Securing Your Future: How to Apply for US College Scholarships in High School

07/02/202315 minute read
Securing Your Future: How to Apply for US College Scholarships in High School

The cost of a college education is rising steeply and many students explore options for payment. If you feel that you qualify for a scholarship, it is best to start preparing for it in high school. Here we provide a comprehensive overview of the college scholarship application process in the US and offer tips and advice for increasing your chances of receiving scholarships.

Types of Scholarships For College

Scholarships are a valuable way for students to finance their education, and various types are available to suit different needs and backgrounds. See the list below for the complete list of scholarships available.

Merit-Based Scholarships

Recognizing students who have excelled in academics, athletics, or the arts, these scholarships reward and support those who have achieved a high level. These awards help further the education of talented individuals and are given based on merit.

Need-Based Scholarships

Offered to students based on their financial needs, these scholarships aim to support those who might not otherwise be able to afford college. Considering a family's income and other financial circumstances, need-based scholarships ensure everyone has a chance to pursue higher education.

College-Specific/Academic Scholarships

Offered by individual colleges and universities, these scholarships may be based on academic merit, financial need, or a combination of both. From specific academic departments to the college as a whole, these scholarships provide students with tailored opportunities for financial support.

Career-Specific Scholarships

Targeted towards students pursuing specific careers, such as education, engineering, or healthcare, these scholarships aim to support individuals interested in fields that serve a critical need in society or are in high demand. By providing financial support, these awards help students achieve their career goals.

Minority Scholarships

These scholarships are designed to provide financial support and encourage underrepresented groups, such as African American, Hispanic, or Native American students, to pursue higher education. By recognizing and supporting these groups, minority scholarships help ensure a more diverse student body.

Community Service Scholarships

Awarded to students who have demonstrated a commitment to community service, these scholarships recognize and reward individuals who have made a positive impact through volunteerism, activism, or other forms of service.

Student-Specific Scholarships

Designed for students with specific backgrounds, such as military veterans, first-generation college students, or single parents, these scholarships acknowledge and support the unique challenges faced by certain groups. By providing financial support, these awards help these students achieve their educational goals.

Company-Sponsored Scholarships

Offered by corporations and businesses, these scholarships can be based on merit, financial need, or a combination of both. These awards provide companies with an opportunity to invest in the education of future employees or members of their community.

Local Scholarships

Offered by community organizations, foundations, or local businesses, these scholarships may be awarded through competitions or contests, such as essay contests, or for meeting specific criteria, such as community service or leadership. These awards provide students with opportunities for financial support at the local level.

National Scholarships

Sponsored by national organizations or foundations, such as the Department of Education in the US, these scholarships can be based on merit, financial need, or a combination of both. These awards provide students with opportunities for financial support on a larger scale and help further their education on a national level.

Crimson Scholarships

At Crimson, we believe every qualified student should have a fair shot at a world-class education — which is why our teams work so hard to help students identify their best fit universities and exceed admissions expectations in application processes they’re often unfamiliar with.

We think expert guidance on the journey to a world-leading university should be available to any student with the passion, ambition and discipline to succeed, regardless of their financial circumstances.

Learn more about how you can benefit from our scholarship opportunities.

Can I afford to study in the US?

How to find scholarships that are right for you?

The most important step of getting a scholarship is researching and finding the right ones. There are many ways to find scholarships that match your interests, skills, and qualifications.

It's essential to thoroughly research and carefully review the requirements for each scholarship you are interested in and to submit a complete and well-written application to increase your chances of being awarded a scholarship. Here are a few places you could search for scholarships:

  • College or university financial aid office: Many colleges and universities have a financial aid office that can provide information about scholarships specifically for their students. You can search individual college websites to find out about what they offer, and you can also find department-specific or alumni scholarship information on the college website. Some scholarships are also available to a specific group of universities, e.g., Questbridge, Posse, or Stamps.
  • Government websites: Federal Student Aid and the U.S. Department of Labor offer information on government-funded scholarships. If you plan to attend college in-state, you may be eligible for scholarships from the state government that are separate from state grant funding, e.g., Arkansas Challenge or Florida Bright Futures.
  • Professional organizations: Many organizations offer scholarships to students pursuing careers in their field.
  • Community foundations: Community foundations often have information on local scholarships available in your area.
  • Online scholarship search engines: Websites such as Fastweb,, and CollegeBoard allow you to search for scholarships based on your criteria, such as academic achievements, interests, or financial needs.
  • High school guidance counselor: Your high school guidance counselor may have information on local and national scholarships and can help you with the scholarship application process. Also, your counselor can keep you in mind when they have opportunities to nominate students for awards.
  • Contests and competitions: If you have a specific interest or skill, you can enter competitions or submit your work to contests for prize money. In addition to earning cash for college, you can include the recognition on your applications to demonstrate your extracurricular strengths, e.g., FIRST Robotics Competition, UnCommon Goods Art Scholarship, Signet Essay Contest, etc.
  • Teachers: Your teachers have seen plenty of past students and may be able to give you personalized advice.
  • Extracurricular organizations: See if any extracurricular organizations you're a part of offer scholarships to members, either at the local or national level. (e.g., National Honor Society, Mu Alpha Theta)
  • Private Companies: Some private companies offer scholarships to students who meet specific criteria, such as being an employee’s child or pursuing a particular field of study.
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How to apply for scholarships?

