When and Where to Apply for Scholarships?

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

Pixabay user geralt

If you need help paying for college, you should definitely apply for scholarships. But scholarship applications come with a deadline. If you miss those deadlines, you miss your chance of getting free money that will help reduce your college bills. So, when and where should you apply for scholarships? The short of it: whenever you can and before the deadline. However, the real answer is a bit more complicated.

So, When Should You Apply for Scholarships?

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 and universities that also award aid on top of private sources, and you get a substantial amount of money.

And not every scholarship is only for high school seniors or only for college students. Some are for high school freshmen, others are for graduate students, and even some for transfer students. So you shouldn’t stop looking for new awards simply because you’ve already graduated high school!

We’ll get into it a bit in the next section, but scholarships have due dates year round. There is no specific month or semester you should be applying for these.

So, the short answer is, you should be applying to scholarships whenever you can.

No origination fees or prepayment penalties

Fixed rates from 3.95% - 8.01% APR with auto-debit

Learn More

Before the Deadline

This may seem like a given, but it’s absolutely essential that you pay attention to each scholarship’s deadline. They are not like regular decision college applications where a majority are due on January 1st. They can have due dates scattered anywhere throughout the year.

It’s extremely important that you take note of these deadlines when you’re doing your initial scholarship searches. Whether you keep a calendar or a scholarship database reminder is up to you!

As Soon As You Can

That doesn’t mean you should wait until the night before the deadline to submit your scholarship application. You don’t want to run into technical issues or internet problems as you try to submit and you miss out!

Instead, we recommend getting a head start. Begin on the scholarships that are due sooner rather than later or the awards that require a bit more work (such as a longer essay) first.

After January 1st for Need Based Scholarships

For awards that are need based, though, you should aim to submit those applications after January 1st.  These will often require you to have completed the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) for the next school year already in order to demonstrate your need.

The income they’ll be looking at is from the most recent tax year, which always ends on December 31st. Once you have that in hand, you can apply after January 1. But make sure you’re paying attention to those deadlines, too!

During Your Senior Year of High School

We know we just said that awards aren’t just for high school seniors, but that is the target market for most scholarships out there. If you’re only going to apply for scholarships for one year (which we don’t recommend – there are plenty for college students !), this is the year to do it. Some awards will not allow you to apply if you’ve already graduated.

But you really don’t have to wait until senior year either. There are several awards for freshmen, sophomores, and juniors in high school, too. You just likely will have to wait until you’re off to college to see the money if you win.

Where Can You Apply for Scholarships?

There are a number of excellent places where you can apply for scholarships!

Databases or Scholarship Finders

Scholarship finders, also known as scholarship databases, are an excellent resource. After filling in your profile and basic information, they return with the best awards that you specifically qualify for. This means you don’t have to sift through the rules yourself and waste time on awards that you can’t even apply to.

From College Board’s Big Future to College Raptor’s Scholarship search, there are plenty of them out there. They also offer features like

  • Saving your favorite scholarships for later
  • Deadline reminders
  • Financial advice
  • Additional financial resources including information on internships and grants
  • Updates when new awards are created
  • Tips and resources on avoiding scholarship scams
  • Monetary drawings

Your High School

Your high school also likely has some excellent resources on scholarships available to its students. Some schools’ websites have the details right online, but in the case yours doesn’t, you should definitely schedule a meeting with your guidance counselor. They usually have a stack of awards right on their desk! They can also give you tips on how to find a few more.

Now that you have a better idea of when (and where) you should be applying for scholarships for college, you can make sure that you are getting all of your applications in on time. The more scholarships you apply to, the higher your chances of winning! So get out there and start searching!


Lender Rates (APR) Eligibility
Citizens logo.
6.38%-14.28%* Variable
4.48%-13.29%* Fixed
Undergraduate and Graduate
Sallie Mae logo.
6.37% - 16.70% Variable
4.50% - 15.49% Fixed
Undergraduate and Graduate
Credibe company logo.
4.98% - 17.99% Variable
4.13% - 17.99% Fixed
Undergraduate and Graduate
Lendkey company logo.
5.84% - 11.11% Variable
4.39% - 11.11% Fixed
Undergraduate and Graduate
Ascent company logo.
6.17% - 16.11% Variable
4.13% - 15.46% Fixed
Undergraduate and Graduate
6.54% - 11.08% Variable
3.95% - 8.01% Fixed
Undergraduate and Graduate
Earnest company logo.
5.62% - 16.20% Variable
4.42% - 15.90% Fixed
Undergraduate and Graduate
4.98% - 12.79% Variable
8.42% - 13.01% Fixed
Undergraduate and Graduate
College Raptor is not a loan lender and does not assume responsibility for suggesting a loan to a user who may not be eligible for it. Rates, terms, conditions, eligibility, approval, and other considerations are the decisions of the lenders and may vary depending on which lender or marketplace the user selects. We urge users to carefully consider and review all loan options and terms before committing to taking out a loan.