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College Scholarships Tips

Young woman wearing cap and gown at graduation

11 simple tips designed to help you find scholarships that can lower your college costs:

1. Start early.

You can start looking for scholarships as early as your junior year. Getting a head start gives you more time to research which scholarships are a good fit. Once you know the best options, you'll have plenty of time to complete the applications. 

2. Use a scholarship matching tool.

You can search on different sites for thousands of scholarships online. Using filters and keywords, you can find ones that fit your qualifications, experiences, background, hobbies, and interests. Pay attention to each scholarship's requirements to determine if you're a good match or not, and apply to ones that meet the qualifications.

Sites the Community Foundation has vetted that you can use for your search:

3. Spend time with your advisor.

Your high school counselor or college advisor is an excellent resource for finding scholarships. Advisors are there to help so ask if they will review your submission. Often, they'll take the time to review your work and help you improve your essays and applications. An expert eye on your work can help improve your writing and application. You might also be able to look at past scholarship winners and review how they approached their scholarship submission essays.

4. Turn to your network.

Spread the word to current and past employees, coaches, friends, and community members that you're looking for scholarships. Ask your parents to check with their friends and colleagues at work about scholarships for family members. There are often many scholarships available locally to you. Start by asking your high school counselor about them. You can also contact local foundations (like the Community Foundation), community organizations, and businesses to see if they offer scholarships.

5. Be mindful of your online presence.

The person reviewing your application might look you up when you apply for scholarships. Make sure they find the right kind of information. It's a good idea to refresh your LinkedIn profile, social media accounts, and personal website if you have one, so you're putting your best foot forward.

6. Look beyond your grades.

You don't have to have a 4.0 GPA to be eligible for scholarships. In fact, some scholarships don't have high GPA requirements. Apart from your GPA, finding a way to stand out from other applicants is crucial. As you fill out the forms, think about what makes you uniquely qualified.

7. Ask for letters of recommendation.

Scholarship applications usually require letters of recommendation from people who know you best. They could include your employer, teachers, coaches, high school counselors, or mentors who can testify to your strengths, qualifications, and ambition. It's best to ask for letters of recommendation well in advance to give the letter writer sufficient time to complete it.

Since you're asking for a favor, it's best to provide the letter-writer with as much relevant information as possible. Here's some of the information you can provide:

● Overview of the scholarship 

● Your key strengths as related to the requirements 

● A copy of your resume

● Any other plans, such as colleges you're applying to and what major you will pursue

After they have completed your letters of recommendation, make sure you thank your reviewers for taking the time to help you.

8. Apply for many scholarships. 

Earning enough scholarship money to pay for college will likely come from many different sources. You'll probably need several scholarships to cover the costs. Don't overlook smaller scholarships because every little bit helps. The more scholarships you apply to, the better your odds of winning.

Make applying to scholarships a habit. Scholarships are available for undergraduates and graduate students, and some allow you to reapply multiple times. 

9. Develop a great essay.

Many students try to avoid scholarships that require essays. If you don't have excellent writing skills, work with your advisor or a professional to help you develop a well-written essay, which is also great practice for college applications and assignments you might get in school.

You might be able to reuse portions of your essay for more than one scholarship application. However, be mindful of the scholarship rules, including the word count. The most important thing to remember is to answer the prompt. Make sure you understand it and show your comprehension and writing skills. 

10. Follow up after you submit your application.

It is always a good idea to follow up after sending your application materials to confirm the scholarship committee received them. Call or email to make sure it arrived. If possible, plan to send application materials far enough in advance as a buffer in case anything happens during your submission. 

11. Send thank you notes any time you receive an award. 

After receiving notification of a scholarship award, remember to send the committee a handwritten thank you letter as soon as possible. Proofread several times and check for spelling, grammar, and punctuation accuracy. You might also consider having an additional person look over your letter to ensure it's free of errors. 


To learn more about applying for the many scholarships the Community Foundation of Northern Nevada has available, please contact:
Michelle Duggan, Scholarship and Nonprofit Specialist 
775-333-5499 ext. 130


The Community Foundation of Northern Nevada’s Scholarship Program is intended to help students cover the ever-increasing cost of tuition. 

Some of our scholarships are based on financial need, but others represent an award for achievement. These scholarships typically go to students who have excelled in an academic area or have shown they can balance academics, volunteer work, and extracurricular activities. There are also scholarships designated for students who have overcome diversity, students pursuing degrees in high-need areas, and adult learners outside the traditional college age group. Community Foundation scholarships can help cover tuition, books, and on-campus housing. 

Receive Financial Assistance Throughout College 

Career opportunities and our job market have changed; graduates from Northern Nevada compete with well-trained applicants from across the nation. The Community Foundation of Northern Nevada scholarship program helps students achieve their educational goals by receiving financial assistance throughout their college careers. Graduating with a degree or certificate for a trade that is in high demand offers our local graduates the opportunity to find the right path for their future and to better their lives and the lives of their families.