When Should I Apply for Scholarships?

You can apply for scholarships at any time during your academic career

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A common myth is that only high school seniors apply for scholarships, typically during their fall semester. However, not only are scholarships available to freshmen, sophomores, juniors, and seniors—both in college AND high school—scholarships are offered year round.

Now, of course, certain scholarships have their applications and deadlines at certain points of the year—but not all of those fall in the autumn and winter months. In fact, there are plenty of scholarships that have their deadlines set in summer too.

So, when should you apply for scholarships? The short answer is: whenever you can!

Scholarships, both federal and privately funded, are probably the best way to pay for college. They don’t have to be paid back, unlike loans, and there are plenty of opportunities out there for all kinds of students. The US Department of Education alone awards over 46 billion dollars worth of scholarships and grants every single year. Add the colleges/universities that also award aid on top of private sources, and you get a substantial amount of money.

“When” should you apply is sort of a two-tiered question—“when” as in, what time of year? And “when” as in, what grade level?


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Time of Year

As we said earlier, scholarships are offered year round. Many students use the free time during their winter break to search for scholarships and crank out as many applications as possible. And while this is a good idea, it doesn’t mean you should only apply during your winter break.

Most scholarship deadlines are between September and May—the academic school year—and so waiting for winter break to come around can be a costly decision. What about the scholarships with September, October, and November deadlines? Three whole months of applying for aid!

Even though it may be during the busy school year, it is best to apply regularly to scholarship opportunities that you find. If you create a sort of schedule and goal—say, you apply to two scholarships per week—you can maximize your opportunities.

The last thing many students want to think about during their summer break is school—but summer is also a great time to go scholarship hunting. Even if you’re prepping for college or have a summer job, you won’t have the additional burden of homework or test studying to worry about, so use some of that extra time for scholarships. The effort you put in now will pay off later.

Grade Level

As we said earlier, there’s a myth that only high school seniors apply for scholarships. While some scholarships might be restricted to high school seniors only, a majority are not. It’s important to pay attention to the requirements of a scholarship, but it’s also important to realize there are scholarship opportunities for just about every grade level for both high school and college—including graduate schools.

Simply put, not only high school seniors are in need of financial aid. The scholarships you earn during senior year will likely not be enough to significantly help pay for your higher education. Instead, start applying before senior year—there are a number of opportunities available for sophomores and juniors, even freshmen!

And of course, keep applying for scholarships once you get to college. Every little bit helps. Sometimes scholarship opportunities are bundled with paid internships once you reach college, which can be a big boost in funds to pay tuition and other college costs.

All in All

Apply, apply, apply. The more scholarships you apply to, the more likely you are to receive some aid. And the more aid you get, the less financial strain you have to put on your education.

Want to see what sort of aid you might get from schools around the country? Use College Raptor’s free match tool to discover that, and your college cost estimates!


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