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When Should I Start Applying for Scholarships?

Scholarships can provide money for college that does not need to be repaid. Just like the college application process, scholarship applications also have deadlines. When should you start applying for scholarships? Some scholarship applications are due between your junior and senior year of high school. Other scholarship deadlines can range from October to March of your senior year or every year you are in college.

What's important when you apply for college scholarships?

Make sure you submit applications and all required supporting material on time. Also, keep in mind that many scholarships require the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA), so complete that application as quickly as possible (check your FAFSA deadline here).

When you should apply for college scholarships.

Whether you are just starting to think about college or are already an undergraduate, organization is key to keep the various scholarship application dates top-of-mind. Here’s a categorized list to help you plan:

  • Scholarships for high school juniors range from merit- and interest-based to essay applications. Deadlines are rolling, starting from the fall of your junior year all the way through the summer.
  • The big names in scholarships, like Coca-Cola, Gates Millennium Scholarships, Davidson Fellows Scholarships and Dell Scholars Program, are not only highly competitive, but have the earliest deadlines in your senior year of high school, typically early fall.
  • Federal and state student aid deadlines depend upon your state of residence and the academic year you are applying for aid. The FAFSA Student Aid Deadline Calculator is a great help to understand these deadlines.
  • Local and community scholarships from clubs, businesses and faith-based groups are an excellent way to help pay for school. Application deadlines range from junior through senior year in high school.
  • School-based scholarships are offered by almost every college and university to undergraduate and graduate students who meet academic requirements. Deadlines vary and many are renewable, which means you can reapply each year while you are a college student.

How to keep everything straight.

Make an effort to organize your scholarship application process. There are numbers of supplemental materials in addition to the application that you will need to provide when you submit your request for scholarship, from letters of reference and transcripts, to essays and financial records. Gather those items in one place so it is easy to make copies when they are required. Set up an Excel spreadsheet to help you keep tabs on the important details of each scholarship application, such as contact information for the scholarship director, required materials for submission and the date you sent each application. Make sure a deadline column is prominent and filled in for each scholarship that interests you.

If you miss a scholarship deadline.

Knowing and meeting deadlines is very important in college scholarship planning. For help, rely on online reminder and calendar apps like Google Calendar or Any.do. If you miss a deadline, consult your spreadsheet for the scholarship deadlines that are coming up and concentrate on making those deadlines.

Remember, new scholarship opportunities open up each year. When you do apply, make sure you avoid these seven big mistakes.



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