7 Tips for Setting Goals for Scholarships

Quarter - if you set scholarship goals you can save much more than 25 cents

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Scholarships are competitive – and time-consuming. Between the searching, essay writing, interviews, and submissions, it can get pretty overwhelming. But setting goals for scholarships can help you tackle this massive project and potentially get some free money for college!

When it comes down to it, scholarships are a great way to pay for college. They’re gifts of free money you don’t have to pay back, after all. And there’s no limit to how many you can apply to or accept (though what you earn can potentially affect some of your financial aid offers).

1. Make Your Scholarships Goals “S.M.A.R.T.”

A SMART goal is one that’s Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic, and Timely. After all, the goal of “apply for scholarships” is pretty vague. Instead, get SMART.

For example, a SMART goal could be “Apply to one scholarship per week during the school year.” That gives you a consistent and manageable task that you can fit into your busy schedule. You can always adjust these goals if you find one a week is too easy (or too hard). Goals, after all, aren’t written in stone, but you should be doing what you can to meet them. If you find you cannot complete your goal, you may have skipped the R in SMART and need to reassess your goal.

2. Find a Cheerleader

Sometimes you need a bit more than self-discipline to get something done, or to stay on track. Find someone who will follow up on your task. Parents are ideal here since they already love hounding you about homework and studying anyway. Or you could make a pact with a friend and keep each other motivated and accountable.


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3. Create a Scholarship Schedule

During your junior and senior years of high school, things are hectic. You’re taking the SAT/ACT, touring colleges, applying to schools, and more – all on top of your classwork and homework! Making time for scholarships can be difficult.

Marking tasks on a calendar is a great way to ensure you’ll follow through. Treat it like a chore (and sometimes it will certainly feel like one—though well worth the effort). Setting up a time to do it each week (or every other week) can make the task more tangible and less stressful.

READ MORE >> Scholarship Task Checklist

By making a consistent schedule, you’re making it a habit and you won’t be cramming it all in last minute.

Your schedule should include details and information about

  • Scholarship deadlines
  • Best days for scholarship applications
  • Time set aside for locating awards you qualify for
  • Time for brainstorming and writing essays
  • Time for completing scholarship applications

4. Start As Early as Possible

The earlier you start, the more scholarships you will be able to find and apply for! If you wait too long, you could find some perfect awards’ deadlines have already passed. And some scholarships and grants are actually designed for middle school and younger high school students.

While you can’t go back in time, there is no better time than now to start on your scholarship goals and search.

5. Set a Dollar Goal That You Hope to Achieve in Scholarships

The more you earn in scholarship money, the less you’ll have to pay out of pocket or take out in student loans. Therefore, it pays to earn as much as you can. It can help to aim towards a certain amount in scholarship money as you budget out your college expenses. In fact, “first-time undergraduates who receive government grants and scholarships at a 4-year college receive about $14,890 annually.”

Of course, there is no guarantee that you will win this money (or any money), but understanding your finances can help give you direction for these awards and other avenues available to you, such as private student loans, should you need to bridge the financial aid gap.

6. Set a Specific Goal For How Many Scholarships You Want to Apply to By a Certain Date

Setting a specific target in terms of the number of scholarships you apply for can give your efforts some focus and an attainable goal. It could be a certain amount of scholarships in a session, in a week, or month. Whatever works with your schedule is perfectly fine. Just keep SMART in mind here.

And remember: you can always move the goalposts further if you finish your goal faster than you expected! For example, if you want to apply to 75 scholarships by the time you graduate high school and you complete this goal in March it doesn’t mean you have to stop. In fact, you should keep going and set a new goal! But be sure to reward yourself for reaching that first milestone.

6. Don’t Stop Setting Goals After High School

Did you know that many awards are only for high school seniors? There are plenty dedicated to college students that you could be missing out on. Even in the midst of your college education, you should be setting scholarship goals as this could make a difference on your finances for the years to come.

7. Don’t Beat Yourself Up If You Miss a Goal

Sometimes we miss deadlines or don’t meet what should have been an achievable goal, and that’s okay. Don’t hold it against yourself. Just get back on that horse and set a new goal. The last thing you want to do is get discouraged when it comes to scholarship applications. The more you apply to, the more likely you are to get that sweet cash.

These scholarship goal setting lessons are valuable beyond the awards and applications. SMART, for instance, can be applied to just about anything in your life! There are great lessons to be learned here that could be a difference-maker for the years to come.

The faster you find scholarships you qualify for, the more awards you’ll be able to apply to. Our Scholarship Search Tool can help you reach those scholarship goals! Start right here.


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