Start searching for scholarships as soon as possible. Don't wait until the spring of your senior year in high school to start searching, or you'll miss half the deadlines. There are many scholarships available to students in grades K-11, not just high school seniors. Continue searching for scholarships even after you are enrolled in college.
Use a free scholarship matching service like Fastweb.com. The Fastweb database is updated daily and the site will email you notifications of new scholarships that match your personal background profile.
Answer all of the optional questions on a scholarship matching web site for about twice as many matches.
Look for local scholarships on bulletin boards near the guidance counselor or financial aid offices, or the library's jobs and careers section. Also look in the coupon section of the Sunday newspaper. Improve grades for more matches.
To win more scholarships, apply to every scholarship for which you are eligible. It's a numbers game. Even among talented students, winning involves a bit of luck, not just skill. Pursue less competitive scholarships, such as small awards and essay contests. They are easier to win and help you win bigger scholarships. You can't win if you don't apply. It gets easier after your first 6 applications. Essays can be reused and tailored to each new application.
Don't miss deadlines. Use checklists to get organized.
Tailor your application to the sponsor's goals. Read and follow the instructions carefully.
If you have difficulty writing essays, record yourself as you answer the question out loud and transcribe the recording. Most people think and speak faster than they can write or type. Write an outline afterward to organize your thoughts.
Personalize your essay and be passionate. Write about something of interest to you. Make your application stand out from the crowd. Talk about your impact on other people. Give examples and be specific.
Google your name to ensure that you have a professional online presence. Use a clean email address, such as firstname.lastname@example.org. Review your Facebook account, removing inappropriate and immature material.
Proofread a printed copy of your essay and the application for spelling and grammar errors.
Make a photocopy of your application before mailing it. Send the application by certified mail, return receipt requested or with delivery confirmation.