Scholarships can offset the cost of higher education tremendously, and various organizations award millions of scholarships every year. In fact, American students secure nearly $8 billion in scholarships annually. If you are applying for scholarships to help pay for college, it’s essential to know a few key tips that can increase your chances of earning valuable scholarships.

Many students make some common mistakes that make this process more difficult than it needs to be, but you should expect to put in adequate work if you plan to secure worthwhile scholarships.

Cast a Wider Net

Don’t expect success if you apply to just one scholarship. With so many scholarships available each year, it’s best to find several and focus your attention on earning as many as possible. Review your grades and qualifications and if you find a scholarship for which you qualify, apply for it.

Consider Smaller Scholarships

Countless other applicants are searching for scholarships at the same time as you, and the largest scholarships are likely to draw the most attention. While a $50,000 scholarship may sound more enticing than a $5,000 scholarship, the smaller one will likely be much easier to secure. If you follow the previous tip and apply for as many scholarships as possible, several smaller scholarships could easily compare with a larger one that will be much more competitive.

Look Locally

If you plan to attend school in your area, local scholarships may be more beneficial and easier to secure than national-level scholarships. Many of these scholarships are minimally advertised, so with some research you might be surprised at what you find and how little competition you’ll face by applying for those scholarships. Check your local library and ask your friends and family members whether their employers offer any scholarships for which you might qualify.

Do a Social Media Audit

It’s a good idea to assume that your social media presence will have an undeniable effect on your ability to not only secure scholarships, but also employment in the future. Before applying to any scholarships, take time to review your social media profiles and make sure you are projecting a professional and likable public image.

Build Out Your Resume

Organizations that offer scholarships will typically look at much more than just your grades. While you want your grades to be as high as possible, you should also add more information to your applications that pertains to your extracurricular activity involvement, positions in school clubs and organizations, and part-time work if you have a job. All this experience can help make you a more attractive applicant, so be sure to include it with your applications.

Ask for Letters of Recommendation

If you worked closely with a few teachers over the past few years or if you know you made a good impression with your boss at your part-time job or with leaders of your school clubs, don’t shy away from asking them for letters of recommendation. These letters can go a long way toward swaying scholarship approval in your favor.

Scholarships are fantastic resources for bright young students, and they’re available to virtually anyone going into any field. No matter what type of employment you hope to find in the future or where you intend to go to school, it’s worth taking the time to apply for as many scholarships as possible well in advance of your senior year of high school.

Additional Resources: