Step-By-Step Guide



  • Keep a 3-ring binder filled with clear sleeves ($3/pack at CVS/Walgreens). 
  • Print out scholarship opportunities, place in a sleeve, and organize by deadline. 
  • By staying organized and keeping all your information is in one easy location it is easier to prioritize, meet deadlines, and take advantage of opportunities.

Sign up / Complete a profile on the following websites:

  • My favorite website is
    • This scholarship search site does all the work for you.  After you fill out your profile, fastweb continuously searches for any opportunity that fits YOUR qualifications 24/7. It provides the website links, deadlines, and contact information for each scholarship opportunity.
  •  is my second favorite and provides the same services.
  • Find your College Scholarship Office Website: 
    • Love them! Visit them! Study their website!  Sign up to receive email notices concerning new scholarship opportunities offered through the college of your choice!

Request Letters of recommendation

Almost every scholarship asks for 2-3 letters of recommendation. Start requesting those now!  Treat the people that write them for you well, and they will write one for you every year.  A well written letter equals scholarship money.  Good sources:

  • Teachers/professors
  • Principals
  • Community service activities
  • Pastors/ministers
  • Employers
  • Program/organization leaders

Volunteer!  Volunteer!  Volunteer!

  • Do community service.
  • Document your community service.

Your volunteer experience will be worth it's weight in gold!  Scholarship committees want to see community service, volunteerism, and abroad experiences.  It sets you apart from other 3,000 applications they review.  So be sure to include a short write-up about your experience.


  • Scholarship application time is typically Jan. to March/May of each year. 
So if you miss a couple of opportunities this time around don't will be WELL prepared for next season, and can hit the ground running.  There are fall application opportunities so keep an eye out.

STEP #6 - Work on your personal statement.
I have provided an easy outline and typical categories needed for a college scholarship essay:

• Do not rush this process.
• BRAINSTORM! As the ideas start to flow it will become easier and before you know it you will have quite a few ideas.

Introduce yourself
Why do you want to go/return to college?

What are your academic goals? Which degree are you seeking? What is your expected graduation date? Where are you enrolled? GPA (if good)? What have you already completed?

What are your career goals?
What are you working towards?
In what way will you give back or reach back in the community?

You may want to think of a personal experience that has helped shape who you are.
Have you had to overcome a big obstacle?
What is a dream or goal that is currently motivating you?
Did you overcome a hardship in your life?
Did you serve in the military? What branch? For how long? Were you deployed?
Employment – how many days and hours do you work?
Are you involved in community service? Extra-curricular activities?

How will this scholarship help with your educational goals?
Financial need?

Order a copy of your transcripts.

Most colleges and scholarship organizations request a copy of your high school/college transcripts.  Order in advance and make plenty of copies.  It also helps to keep a sealed transcript on hand for special requests. 

*Reminder:  Keep these in your scholarship binder.

Step #8
Electronically submit the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA).

·         Website:
·         It is FREE.
·         All students interested in financial aid for college will need to complete this form.
·         The office of Federal Student Aid provides grants, loans, and work-study funds for college or career school.
·         We offer more than $150 billion each year to help millions of students pay for higher education.

More information…
The Free Application for Federal Student Aid (known as the FAFSA) is a form that can be prepared annually by current and prospective college students (undergraduate and graduate) in the United States to determine their eligibility for student financial aid (including the Pell GrantFederal student loans and Federal Work-Study).[1]

Despite its name, the application is not for a single federal program, being rather the gateway of consideration for:
1.                  the nine federal student-aid programs
2.                  the 605 state aid programs
3.                  most of the institutional aid available

The U.S. Department of Education begins accepting the application beginning January 1 of each year for the upcoming academic year. Each application period is 18 months; most federal, state, and institutional aid is provided on a first come, first served basis. There are six (6) states — Illinois, Kentucky, North Carolina, South Carolina, Tennessee and Vermont that award state grants on a first-come, first-served basis until the money runs out.[2] Students are advised to submit a FAFSA as early as possible for consideration for maximum financial assistance.
The Department of Education advises students to utilize the IRS Data Retrieval Tool (DRT), which is made available on the FAFSA. This tool will retrieve most of the student's tax information, excluding wages, directly from the IRS and automatically input the information on his or her application. The DRT may be used for both students and parents alike.

Applicants who have completed a FAFSA in previous years may submit a renewal FAFSA. Any information that has changed must be updated annually. The FAFSA consists of numerous questions (at least 130 for the 2010–2011 academic year) regarding a student's (and his or her family's) assets, income, and dependency. These are entered into a formula that determines the Expected Family Contribution (EFC). A number of factors are used in determining the EFC including the household size, income, number of students from household in college and assets (not including retirement and 401(k) funds). This information is required because of the expectation that parents will contribute to their child's education, whether that is true or not.
The FAFSA does not have questions related to student or family raceethnicity, sexual orientation, disability, or religion.

A Student Aid Report (SAR), which is a summary of the FAFSA responses, is forwarded to the student. The student should review the SAR carefully for errors and make any corrections. An electronic version of the SAR (called an ISIR) is made available to the colleges/universities the student selects on the FAFSA. The ISIR is also sent to state agencies that award need-based aid.