Many international students looking at colleges and graduate schools in the U.S. are asking the same question: When should I start applying for scholarships? The answer: As soon as possible!
There are hundreds, if not thousands, of scholarship opportunities out there. They can come from a variety of places, whether it’s a school, a non-profit organization, federal and state governments, or a religious group. Considering this range of options, scholarship deadlines vary depending on the funding source; some are in the fall, whereas others are in the winter or spring.
Because there isn’t one particular time when students should apply for scholarships, you can begin researching ahead of time and continue to submit applications throughout the year.
Here are the answers to some of the key questions about the scholarship search:
What are the different types of scholarships?
There are a few different types of scholarships, as defined by the U.S. Department of Education’s Federal Student Aid website. Merit-based scholarships are awarded for meeting certain academic standards or a combination of your academic accomplishments and a special talent or interest. Others are awarded based on financial need, while some are geared toward certain populations, for example, minorities.
Where can I find information on scholarships?
There are many different websites with details about scholarships and their applications. Among them are Scholarships.com, Fastweb.com, and Chegg.com, along with the College Board’s Scholarship Search tool.
To get started, it could be beneficial to create a list of your interests—both academic and outside the classroom—and then research different organizations that offer scholarships relevant to each one. Keep in mind that you should not necessarily immediately exclude the smaller (and usually less competitive) scholarships. They often have much less competition than the bigger ones do, and earning several can add up to a large sum of money.
Once you start researching, organize your list of scholarships according to the amount of money each one would provide, the application deadline, and the amount of work involved in submitting an application. Make the ones at the top of your list—especially those with upcoming deadlines—a priority.
What does the application process entail?
Typically, scholarship applications will ask for financial information on top of academic materials such as test scores and a high school transcript. Many require that you submit financial aid forms and your parents’ financial information, and you may also need to write additional essays and request letters of recommendation.
When applying for scholarships, read the directions carefully, and note that some will require more work than others. Before submitting your application, make sure to edit and review your materials (and have other people take a look at them, too). If you are reusing material from a different scholarship application, don’t forget to change any incorrect names.
Good luck on getting those applications started! And remember: Apply early and often.