How to Apply for Outside Scholarships and Know Which Are Credible

A Meredith student reading a book in a chair

Congratulations! You are embarking on a very exciting journey – the path of higher education. Grab a pen and paper and let’s get started with writing a college preparation to-do list. Be sure that you include “Apply for Outside Scholarships” at the top of your list.

Outside scholarships are free monies that are awarded by outside organizations or private donors that you do not have to repay. Sounds great, right? Well then, let’s get you on your way to minimizing your out-of-pocket college expenses by applying for available scholarship opportunities.

As you begin, take a deep breath. Don’t get overwhelmed. Applying for outside scholarships is not as dreadful of a task as you may think. It does require that you put in extra time and effort, but the process can be very rewarding. Look at it this way, when you’re applying for outside scholarships, you’re taking advantage of opportunities that reward you for your academic, athletic, and/or your community achievements. That simply means that you are being paid for being S.U.P.E.R. (Successful, Unyielding, Persistent, Excellent, and Remarkable). Let’s get started with some helpful tips.

Applying for Outside Scholarships

When searching for outside scholarships, you should begin by contacting your high school guidance counselor and/or your prospective college’s financial aid office about available scholarships.

You can also find scholarship opportunities through your or your parent’s employer, your local library, church, community organizations, and local businesses in your area. The internet is another great place to start your scholarship search, but be sure that you are applying for scholarships through credible online sources (read on for how to tell).

Completing the Scholarship Application Process

Once you have identified scholarships that fit your interest, read the application carefully, fill the application out completely, and submit your application by the posted deadline. If the scholarship that you are applying for requires an essay, be sure that you clearly answer the essay question, avoid repetitiveness, and be original. When you are finished with your essay, have your parent, guidance counselor, or mentor proofread it before you submit it. You might want to save a general essay to use for future scholarship applications.

Identifying Credible Scholarship Sources

Always look for scholarships through a reliable and trustworthy source, such as your school, public library, religious and civic organizations, or employer. When applying for scholarships online, it is very important that you make sure that you are submitting your information over a secure site, which means that your personal information is encrypted and offers more cyber security. Here are a few credible online scholarship sources:,,, The College Board,, and

Identifying Non-trustworthy Scholarship Sources

You should always avoid scholarship applications that require a processing fee. Stick to searching for scholarships through reputable, free scholarship search services. Never share your personal information with non-trustworthy sources over the phone or online, who offer to complete the scholarship process for you. Almost all scholarship opportunities will require you to submit personal information that only you can provide, not a third-party. Also, be sure to ignore any emails you receive that say “You have won a scholarship” from an organization that you are unfamiliar with or have not applied to. These are often phishing scams that may solicit your personal information to sell to other companies.

Top 5 Scholarship Tips to Remember:

  1. Utilize the available resources at your school, college, internet, and in your local community to find scholarship opportunities.
  2. Complete your scholarship application in its entirety and have someone proofread your scholarship essay before you submit it.
  3. Apply for scholarships through credible resources and watch out for scholarship scams.
  4. Have fun in your scholarship search and apply for as many scholarships as possible.
  5. Never give up. If you don’t get selected the first time, keep trying.

Remember, you are S.U.P.E.R., and the more effort you invest in the scholarship application process, the more your diligence will pay off.

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