Academic Scholarships: What You Need to Know

A school counselor shows some papers inside a blue folder to the student with their back to the camera across a deskScholarships might seem like a dream, but millions of dollars are handed out to students yearly. Attending college, especially the top universities can be a huge financial burden to many, and scholarships can help.  Whether you’re in the application process or looking forward to applying, here is what you need to know about applying for academic scholarships.

The Best Times to Begin Applying for Academic Scholarships

Even though most academic scholarship application deadlines are usually March 1, the best time to begin applying for scholarships is as early as a year before joining college. Student Aid recommends that you start searching for scholarships in summer, just after your high school junior year.

We recommend that you begin searching for scholarships as early as possible and take note of the critical deadlines and the eligibility criteria. Early research will help you avoid the last-minute application rush because you will already have everything that’s required of you. Bear in mind that there are many scholarships available, and each of them has different deadlines.  If you’re applying for academic scholarships, high chances are you’re submitting multiple applications to increase your chances of landing one. In this case, consider noting down the deadlines or perhaps setting reminders to ensure you submit your application on time.

How to Find the Best Academic Scholarships

Scholarships are available everywhere, but it takes a bit of research to find the ones you are eligible for and worth applying for.  Here are a few places to begin your search:

Look into Your Specific Prospective Colleges: Most colleges offer scholarships from their private funds, making it the best starting point for your academic scholarships. To learn more about academic scholarships at your prospective college, visit the school’s website and/or contact the college’s financial aid office.

Get Counseling Resources From Your School: A great way to find the best academic scholarships is by utilizing your school’s college counseling resources. At The Vanguard School, our College Counseling Office is dedicated to providing our students with a comprehensive list of scholarships and guiding them through the application process. Contact us at [email protected] to inquire about our college counseling services.

Visit Official National or Governmental Websites: Consider filling out a free scholarship application for Federal Student Aid or the FAFSA. You will also find different national academic scholarships on database search services such as and

Visit Your Public Library or Ask for Local Scholarships: Check the reference section in your public library to see any available scholarships.  Many public libraries will have information on available local scholarships.  Local scholarships may include, but are not limited to, civic groups, local foundations, and ethnicity-based organizations.

Look for Private Scholarship Options: Private scholarships can be non-profit or profit scholarships. Profit private scholarships include foundations such as Coca-Cola, while the LEAP Foundation is an example of a non-profit private scholarship. Profit scholarships tend to be more competitive than non-profits because they’re often big-name companies. Profit and non-profit private scholarships often attach a specific theme to their applications, such as a hobby, heritage, or college major.

What to Expect When Applying for Academic Scholarships

Academic scholarships are incredibly competitive.  Even though some scholarships are based on having outstanding academic records, also referred to as merit-based scholarships, in most cases, several factors determine your scholarship’s success, including your volunteer work, leadership experience, and extracurricular involvement. Your financial needs may also affect your application’s success.

Each scholarship you apply for will have its own requirements. The best way to apply for academic scholarships is to ensure you read and double-check the requirements to see if you’re eligible. Provide all the requirements, fill out your application thoroughly, and ensure you’ve met the application deadline. Applying for academic scholarships is not complicated; you only need to set aside time and do your diligence. Here are tips on what you need to remember when submitting your scholarship application:

  • Double-check the eligibility requirements of the scholarship.
  • Read and understand the application process and the required format applicable.
  • Note down the scholarship’s application deadline and set a reminder if possible.
  • Assemble all the documents. That could be your high school transcripts, two to three letters of recommendation, your resume, a creative essay on the given topic, and a complete FAFSA or guardian’s tax receipts.
  • Triple-check your application for any small mistakes and submit your application on time.

Do You Need Help With Your Academic Scholarship Application?

If you need help with your application process or want more information, visit our college counseling resources page or contact us at [email protected] to get in touch with our College Counseling Office.

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