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Scholarships are essentially gifts of money given to help fund a college education.  With college tuition raising at dramatic rates earning scholarship money can really help.  There are two basic types of scholarships:  Merit based and need need-based scholarships:

  • Merit based scholarships are awarded to students that have a particular skill (musical talent, athletic ability, etc.), high academic achievements, community service, among other things.
  • Need based scholarships are given to students that financially need the money in order to be able to afford college.  Fortunately, there are a lot of scholarships available for students to help pay for college. It is a common belief for parents to feel they will not qualify for need based.  For most need based aid, completing the FAFSA form can be a requirement to earn need base scholarships .
  • Automatic Scholarships are when seniors apply for admission and many colleges have scholarships that are awarded automatically to the student. These scholarships may be for a few hundred dollars to tens of thousands of dollars (or more). These tend to be merit based scholarships based on GPA, the classes taken, and/or ACT or SAT scores. (Iowa State’s Automatic Scholarships)
  • Athletic Scholarships are given to athletes who compete at a high level and are recruited by a college team to come and play for them. You can apply and find out more at NCAA Eligibility Center.

How do students get/earn scholarships?

Apply for Admission Early: Students tend to get the most scholarship money from the college that they attend.  In order to get the most scholarship money students should apply for admission as early as possible. Seniors should try to apply for admission to any college that they are considering during August, September, or October of his or her senior year.  This will help the college communicate with them about scholarship opportunities that the school is offering.  If a student puts off applying to the colleges that they are considering the colleges will not know they are interested and will not send information specific scholarship opportunities.  I see students nearly every year that lose out on tens of thousands of dollars in scholarships because they put off applying for admission until December or later.

Private Scholarships: There are literally billions of dollars awarded each year in private scholarships.  There are several ways to find these scholarships.  Each spring we have many local scholarships available here at Gilbert High School.  Throughout the year I receive many scholarship opportunities in the mail and I post listings on this page (see the top of this page!), in the district newsletter, in the hallways of Gilbert High School and also I hand deliver the listings to the seniors!

There are also ways to find scholarships by going to the colleges’ websites.

There are other places you can find scholarships as well.  Google is your friend.  I once had a student who had chronic psoriasis.  She Googled “scholarships for people with psoriasis” and she found a scholarship and was awarded a $1000 check.  Check with your church, your employer (, your parents employer, your bank, and all of the community organizations in your area (Kiwanis, Lions, Rotary, etc.). There are scholarships all over the place.

There are also several websites that help students find private scholarships.  Here are some of the best: | | Ι State Grants

Scholarship Tips:

  1. Apply for admission to the colleges you are considering very early (summer to fall of your senior year) and apply for as many of their scholarships as possible.
  2. Apply! It is true, there is a lot of scholarships that never get awarded to anyone because there are no applicants.  I know of full tuition scholarships where they have more scholarships than applicants.  Every year I have to beg for students to apply for $500 to $1000 scholarships where I know a Gilbert student will get the scholarship and no one has applied yet.  We usually have a few scholarships where there is only one applicant.  The winner usually gets awarded $500 to $1000 for putting 20-30 minutes into the application.  As I often say, students can make more money per hour filling out scholarship apps than they may make for the rest of their life.
  3. Work hard on your studies and shoot for the best GPA for you!  There are many students with very average GPA’s that get a lot of scholarship money, especially when they have been very involved in school and/or their community.
  4. Get involved in something whether that is school related or not.
  5. Write out a resume so you can add it to your application and to give it to the people who need to write you recommendations.
  6. You will need letters of recommendation from people.  Nearly everyone is willing to write you a recommendation so don’t be afraid to ask.  Make sure you give them at least a week to write it and give them a resume to help them put specifics into their letter of recommendation.  Lastly, let them know what they need to do with the recommendation.  Do they put it in a sealed envelope and return it to you? Do they need to mail it?  Do they email it or upload it? What are they supposed to do with it.  May sure you let them know.
  7. Be aware of the deadlines and make sure your application is turned in well before the deadline. If you do not know what you are supposed to do with your finished application please come and see me.  It isn’t always clear how you are supposed to turn them in so please let me know if you have questions.
  8. Keep every essay you write as you may be able to use it, or a version of it, again for another scholarship.
  9. If you have questions please ask me or contact the scholarship organization.
  10. When you look at a scholarship and you think you don’t have good enough grades or haven’t volunteered enough or….. whatever it is other people feel the same way.  This is why scholarships tend to have very few or no applicants.  Try to see writing out scholarship apps like a job and you will do very well for yourself.

Applications MUST be completed by the applicant. Under no circumstances can parents, teachers or counselors complete a scholarship application for a student, nor should they. This is the first step in High School students learning to be independent and responsible as they transition to college. No scholarship or applicant information will be discussed with or released to anyone other than the applicant for most scholarship applications.