When Should You Start Applying for Scholarships?


Feb 18, 2023

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Amid rising inflation, Americans are clutching their wallets for dear life. Covering the costs of everyday essentials and tuition fees is even steeper for first-year college students, current college students, and their parents.

Students spend an average of $35,551 annually for tuition, room and board, books, and supplies. Of course, the costs typically vary from public to private institutions. For instance, students may spend about $9,377 or $27,091 annually for in-state or out-of-state public school tuition, respectively. Meanwhile, private schools could run about $54,501 each year.

Many students rely on scholarships to offset the expense of obtaining a degree — the U.S. Department of Education delivers $46 billion in scholarship money every academic year. However, only some students are eligible. In fact, out of the pool of 1.7 million yearly scholarships, only 7% of students earn a reward.

With the rate of scholarship winners as low as it is, many students might wonder, “When should you start applying for scholarships to earn the most rewards?” Here’s what you need to know about when to submit your scholarship applications.

When Is Scholarship Season?

When applying for scholarships, waiting until the very last minute is one of the worst mistakes you can make. Additionally, only sending applications for one or two scholarships per season reduces your chances of getting money for school.

Scholarship season for high schoolers and college students usually starts in the fall before your first academic year — but ultimately, it comes down to individual deadlines. It’s important to keep the following dates in mind to give yourself the best chance of obtaining the most money for your education. 

Applying for Scholarships Under 13

Believe it or not, several scholarships are available to students who haven’t started high school. In fact, children 13 and under can begin applying for scholarships well in advance of their college careers.

Finding online scholarships for kids under 13 years old may be difficult due to child privacy laws — but some websites don’t require filling out personal information, making it easy for parents to help their children search and apply for scholarships.

Applying for Scholarships in High School

First-year college students can apply for merit-based scholarships based on grades, academic interests, and career pursuits. Other scholarships get issued to minority students or those with unique skills or circumstances.

Typically, high schoolers can begin applying for scholarships in their junior or senior year, with most submission deadlines between September to May. Although you may have ample time to get your scholarship application sent in, you should still submit them as soon as possible.

Scholarships with the highest award amounts usually have the earliest deadlines, so sending in the paperwork before December and January is best.

The spring season is also crunch time for applying for scholarships and students should buckle down and submit numerous applications. By the end of January, students can find several scholarships to apply for.

Applying for Scholarships in College

Contrary to popular belief, existing college students may apply for scholarships through their university or external sources throughout their entire college careers. 

Many scholarships are available year-round and could range from filling out a simple application to including an essay on a given topic.

However, they, too, need to submit their scholarship applications before the deadline if they hope to receive an award. Every scholarship counts when the final cost of your college career reaches six figures.

Tips for Scholarship Success

Submitting your scholarship application on time is only the first step toward receiving an academic reward, but you should remember several other things to achieve scholarship success.

Avoid scholarships that ask you to pay a nominal fee to submit an application or guarantee a reward — red flags you won’t want to overlook. Instead, ask your guidance counselor or academic advisors for recommendations for reputable sources.

If the scholarship offers a smaller amount, still give it your all. Remember that even a couple of hundred dollars can cover your books and supplies for the semester.

Additionally, read the application requirements several times and create a checklist to ensure you meet all the specifications before submitting your application. Any typos or missing documents could disqualify you from receiving an award. 

Apply for Scholarships Early and Often

Applying for scholarships early and regularly offers you the best chance of receiving a monetary award for your college education. Award money adds up, so the more scholarships you apply for, the better.

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