Step 2: Applying for Scholarships and Grants

Scholarships and grants comprise $3 billion of the money used to pay for education expenses each year. But you can only acquire some of that money if you take the time to do research and submit applications on schedule. The process:

  • Collect information: Do an exhaustive search to find out which scholarships and grants are available to you. Speak with your high school advisor and the financial aid office of the college you are planning to attend, and familiarize yourself with the numerous online resources. A good place to start is Now is the time to brainstorm and make a huge list of all of the possibilities.
  • Narrow your search: Now that you have a fact base to draw on, review your list and cross out every scholarship and grant that you think is a long shot. Then, make a “Top Ten” list of the scholarships and grants you feel could be the best fit for you.
  • Get Applications: Many scholarship and grant applications are available online, but if you don’t see the applications you need on the web, contact the sponsoring organization to have an application mailed to you. Your school may also require that you fill out the College Scholarship Service (CSS) Profile to determine your eligibility for its grants and scholarships.
  • Write an outstanding essay: There are many books available at your local library, bookstore, or online that give advice and instruction on writing the perfect essay. Share your essay with teachers, parents and friends to get input and make it the best it can be!
  • Meet the deadline: Scholarship and grant deadlines are serious. One of the first ways to eliminate applications is to cut those applicants who don’t meet the deadline.

Use our Scholarship Search Engine to find available scholarships and grants.

National Merit Scholarships

The National Merit Program awards more than $50 million a year to qualified students. Qualification for the prestigious $2,500 award is tied to student performance on the PSAT (Preliminary Scholastic Achievement Test), which is taken during the sophomore or junior year of high school. The 50,000 students who score the highest become semi-finalists, and one year after taking the test students must fill out an application to become a finalist. At that point PSAT scores are combined with GPA and extra curricular activity data to determine the 15,000 students who will get the award.

While only a small percentage of students will receive a Merit Scholarship, falling into the semi-finalist (top 50,000) category qualifies students for other scholarships. For example, some employers offer scholarships to their employees’ children based on their national merit ranking, and some schools offer their own merit scholarships. In addition, a National Merit ranking opens some application doors: Generally, it’s easier to receive scholarships when a student has already demonstrated high test scores.

For more information on the National Merit Program, visit