Ten Tips for Winning College Scholarships

how to win scholarships

Want free money? High school students will appreciate these tips for winning college scholarships.

Then you want a scholarship – or more than one!  Scholarships are a great way to pay for college, and it’s money you don’t have to pay back. 

Not all scholarships are based on need; some are based solely on academic or personal achievement. In fact, there are thousands of scholarships out there, and each one is looking for something different. There are scholarships for students with diverse interests, talents, and abilities… 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.

Qualifications for scholarships also 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.

If you are in grade 9-11, start by applying to the scholarship offered by International College Counselors.  Apply here.

Here are some tips for winning college scholarships, tips for finding other scholarship opportunities, and tips for putting yourself in the best position to win one.

1. Avoid scams. There are many free scholarship search services available. If you have to pay to apply for a scholarship, this typically indicates a scam. There is also no company that can guarantee you’ll win a scholarship if you pay them. If you have any concern about a scholarship, do a Google search on it to see if anyone else has had an experience with it—either positive or negative.

2. Sign up with a free online scholarship search.  Answer some questions on a specialized website, and they will match you with potential sources for free money for college. By facilitating your scholarship search process, these sites allow you to save, organize, and update your search activity. Websites for free online scholarship searches include:







All clients of International College Counselors receive a monthly list of scholarships. Students should also check with their high school counselor about scholarships.

3.  Conduct an online search.  A simple online search through Google is another option. To search effectively, make a list of all the different categories you fit into (e.g., by gender, race, location, hobbies, sports, abilities, etc.), and then search for scholarships based on those. A good starting place for finding local scholarships is to Google “scholarships” and the name of your city or state.

4. Look for niche scholarships. These may include local scholarships (for example, check out your local Rotary Club, Women’s Club, Chamber of Commerce, and university alumni groups). Your high school may have scholarships only for its students as well. Fewer students will be applying to these, which means better chances for you. For example, South Florida has the Miami-Dade County Fair & Exposition Scholarship, which is offered to one student at every high school in the Miami area.

5. Apply for scholarships with smaller awards. Multiple small awards can add up fast. Plus, students have a better chance of winning the small scholarships. Scholarships with the bigger awards draw the most applicants.

6. Make the search about you. Look for scholarships that fit your talents and interests. Do you like making films? Apply for scholarships that ask for a video. The same goes if you enjoy writing, drawing, creating websites, competing in math, creating a business plan, or even duck calling.

7. Write original and thoughtful essays. Not all scholarships require essays, but when they do, strive to set yourself apart from the others. Capture the reader’s attention while making sure to answer the prompt. Bonus: writing scholarship essays provides great practice for writing college admissions essays in the future.

8. Read the rules and follow them exactly.  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. If an application video should be shorter than 5 minutes, make sure it’s under 5 minutes. If an essay should be 200 words, don’t write 250. And—be sure to meet the deadlines!

9. Don’t wait until the last minute. Start looking for scholarships 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. Furthermore, try to apply before the deadline, not ON the deadline. You can never be certain the website, internet, or computer will be working.

10. Apply for as many scholarships as possible. The more scholarships you apply for, the more chances you have to win one–or a dozen! There’s no limit to how many scholarships you can apply for. Approach the scholarship search in the same way you’d look for a job: make it a priority to apply. Even when you’re in college, keep looking for scholarships.

It requires time and effort to find and apply for scholarships, but they’re worth it!

Need help with a scholarship essay or want help applying to colleges? Contact International College Counselors at 1-954-414-9986 or www.internationalcollegecounselors.com