Ask a College Advisor: What Are the Easiest College Scholarships to Get?

Hear from one of our education experts on how to increase your chances of earning a scholarship for college.
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Question: What are the easiest college scholarships to get?

Answer: It's no secret that while a college education is incredibly valuable, it can also be very costly. As you plan for this next step in your academic journey it is important to carefully consider how you will pay for college costs such as tuition, living expenses, fees, and other supplies.

Scholarships are a great way to lower the price tag and make college more financially feasible for students and their families. However, it can be a confusing and stressful experience to find scholarships that are realistic to obtain without being overwhelmed by the options.

Let's take a look at what defines a scholarship, which scholarships might be the easiest to receive, and other options for financial assistance.

What Defines a Scholarship?

A scholarship can be awarded by a school or an outside organization, and it does not need to be repaid. Scholarships often require a separate application and can be awarded based on a variety of factors, such as an individual's academics, identities, skills, and more.

Scholarships differ from grants, which are generally awarded by the state or federal government and are based on financial need rather than merit. It's common for students to apply for more than one type of financial assistance, so be sure to explore all options to expand your sources of funding.

Start With Your College

A great place to start looking for scholarships is with your prospective college. Some colleges, especially private schools, automatically consider each applicant for a merit-based scholarship, which is awarded during the acceptance process. These types of scholarships are often the easiest to obtain, since they do not require a separate application.

Colleges may also have additional scholarship opportunities for students who demonstrate service to their community, leadership skills, academic excellence, or other skills and abilities that align with the university's values. Review your intended school's website to find out what scholarships are available and how to apply.

Apply Strategically

After reviewing scholarship options with your prospective schools, the next place to search is through local, state, or nationwide organizations. Online scholarship databases can help you search for specific scholarships based on selected criteria, and some allow you to create a personal profile to find matches with awards most relevant to you.

Before you begin your broader search, consider what is unique about you that might set you apart from other students or help you qualify for a scholarship with special eligibility criteria. For example, do you identify as an undocumented college student, single parent, military family member, member of the LGBTQ+ community, student of color, online college student, or student with disabilities? Are you entering a specialized profession such as social work or education?

Search for scholarships based on your identities and/or experiences to find opportunities relevant to you and spend less time applying to scholarships that are broad and open to everyone, which might be flooded with applicants nationwide. By applying strategically, you can spend less time on your applications while having a higher chance of success.

Look Into Local Organizations

Another great place to search for college scholarships, which often has a higher chance of success, is through local organizations. Many religious communities and nonprofit organizations provide scholarship opportunities to college-seeking community members. Connect with individuals in leadership positions in these organizations or review their website for more information.

You may also have a family member or friend involved in a community service organization, such as a Rotary Club, who can connect you with scholarship opportunities or be a reference for your application. Take advantage of your network for additional opportunities.

Plan Your Time

While searching for the best scholarships to apply for, try to dedicate a specific number of hours per week or per month to work on applications and stick to your schedule. It can be easy to constantly scroll through scholarship options throughout the day, which can become overwhelming and create burnout.

You can usually apply for scholarships as early as one year before you plan to attend school, and you can continue applying for every year you are in college! Pace yourself, track your deadlines, and be persistent.

Explore Non-Scholarship Options

It's possible that, despite your best efforts, you may not receive enough scholarship funding to cover all of your unmet college costs. Other options for additional aid can come in the form of federal or state grants or work-study opportunities, which can decrease your out-of-pocket costs each term.

Applying for a college loan may also be necessary, but these funds need to be paid back — often with interest. Be sure to fully research the interest rates and potential impact on your credit score, and consider your loan repayment plan.

Complete the FAFSA

Many scholarships require you to complete the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) each year. If necessary, talk to your family early to get help completing this before the deadline. Undocumented students and international students are ineligible to complete the FAFSA but are still eligible for many private or university scholarships.


Designate time to identify which types of scholarships you have the highest chances of receiving, such as awards available through your college or community or a broader search based on your unique identities and skills. Apply for a combination of scholarships offered by various entities to maximize your efforts.

Start applying early, map out a timeline for working on applications, and don't give up! Any award amount can make college more possible and help you achieve your academic goals.

DISCLAIMER: The responses provided as part of the Ask a College Advisor series are for general informational purposes only. Readers should contact a professional academic, career, or financial advisor before making decisions regarding individual situations.

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