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Applying for College Scholarships

notebook on a messy desk with a drawing of a cap with cash and the word scholarship

1. Start your scholarship search early!

Deadlines vary depending on the scholarship, but there are many scholarships that aren’t just available for high school seniors, but from grades 9 through 11 as well. Scholarships take some dedicated time to writing essays and finalizing applications, so start early and put out your best work! Students who set aside time to find, plan and complete scholarships early are more likely to win them.

2. Apply for scholarships through organizations or foundations.

The Hawai’i Community Foundation is a great start for Hawai’i students. They provide a database of over 200+ scholarships with an easy scholarship manager account that allows you to submit one application to the scholarships you qualify for.

Search for local scholarships through your guidance counselor and at financial aid offices at the universities you are interested in going to. Some local scholarships receive fewer than 100 applications per year, so take advantage!

3. Apply to every scholarship you are eligible for.

Go for smaller, less competitive scholarships as they are easier to win. A $500 scholarship may not seem like a lot, but winning more than one allows the money to add up. These smaller scholarships can also help cover the cost of books, supplies and other expenses that may not necessarily be covered by larger awards.

Don’t limit yourself to one type of scholarship either. Apply for scholarships in various categories; such as, merit, athletic, and artistic scholarships. Remember, there is no limit to how many scholarships you can apply for!

4. Read and follow the instructions for each application carefully.

Each scholarship is a little bit different than the other, so make sure to tailor your application and essay to the sponsor’s requirements. Make sure to fill everything out completely and meet the application deadline. Don’t forget to have a counselor or someone to proofread a printed copy of your essay and application for spelling and grammar errors before sending it out. You don’t want to lose out on a scholarship due to a lack of proofreading.

5. Don’t reuse the exact same essay for each scholarship.

Personalize it by writing about something that you’re passionate about. This is your chance to market yourself to recruiters, be specific and give examples. Don’t avoid scholarships that require an essay either. They may take more effort, but many can be modified to put towards future applications.

Often times students don’t want to spend too much time on scholarship applications that require essays, but those who aren’t afraid to do so have a greater chance of winning one!

6. Don’t fall for scholarship scams!

Beware of “scholarships” that require a fee for you to apply, true scholarships are made to aid you, not have you pay. A legitimate scholarship sponsor will never guarantee that you’ll win either. If it seems to be good to be true, it probably is. They will also never require personal information, like your social security number. It is better to play it safe than sorry if you don’t feel comfortable giving out any information they are requesting.

And finally, don’t be discouraged if you don’t win any scholarships right away. It’s important to remember that the more you apply for, the better your chances of winning one! There are many scholarships out there, so don’t give up if you aren’t rewarded immediately.

Adapted from

As a reminder, HFS Federal Credit Union has our own scholarship program open to Big Island High School Seniors! Stay tuned for more information in early 2018!