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Scholarships: What you need to know


Scholarships are the most publicized and talked about form of financial aid. Many scholarships are awarded each year by colleges, organizations, corporations, churches, and clubs. Some college scholarships are based on financial need and require the submission of the FAFSA and/or CSS Profile. Other college and "outside" scholarships are looking for students with an accomplishment, attribute, talent or affiliation.

All scholarships have eligibility criteria, and it will take time and effort to find scholarships for which you might qualify. Beware of scholarships which are actually sweepstakes or lotteries. Take a look at the SPREADSHEET of local and general scholarships which has been compiled by the College and Career Center.

When looking for scholarships, students and parents need to keep the following in mind:

  1. Smaller, local scholarships are often much easier to qualify for and get than those sponsored by large organizations or businesses. Coca Cola, for example, receives thousands of applications for their scholarships. A local Rotary Club may receive 10 applications for their Rotary Scholarship.
  2. Colleges award most of the scholarships/grants based on the information you provided on the FAFSA and/or CSS Profile form (and sometimes solely based on the strength of your application). See the Net Price Calculator of each college to get a rough estimate or the Common Data Set of the college for average amount of need-based aid and non-need based aid.
  3. Most financial aid is not awarded in the form of a scholarship, but rather in the form of financial need.
  4. Private colleges generally award more scholarships than public colleges because they cost more to attend.
  5. A one-year scholarship is for one year only; a renewable scholarship can become a four-year scholarship.
  6. If you have been awarded government and/or institutional aid, "outside" scholarships (scholarships that are awarded by entities other than the college) must be reported to the college's financial aid office. Upon learning that a student has received an outside scholarship, the college may reduce the need-based aid (e.g., loan or grant money) they had awarded. This is known as scholarship displacement. A student who received an outside scholarship may therefore find that while the scholarship money helps to pay their college expenses, it does not reduce the total cost of attendance. This applies only if you are receiving need-based and/or non-need-based aid from the college. If you do not qualify for any financial aid from the college anyway, then outside scholarships can make a difference for you.
  7. Scholarships are especially valuable when you have a financial aid or funding gap, which appears when the student’s expected family contribution (EFC) plus the school’s financial aid package (based on your FAFSA) don’t equal the cost of attendance. This gap appears as unmet need on a student’s financial aid award letter.

There are thousands of scholarships available, and those who are willing to invest the time and energy often find that their efforts pay off handsomely.



Before you submit your scholarship application, check out these tips:

  1. Read Directions.
    Read directions carefully before you start filling out your application.
  2. Complete the application in full.
    If a question does not apply, note that on the application by marking (N/A) in the blank. Don't just leave it blank. Be sure to supply all additional supporting material, such as transcripts, letter of recommendation and essays.
  3. Follow Directions.
    Provide everything that is required. But don't supply things that aren't requested - you could be disqualified.
  4. Neatness Counts.
    Always type your application, or if you must print, do so neatly and legibly. Make a couple copies of all the forms before you start to fill them out. Use the copies as working drafts as you develop your application packet.
  5. Use your scholarship personal statement template.
    The key to writing a strong essay is to be personal and specific. Include concrete details to make your experience come alive: the "who," "what," "when," and "where" of your topic. The simplest experience can be monumental if you present honestly how you were affected.
  6. Watch all Deadlines.
    To help keep yourself on track, impose your own deadline that is at least two weeks prior to the official deadline. Use the buffer time to make sure everything is ready on time. Don't rely on extensions - very few scholarship providers all them at all.
  7. Make sure your application gets where it needs to go.
    Put your name on all pages of the application. Pieces of your application may get lost unless they are clearly identified.
  8. Keep a back-up file in case anything goes wrong.
    Before sending the application, make a copy of the entire packet. If your application goes astray, you will be able to reproduce it quickly.
  9. Give a final "Once-Over."
    Proof-read the entire application carefully. Be on the lookout for misspelled words or grammatical errors. Ask a friend, teacher or parent to proofread it as well.
  10. Ask for help if you need it.
    If you have problems with the application, don't hesitate to call the scholarship foundation and ask questions.


If you or your student receive any information through the mail regarding scholarship search companies, college admission counseling, SAT or ACT prep classes, etc. Please beware.  These companies are sending out mass mailings asking for:

  • A fee to be paid for services
  • For your participation in a presentation where you will eventually be asked for money in exchange for their services

The services they offer are not free, whereas the Washington High School College and Career Center and counseling staff can help you with many needs that arise in the often complex maze of preparing for college. This information is available to all WHS students and their parents/guardians. Should you have any questions, please call the College and Career Center at 510-505-7300 X67243.