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When College Bound Students Should Begin Looking for Scholarships

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As students embark on their educational journeys, the prospect of financing their studies often looms large. Scholarships can be a game-changer, offering financial assistance that reduces the burden of tuition fees, books, and living expenses. However, the question of when to start looking for scholarships is one that many students grapple with. Is it ever too early to begin searching for these opportunities? Let’s explore when to begin looking for scholarships as a college bound student!

Effort Now Means More Opportunities Later

The simple answer is: it’s never too early to start looking for scholarships. In fact, the earlier you begin, the better your chances of finding and securing relevant awards. Many scholarships are available to students starting from middle school through graduate studies, each with unique eligibility criteria and application deadlines. By starting early, students can:

Understand Requirements:

Scholarships often have specific requirements regarding academic achievement, extracurricular involvement, community service, and more. Starting early allows students to align their activities and achievements with these criteria.  

Research Options:

There are numerous scholarships available from various sources such as universities, private organizations, corporations, and government bodies. Researching these options over time gives students a broader perspective on what is available and what they might qualify for.

Prepare Strong Applications:

Scholarship applications often require essays, letters of recommendation, and other supporting documents. Starting early gives students ample time to refine their writing skills, gather necessary documents, and seek feedback to improve their applications.

Key Milestones for Scholarship Search

Early High School:

While not typically applying for scholarships at this stage, students can start exploring what scholarships are out there and begin to understand what might be required in the future. This is helpful to simply gather information and learn what options might exist. 

Late High School (Grades 11-12):

This is a critical time for scholarship research and application. Students can identify scholarships specific to their intended college or university, as well as national and local scholarships. Starting applications early in senior year ensures they don’t miss deadlines.

College and Graduate Studies:

Scholarships are available throughout college and even into graduate studies. Continuing to search and apply for scholarships can help offset the costs of tuition and living expenses.

Strategies for Effective Scholarship Searching

Use Online Resources:

Websites like Fastweb,, and College Board’s Scholarship Search offer comprehensive databases of scholarships. Setting up profiles and alerts on these platforms can streamline the search process.


Utilize school counselors, teachers, and community organizations to learn about local scholarships. Networking can uncover hidden opportunities and provide valuable insights into specific scholarship requirements.

Stay Organized:

Keep track of deadlines, application requirements, and submission processes. Creating a calendar or spreadsheet can help manage multiple applications without missing important dates.

Apply Strategically:

Focus on scholarships where you meet the majority of the criteria to maximize your chances of success. Tailor each application to highlight relevant achievements and experiences.

The quest for scholarships should begin as early as possible. Starting early allows students to explore a wide range of opportunities, understand what is required to qualify, and prepare strong applications. By adopting a proactive approach and staying organized, students can significantly enhance their chances of securing financial aid that supports their academic journey. Remember, the effort put into scholarship searching and application preparation can pay off in reducing the cost of going to college for your entire family! 

More about Jodi and College Financial Aid Advisors

Jodi is a FAFSA financial advisor who helps with the financial aid process to help families of college students maximize their financial aid. From completing the FAFSA and completing the CSS Profile to reviewing the SAR, responding to requests for verification, comparing financial aid offers and understanding student loan options, Jodi is a fantastic resource when it comes to student financial aid. Schedule a 15 Minute Power Chat to learn more about finding ways to pay for college.

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