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Money bag, stack of books, graduation cap

You’re finally in your last semester of high school, and you may be wondering if it’s time to get serious about scholarships. The correct answer is, YES! Second-semester senior year is when most scholarships are due, so it’s time to kick your scholarship search into high gear. Here are some tips on how to navigate scholarship season!

Find upcoming scholarships.

Peak scholarship time for high school seniors is between January and April of your senior year. Now is a great time to find some good scholarship resources. Talk to your school counselor about local scholarships, look at some college websites to see what financial aid packages they offer, and check out online scholarship searches. ScholarshipQuest is a great online resource for Nebraska-based awards!

Gather your information.

Most scholarship applications have similar components. If you have all of the following information in one place to start, it will make the process a lot easier.

  • Your contact information (address, phone number, email address)
  • Academic information (your GPA, ACT scores, class rank, transcripts, etc.)
  • Financial information (fill out the FAFSA if you haven’t already!)
  • Your high school activities and accomplishments (Activities Resume is a great way to compile this information)

Research essay topics.

You should always tailor your essay to the specific scholarship application, but that doesn’t mean that you can’t prepare in advance. There are a handful of essay questions that you are sure to encounter when applying for scholarships, and now is the perfect time to put some ideas together. You can find several lists of essay prompts online, but here are a few common questions to get you started:

  • Tell us why you deserve this scholarship.
  • What major/career do you want to go into, and why?
  • Talk about a time that you overcame adversity.
  • What are your long-term goals?
  • How has a certain person/experience influenced you?
  • What are your greatest accomplishments?
  • How will this scholarship help you?

Pick your recommenders.

Take some time to make a list of 3-5 (or more) people who might be willing to write a recommendation for you. You want to find adults who know you well, who have seen you in a positive light, and who are trustworthy. Remember, no family members allowed! Some options for potential recommenders are teachers, school counselors, coaches, religious leaders, mentors, or work/volunteer supervisors.

After you have your list, ask them if they would be willing to write a letter of recommendation for you when the time comes. Having a pool of recommenders will save you time later.

Make a plan.

Now that you have gathered most of the components for your application, it’s time to get organized. When can you set aside time each week to work on scholarship applications? How are you going to track deadlines? Who can help you proofread your applications? No matter what approach you take, creating a manageable plan will make the scholarship process much less overwhelming. Now get out there and start applying!

By Allison Ourada