The process for scholarship application typically involves the following steps:

  1. Research: Find scholarships that match your eligibility criteria and align with your educational or career goals.
  2. Prepare required documents: Gather all necessary documents, such as transcripts, test scores, essays, and letters of recommendation.
  3. Complete the application: Fill out the scholarship application form, including personal information and academic background.
  4. Write an essay: Many scholarships require applicants to write an essay explaining why they are a good fit for the scholarship and how it will help them achieve their goals.
  5. Submit the application: Submit the completed application form, required documents, and essay before the deadline.
  6. Wait for a decision: After applying, wait for the scholarship committee to review your application and make a decision.
  7. Accept or decline the scholarship: If you are selected, you will be notified and given instructions on accepting or rejecting the award. Sometimes, you might need to provide more information after accepting it.
  8. Follow-up: If your application is rejected and you believe there has been a mistake or would like to appeal the decision, you can follow up with a polite email. However, be aware that scholarship decisions are often final and cannot be changed. In case you want feedback, send a polite email requesting the reason for the rejection.

What documents do you need to provide for scholarship applications?

The required documents for a scholarship application can vary depending on the scholarship provider and the type of scholarship being offered. Here are some standard documents that may be needed for a scholarship application:

  • Application form: A scholarship application form is typically the first step in the process. This form may include personal information, academic history, and details about the scholarship.
  • Transcripts: Most scholarship providers require official transcripts from all colleges or universities attended.
  • Test scores: Some scholarships require standardized tests, such as the SAT or ACT.
  • Resume or CV: A resume or CV provides information about your work experience, extracurricular activities, and other achievements.
  • Recommendation letters: Some scholarships require letters of recommendation from teachers, counselors, or other professionals who can attest to your academic and personal qualities.
  • Essay: Many scholarships require a personal essay, which allows you to demonstrate your writing skills and explain why you are the best candidate for the scholarship. Writing a compelling essay can mean the difference between acceptance and rejection, so prepare accordingly.
  • Financial information: Some scholarships require financial information, such as tax returns, to demonstrate financial need.

Tips for Scholarship Applications

  • Maintain a high GPA - Even non-academic scholarships sometimes want to look at your GPA, so make sure you have good grades in high school.
  • Don't wait until the last minute - More time = fewer mistakes, from typos to missing questions. Additionally, some scholarships may be on a first-come, first-served basis. (ex: the Equitable Excellence Scholarship only takes the first 10,000 applicants).
  • Get involved in extracurricular activities - Showing involvement outside the classroom is essential, especially for those opportunities that consider non-academic qualities.
  • Don't count out small scholarships - A $250 or $500 award may seem like little, but smaller awards can add up! (ex: $500 is often enough for at least a semester of books.)
  • Work with an essay specialist - An essay specialist can help refine your application to include all the relevant points to a particular scholarship. Crimson’s VIP Essay review can provide feedback on personal statements and other essays.
  • Be aware of specific guidelines - Ensure you are eligible and understand the required application materials for a scholarship before applying.
  • Pay attention to college-specific deadlines - For example, if you apply to Emory by Nov 1st, you’ll be considered for their full-ride merit scholarships.
  • Network with your alumni - You never know what you can learn from your school alumni, especially about the universities they are at and how they got there.
  • Stay motivated and persistent - It will take time, and sometimes your chances may be slim, but you only know what will happen if you apply. Almost $50 billion worth of scholarships are given out each year, so there’s an award for you!

Managing scholarship funds

Managing scholarship funds requires careful planning and responsible financial practices. Here are some tips for managing scholarship funds:

Budgeting: Create a budget to determine how you will use the scholarship funds. Consider your expenses, such as tuition, books, housing, and transportation, and allocate the funds accordingly.

Record keeping: Keep accurate records of all expenses and receipts related to the scholarship. This will help you track your spending and ensure that you are using the funds per the scholarship's guidelines.

Avoid overspending: Try to spend the scholarship fund wisely. Stick to your budget and only use the funds for expenses necessary for your education.

Invest in long-term savings: Consider investing a portion of the scholarship funds in a long-term savings account, such as a college savings plan or retirement account.

Seek advice: If you need help managing the scholarship funds, consider seeking advice from a financial advisor or a trusted mentor.

By managing scholarship funds responsibly, you can ensure that you are using the funds effectively and maximizing the benefits of the scholarship.

Crimson scholarships and success stories

At Crimson, we provide various scholarship opportunities to help students achieve their dreams of college admissions. Expert guidance on the journey to a world-leading university should be available to any student with the passion, ambition, and discipline to succeed, regardless of their financial circumstances.

Crimson Access Opportunity (CAO) provides economically disadvantaged students free access to Crimson’s admissions experts through strategy and application mentoring. CAO students have been admitted to Bowdoin, Tufts, Princeton, Dartmouth, and Lehigh universities.

The Te Ara, a Kupe Beaton Scholarship, celebrates Māori high school students through Extracurricular & Leadership (ECL) advising, academic tutoring, early-stage career advice, and more. This year Koan Hemana, recipient of the scholarship, got admitted to Harvard University!

Final Thoughts

The scholarship application process is a long and tenuous one. It is best to start preparing early in high school – research the scholarships you qualify for and then ensure all the requirements are fulfilled. Be proactive in your search to take advantage of all the resources available to them. Hard work and persistence will end up paying off, as any scholarship amount will help towards your college tuition.

Crimson Education provides in-depth university application mentoring, including student essay support services. Crimson’s Financial Aid service pairs students with an expert Financial Aid Mentor, who researches scholarship opportunities, develop aid strategies and guides students through their scholarship applications and forms before submission. You can also look at Informational Interviews to speak with a mentor or tutor who has experience with a specific university, major, academic interest, or career field. Speak to an advisor at Crimson to see how your experiences can be tailor-made for a unique application.

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