Scholarship money is out there. Are you ready to apply for it?

A student uses a laptop computer to apply for a scholarship

You can find scholarship opportunities all year long — even now.

Scholarships help you pay for college and graduate with less debt. The average family uses scholarships and grants to pay for a quarter of their student’s college costs.1

But are fewer scholarships available today because of the economic impact of the COVID-19 pandemic? CollegeSTEPS looked into that question and found that plenty of scholarship awards are still available. Some, like the Wells Fargo Student Impact Scholarship, were launched especially because of the new need to help students pursue college during challenging times in the U.S.

With many families facing pandemic-related financial hardships, there may be more competition for scholarships, both need-based (awarded according to your income and savings) and merit-based (awarded according to your talent, potential, and accomplishments). Knowing how to find and apply for the scholarships that interest you is the first step toward winning them.

Here’s what you can do now to seek scholarship money with confidence

  1. Identify your ideal scholarships — and their deadlines
  2. Gather and organize what you’ll need to apply
  3. Apply to scholarships every week, all year
  4. Complete your applications like a pro — no errors and all criteria met

If you follow the steps outlined above, you’ll have a competitive edge no matter the current circumstances. To see other students’ success stories, check out this video featuring scholarship recipients sharing their top tips for winning scholarships.

If you have been financially affected by the COVID-19 pandemic

No matter how you plan to pay for college, you and your family need to complete the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). By completing it, you give yourself opportunities to access federal grants, loans, and work-study money that could help you put yourself in a better financial position before and after college.

Many people have recently encountered financial hardships resulting from the pandemic. If your or your family’s financial situation has changed since you filled out your FAFSA, know that you can adjust your FAFSA or other financial aid plans in light of COVID-19. If you haven’t filled out your FAFSA yet, be aware that the financial info you put on it will need to reflect your or your family’s financial situation at the time you last filed federal income taxes. If that situation has changed since then due to COVID-19, you can still fill out your FAFSA — just make sure you discuss your situation with your college’s financial aid office.

Scholarship organizations are getting creative

From the funding side, organizations that award scholarships often depend on in-person fundraising events and individual donations to bring in dollars. While the pandemic has disrupted these two methods, other tactics, such as corporate grants and online fundraising, are helping. Even alumni at many universities have banded together to crowdfund COVID-19 relief scholarships. For example, an alumni group at Eastern Michigan University recently pooled their money to donate a total of $2 million to 2020 graduates and first-year students who were impacted by the pandemic.

From the requirements side, scholarship organizations are making allowances. Although scholarship awards might typically depend on factors such as SAT scores for high school seniors or full-time attendance for current college students, the pandemic has impacted some of these factors. For example, many SATs were canceled this year. Because of this, most scholarship programs are thinking of other ways to help students in unusual circumstances access scholarship money.

The state of scholarships

Scholarships are more important than ever. Even during the COVID-19 pandemic, students and their families are committed to attending college.

Although most students are confident that the COVID-19 pandemic won’t stop them from getting a college education, many may be more interested in scholarships this year.

Nearly 70% of high school seniors and juniors surveyed believe the pandemic will impact their financial ability to attend college. Footnote 2

So, what’s out there?

Average scholarship amounts4

Surprising scholarships

There are scholarships for most interests, backgrounds, and causes. Here are just a few examples:

  • Financial literacy
  • Single parent
  • Environmental awareness
  • Out-of-the-box thinking
  • Don’t text and drive
  • Tall club

Where is scholarship money coming from in 2020?

Want to read more about applying for scholarships?

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