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How to Get a Scholarship in 5 Easy Steps

How to Get a Scholarship 5 Steps

In 2020, 58% of families leveraged scholarships to help cover the costs of college. There are various types of scholarships that exist, and all of them exist with the main purpose to make college more affordable for any student. With the countless scholarship options to choose from, it literally pays to know how to get a scholarship. 

And that’s exactly what we are here to share with you. We’ll cover what you should know before starting your scholarship search, along with best practices for how to get a university scholarship. 

Source: Pexels

What is a Scholarship?

Scholarships are financial aid awards for college and university students to help cover the cost of earning an undergraduate or graduate degree.

Depending on the scholarship, students may receive a lump sum of money or be paid quarterly, by semester, or annually to provide financial assistance. Scholarship awards may be sent directly to students or to their college of choice to be applied to their account.

In essence, scholarships are like “free money” because they don’t have to be paid back (unlike a loan).

Types of Scholarships

When starting your scholarship search, you’ll find several different scholarship types or categories. 

Knowing the categories can streamline your application process as you can search for the exact type of scholarship that you’re most eligible for and likely to receive. 

Scholarships may be: 

  • Merit-based: These are scholarships that are awarded on the basis of academic or skills-based excellence. For example, they can be awarded for high test scores, or stellar GPAs, or even athletic dominance. 
  • Needs-based: Needs-based scholarships are determined according to a student’s financial position and that of their family. It’s common for these types of scholarships to be available for students whose household income sits below a specified threshold. 
  • Identity-based: These scholarships are intended for specific demographics and groups, such as people from specific cultural backgrounds, members of the LGBTQIA+ community, or those with learning difficulties, for example. 
  • Government: Besides private scholarships, governments such as the US government offer local, state, and federal scholarships. 
  • Activity-based: You may be able to find scholarships based on your involvement in groups or extracurricular activities that are sponsored by aligned organizations and groups.
  • Employer-sponsored: Employers may also provide scholarships for employees seeking to further their education. These scholarships are referred to as employer-sponsored tuition assistance and are more common when it comes to graduate degrees.
Source: Pexels

How to Get a University Scholarship 

Now that you have a general understanding of the various types of scholarships you can apply for, it’s time to talk about how to get a scholarship. 

1. Explore Options

Start by exploring the scholarships available to you. There are many different websites that are dedicated to this exact purpose. Some of these include BigFuture,, and Fastweb. You can also perform your own research by using the keyword “scholarship” on your search engine of choice. You’ll likely come across a lot of different scholarship opportunities, so it’s important to stay organized during your search. Consider tracking your applications using a spreadsheet and prioritizing each application based on the nearest deadline. 

2. Contact Colleges Directly

Along with online searches and database searches, be sure to contact colleges directly. You can find a college’s financial aid office’s contact details online and inquire about what scholarships they offer. Additionally, it’s common that colleges will list their scholarships on their website, too. For example, here’s a look at the University of the People’s scholarship offerings. 

3. Apply Early

Don’t procrastinate the application process! Some scholarships are first come, first serve, so it’s best to start applying as soon as you can. Since many scholarships require a written submission and personal statement, it’s best to begin working on these aspects sooner than later. This way, you have more time to make them as best as they can be before any deadlines approach. 

4. Continue Applying During College

Keep in mind that you can apply for scholarships even when you are already a college student. It’s never too late to get financial assistance! Every year you are in school, set aside some time to search for scholarships before your next academic quarter, semester, or year begins. New scholarships are added all the time, so you may find an opportunity that wasn’t previously available. 

5. Be realistic

As part of your search, narrow down your list to those scholarships that you are eligible for. The eligibility requirements tend to be rigid for scholarships, so there’s no point in wasting your time on a scholarship you wouldn’t qualify for or one that seems way too far out of reach. 

Earning an Affordable Degree 

There’s no denying that college is expensive! That’s part of what makes scholarships so valuable to so many students earning their higher education. 

At the University of the People, we envision a world in which all students have access to higher education, regardless of financial, geographic, political, and personal circumstances. With the belief that education is a right, we run an entirely tuition-free and accredited online university with multiple degree-granting and certificate programs.

Along with the relatively low cost of enrollment, students have the freedom to learn at their own pace and on their own schedule. Combined with our fair share of scholarships, students can also secure financial aid for college in whatever way they deem fitting for their own situation. 

Want to know more about the student experience and cost of attendance? Check out this guide to our fees and these tidbits about what you can expect as a student.