

Of course, you should always double check how winning scholarships may influence the status of your student loan (if this is applicable to you). You can check in with your school’s financial aid office or school counselor for precise details.

Financial Aid and Scholarship Applications

Another important note related to various scholarship deadlines is that you may need to submit a Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). For most government scholarships and grants, this is a necessary step. It’s good to get this done early. Most guidance counselors can help you through the process if you get stuck.

Future Success: Private Scholarships vs. Student Loans

Alongside college planning, college applications, and everything else related to college survival, considering your college funding can be an important part of your success as a student. Winning money for college can help you avoid having to dip into options that you’ll have to pay back later – like private student loans, student aid, or other types of funding that will lock you into a future loan repayment.

Unlike loans, you don’t have to pay back scholarship funds. For this reason, winning money can help you have a more comfortable college experience. It may also help you immensely after graduation when you’re ready to kick off a great career!

Summary: When to Start Applying for College Scholarships

  • College students can apply for scholarships all year long
  • High school students should plan early for scholarship applications and begin submitting in senior year
  • Complete a FAFSA if you require financial aid
  • Start scholarship searches as soon as possible
  • Read eligibility requirements carefully – ensure that you meet the scholarship’s criteria
  • Don’t be intimidated – if you’ve never applied for a scholarship before, it can seem daunting. However, the more prizes you apply for, the easier it becomes, and the greater your chances are to win money!