School is expensive – more so now than ever before. Being able to pay for tuition, room and board, and books can keep you from furthering your education and pursuing your dreams. Everyone knows scholarships and grants can help lessen the financial burden and make college a reality.

What they might not know, however, is how to maximize the chances of being awarded a scholarship or how to apply. Here at the College Benefits Research Group (CBRG), however, we want to help. Here are the best tips for scoring that scholarship.

1. Don’t forget to apply locally.

There are probably several scholarships in your town that you might not even know of. Clubs, businesses, organizations, and benefactors often come together to support those furthering their education. You have better odds of winning a local scholarship since there will be fewer people competing for it. In smaller towns, in fact, it’s not unheard of to have only one applicant! Talking to radio stations and guidance counselors can help you track down these scholarships.

The College Board also suggests, “Start with state or local agencies. These may offer scholarships to students who choose a public university, for example, or show an interest in government or public sector careers.”

2. Go after scholarships with smaller awards.

Everyone wants to vie for scholarships worth several thousand dollars. The problem is that this greatly increases competition for the money. Instead of (or in addition to) joining huge crowds applying for bigger payouts, apply for several smaller opportunities. There will be a higher chance of winning in these instances and they can add up very quickly.

3. Be willing to put in the time.

Students will avoid scholarships that require a lot of effort, meaning their pool of applicants can be very small. Put extra time into completing projects, making videos, and fulfilling other requests, and you could end up with sizable gains.

4. Look for personalized scholarships.

You might be very surprised at just how many scholarships are out there. And not all of them have to do with high GPAs or being in school clubs. There are zombie lover scholarships, vegetarian scholarships – even awards just for being tall! Do some research about the opportunities connected to the things you love and you’ll feel more excited about applying, even if you don’t win.

5. Write your essays carefully.

There are many simple things to avoid when you’re drafting your papers. For example, you should never identify yourself in the body. Many contests require the pieces have no identifiers, and you could even be disqualified for including any. You should also avoid repeating the prompt or using quotes. Make sure every line comes directly from you. It should be as unique as your personality, and standing out can make all the difference.

Not sure where to start on your college essay? Use this great info graphic from with rules for writing an effective essay.


6. Apply. A lot.

The more scholarships you enter, the more likely it is that you’ll win something. Keep going and apply for as many as you can, even when it seems tiring. After all, a few minutes or hours at the computer could potentially save you thousands of dollars and kick-start your professional career.

7. Don’t be discouraged.

It’s tough to lose, especially when you put a lot of effort into something like an essay or video. You have to remember some scholarships have thousands of entrants. If you don’t win, don’t fret. Simply put your energy into a new application and stay positive.

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