Get Free Money! 12 Scholarship Tips for Your Scholarship Search

A photo illustrating International College Counselors offers scholarship tips -- perfect for high school students who want free money.

Want free money? Start with the International College Counselors Scholarship Essay Contest.  If you have a student in grade 9-11, they can start now.  Apply here.

For scholarship tips on how to win this scholarship and others, as well as how to find other college scholarship opportunities, read on.

Scholarships are a great way to pay for college, and it’s money you don’t have to pay back. 

Tip 1: if you have to spend money to apply to a scholarship, it’s a scam. You should never pay to apply for a scholarship.

Tip 2: To kickstart your scholarship quest, use free online search engines like Petersons.comScholarshippoints.comScholarships.comSallieMae ScholarshipSearchStudentscholarships.orgRaise.Me, and Collegeboard.orgIf you’re on our International College Counselors email list, you likely know we send a scholarship list each month. Also have your student loop in their high school counselor; they just might know about more potential scholarships. 

Tip 3: Feeling adventurous? Search with a simple Google dive. Students should categorize themselves into different buckets—gender, race, location, hobbies, sports, and abilities—and seek out scholarships that align with their identity. Scholarships with a smaller range, like those from your city’s Rotary Club, Women’s Club, or Chamber of Commerce, as well as university alumni groups, could be hidden gems with fewer contenders. 

Tip 4: Size doesn’t always matter; sometimes, the smaller awards add up faster. A student’s odds might be better at winning those less-coveted, smaller scholarships, so cast the net wide. Students should make it personal and tailor their search to their talents and interests. Love making films? Find scholarships calling for a video. Enjoy writing, drawing, or duck callingTall or left-handed? There’s a scholarship for each of those.

Tip 5: Not all scholarships require essays, but when they do, students need to strive to set themselves apart. Essays need to stand out. It’s not just about answering the prompt; it’s about grabbing attention. Consider it a pregame for college admissions essays. Need help adding that special something to your essay, work with our sister company Edit the Work.

Read on for more scholarship tips.

Tip 6: RaiseMe is a platform which allows students to earn micro-scholarships for their achievements, by providing incremental rewards for specific accomplishments, from earning good grades to participating in community service and even attending college events. This innovative approach not only encourages students to excel but also provides a tangible, transparent way to track their progress toward potential financial aid. 

Tip 7: Apply for as many scholarships as possible. Think of this like a job search—make it a priority. Students should start early and keep going even after they get accepted into college. The more scholarships applied to, the better the chances of scoring some sweet scholarship victories.

Tip 8: Not all scholarships are based on need; some are based solely on academic prowess, unique achievements, and diverse interests. In fact, there are thousands of scholarships, and each one is looking for something different…for “A” students and average students… for students with a passion for science, community service, pets, or social media… for leaders, artists, and golf caddies…. for students who can make a short movie on the dangers of distracted driving, write an essay on an Ayn Rand novel, or make prom attire out of duct tape. It’s like a treasure hunt out there.

Tip 9: Qualifications for scholarships include unique hobbies, special interests, diverse background, ethnicity, religion, LGBTQIA+ identification, choice of majors, hardships, family history, service projects, membership in certain organizations, proficiency at answering essay questions, and more.

Tip 10: Follow the rules. If an essay should be 200 words, don’t try to sneak in an extra 50. If an application video should be shorter than 5 minutes, make sure it’s under 5 minutes. Don’t apply for scholarships if you don’t meet the eligibility requirements. If a scholarship is specifically for graduating seniors, the scholarship will only be given to a graduating senior. And—be sure to meet the deadlines! Even better, try to apply before the deadline, not ON the deadline. You can never be certain the website, internet, or computer will be working.

Tip 11: Some of the biggest scholarships a student can earn come from colleges and states.A prime example of state-sponsored largesse is Florida’s Bright Futures Scholarship. This program rewards Florida high school graduates up to 100% of tuition at a Florida public school. Similarly, the Zell Miller Scholarship in Georgia covers full tuition costs for in-state Georgia students who excel academically. Colleges, too, unveil a trove of scholarships. For instance, the University of Southern California’s Trustee Scholarship is open to prospective freshmen, and it covers full tuition. 

Tip 12:  For the love of scholarships, don’t wait until the last minute. Start looking for scholarships (and applying these scholarship tips)  before you apply to college, not after you get in. By the time you hear about your admission, many deadlines have already passed. Plus, there are many scholarships available for students who are not yet seniors.

International College Counselors

It requires time and effort to find and apply for scholarships, but they’re worth it! For help with scholarships (including more scholarship tips) and/or navigating any or all parts of the college admissions process, contact International College Counselors or call 1-954-414-9986 to discuss how we can support you and your family!