How I Got $100,000+ in Scholarships (And You Can Too!)

By Sarah Jackson on August 6, 2017

It’s no secret that the cost of attending college has risen exponentially over the years. According to estimates by Business Insider, on average, the yearly increase in college tuition costs grew by almost 260 percent from 1980 to 2014. (Note: Read that carefully. This does not mean tuition costs increased 260 percent in that time span. This means there was a 260 percent increase in the increases of tuition costs across those years. Yikes!)

Image by Fabian Blank via Unsplash

I was fortunate enough to receive more than $100,000 in scholarship funds, and it has made all the difference. It wasn’t easy, though, so I’d like to share with you some helpful advice everyone applying for scholarships should know. Without further ado, here are some good measures to take to up your chances of earning scholarship funds.

1) Finding scholarships

Believe it or not, the Internet is home to more than just memes and gifs. Websites such as,, and (obviously) are able to match you to scholarships as soon as you create a profile — think GPA, your intended major, whether you plan on attending a 2- or 4-year school, and much more.

If the scholarships in your personalized feed just don’t cut it, these websites are, first and foremost, scholarship search engines, so you can look up specific scholarships or simply explore the gold mine of free money each website provides. (Be forewarned, though, the scholarships you qualify for may overlap across websites simply because you will probably enter the same profile information on each website. Make sure you aren’t wasting time applying for the same scholarship twice!)

Don’t forget to also check out local sources (think your school district, local businesses, rotary clubs, etc.) for scholarship opportunities.

Image by Thomas Lefebvre via Unsplash

2) Read up on the scholarship

Right off the bat, you should weed out the scholarships you are not eligible for. Many scholarships are offered exclusively to students in certain demographics, such as community college students, students who identify with a particular ethnic group, or students who demonstrate financial need.

Once you are certain you qualify to apply for the scholarship, you should begin to familiarize yourself with the organization offering the prize. Find out what their core values are and try to play into that in your application.

Note: I’m not advising you to fabricate activities or beliefs for the sake of winning scholarships. Rather, I’m suggesting you identify their tenets so you can highlight those values when writing about activities you’ve already done or beliefs you already hold. For example, if the organization and/or its scholarship emphasizes leadership, you should probably focus more on your position on a club’s executive board than on your involvement in clubs in which you were only a general member.

Look at lists of past winners, if possible, and see if you can glean some advice from them about applying for that specific scholarship. Some websites also give you an estimate of how many applicants you will be up against for the scholarship funds, or they might indicate how difficult the application is to complete (e.g. if it requires you to complete many time-consuming steps, such as writing essays, obtaining letters of recommendation, etc.)., for example, does both.

3) Revise your résumé

Almost every scholarship application will require a résumé. Just as you would do when applying for a job, be sure to tailor your résumé to the specific scholarship you are applying for. This often means removing activities from your résumé that are not relevant to the scholarship at hand and replacing them with more pertinent activities.

Make sure your résumé is up to date with your most recent activities and GPA, and be sure it looks professional. Have a friend look it over for typos, or visit your school’s career advising center if you have one.

Image by ulleo via Pixabay

4) Get involved outside of the classroom

It is very difficult to win a scholarship on academic merit alone. So, your GPA, standardized test scores, and laundry list of advanced classes will usually not be enough to get you to the finish line. For college and scholarship applications alike, involvement in co-curricular activities is crucial.

In general, community service is said to be more impressive than, say, involvement in clubs centered around specific hobbies or interests. Additionally, remember that quality is more likely to impress your application readers than quantity. If you can make a long-term commitment to a few core activities throughout your high school years, you will almost certainly stand a better chance of winning a scholarship than someone who takes on too many activities and ends up backing out of most of them.

Image by EfstathiosIosifidis via Wikimedia Commons

5) Apply for EVERYTHING!

This will increase your chances of receiving scholarships in two ways. The most obvious: it will up your odds, statistically speaking, of winning some dough. Think of each scholarship you apply for as a ticket into a zillion-dollar lottery, a.k.a. a pool of every available scholarship in the world. The more tickets you buy, the greater your chances of winning.

However, there is also a more subtle but equally important benefit to applying for as many scholarships as possible: you learn more about yourself. As cheesy as it sounds, it’s true. When you spend so much time writing about your leadership style, what major you intend to pursue, your career goals, and so forth, you get a better idea of what exactly you hope to get out of college and your intended degree.

Besides propelling your self-discovery, all this practice also gives you the more practical advantage of helping you fine-tune your personal statement and interviews. In fact, you can usually use one well-written essay for multiple scholarship applications, as long as the essay prompts are relatively similar.

Image by Skitterphoto via Pixabay

6) Don’t be discouraged by rejections

By the time I received my tuition bill, I had applied for probably somewhere between 30 to 40 scholarships. In the end, I received seven, most of which came towards the tail end of my senior year and even well into the following summer.

Though my success rate wasn’t great (it was at most 25 percent!), it was something, which was more than I can say for the first five or six months of my scholarship search. (During this dollar drought, I walked away from every attempt empty-handed, which means my success rate for that period of time was a whopping 0 percent.) The point is you shouldn’t give up if the first few applications you submit aren’t successful. If I had done that, I wouldn’t have won any scholarships, and then I certainly wouldn’t have been able to afford and attend NYU.

Now that you’re (hopefully) a bit more familiar with the scholarship application process, there’s only one thing left to do — apply! Don’t forget that every little bit counts and that, if you’re willing to put in the time and effort, the scholarships will be yours.

Hi there! My name is Sarah, and I'm majoring in Journalism and English at NYU. In my spare time, I like to play the violin, explore the city, and discover more indie rock bands.

Follow Uloop

Apply to Write for Uloop News

Join the Uloop News Team

Discuss This Article

More Uloop Campus Life Articles


4 Photos
SavannahPark of Abernathy
See all WAYLAND Housing Listings



Back to Top

Log In

or Sign Up
Post FREE Listings
Student Start Here
Post Jobs for Students
Employers Start Here
Housing Providers
Post Available Housing
Housing Start Here

Enter College Name to See Local Results

Log In

Contact Us

Your new password has been sent to your email!

Logout Successful!

You just missed it! This listing has been filled.

Post your own housing listing on Uloop and have students reach out to you!

Upload An Image

Please select an image to upload
Note: must be in .png, .gif or .jpg format
Provide URL where image can be downloaded
Note: must be in .png, .gif or .jpg format

By clicking this button,
you agree to the terms of use

By clicking "Create Alert" I agree to the Uloop Terms of Use.

Image not available.
By clicking Get Started or Sign In you agree to our Privacy Policy and Terms of Service

Add a Photo

Please select a photo to upload
Note: must be in .png, .gif or .jpg format