I want free money for school! How do I search and apply for scholarships?

1. Start your research early: Researching scholarships, requesting information and application material, and completing applications all take time.

2. Search free online databases to get a list of scholarships you're eligible for:

Be on the lookout for scams: Some search services claim to be free, but actually charge a fee.

Try these other free sources of information about scholarships:

  • The financial aid office at a college or career school
  • A high school or TRIO counselor
  • US Department of Labor’s free scholarship search tool federal agencies
  • Your state grant agency
  • Your library's reference section
  • Foundations, religious or community organizations, local businesses, or civic groups
  • Organizations (including professional associations) related to your field of interest
  • Ethnicity-based organizations
  • Your employer or your parents' employers

3. Start broad and then narrow. Start with a large number of possibilities and cut that down to a short list of choices.  

4. Note the deadline and don't miss it! Each scholarship has its own deadline. Some have deadlines early in the fall of your senior year. If you're in high school, you should be researching and applying for scholarships during the summer between your junior and senior years. But if you've missed that window, don't give up!

5. Read the application requirements carefully: If you have a question about whether you qualify, contact the scholarship sponsor.

6. Organize your files by application due dates: Make a separate file for each scholarship

7. Have copies of your records ready:

  • High school transcripts 
  • SAT/ACT test scores 
  • One or more essays
  • One of more letters of recommendation

How will I get my scholarship money?

That depends on the scholarship. The money might go directly to your college, where it'll be applied to any tuition, fees, or other amounts you owe, and any leftover funds given to you. Or a check might be sent directly to you. The scholarship provider generally will tell you what to expect when they inform you that you've been awarded the scholarship. If not, be sure to ask.

Does getting a scholarship affect my other student aid?

Yes. All your student aid added together can't be more than your cost of attendance at your college. So you'll need to let your school know if you've been awarded a scholarship—the financial aid office will subtract that amount from your cost of attendance (and from certain other aid, such as loans, you might have been offered). Any amount left over can be covered by other financial aid for which you're eligible. Questions? Ask your financial aid office.

What types of scholarships are available?

One of the biggest misconceptions about scholarships is that they're awarded only to the smartest students with the highest GPA and SAT/ACT test scores. This isn't true. There are scholarships for every type of student seeking a college education.

  • Academic scholarships: Awarded to students who have demonstrated a high degree of scholastic aptitude and performance. These scholarships are typically well-publicized and competition for them can be fierce. While all scholarships must consider a student's GPA, academic or merit-based scholarships are rewards for the years of hard work and diligent effort put demonstrated by young and talented students.  
  • Scholarships for minorities: Some are open to all minorities as a collective whole, while others are specific to an individual ethnic group. It's also a good idea to apply for a minority scholarship if you are part or fully of a certain ethnicity. You will get to represent your culture and possibly win money. To find minority scholarships, do a general online search. Suggested search terms:
  • Special talent scholarships: If you have a special creative talent, there are scholarships available to help you pursue your passion. Many of these types of scholarships are offered by colleges and universities. Art, music, and dance scholarships usually involve an audition of some sort. Regardless of your creative field, there are scholarships out there just for you.
  • Athletic scholarships: For students with strong academics and physical skills, athletic scholarships are the way to go. There is practically a scholarship for every single sport, from volleyball to football, gymnastics to cheerleading. If you excel in anything physical, definitely pursue an athletic scholarship.

Scholarships Available through the IUP Admissions Office 

Learn more about scholarships available at IUP like the Promising Scholars and Sutton Scholars programs.