The Right Time to Apply for Scholarships

College is expensive. One way to offset the cost? Apply for – and win – scholarships. This can be easier said than done, but you’re not going to get very far or have a chance of winning if you don’t at least apply for them. 

That leads us to the question, “When is the best time to apply for scholarships?” There is actually no clear-cut answer! The best answer is always and as early as possible. But here’s what you need to know about applying to awards, deadlines, and when you should apply.

Student applying for college scholarships

Flickr user US Department of Agriculture

Apply By the Scholarship’s Deadline

The most important answer to, “When is the best time to apply for scholarships?” is before the deadline! Applying after the due date is a surefire way to get a rejection, if you can even still submit your application.

Scholarship deadlines will be clearly written in the award’s description. When you’re on the hunt for awards you qualify for, make sure to write these deadlines down. Then you can start focusing on the applications for the scholarships that are due earlier than the rest. 

Start Applying as Early as Possible

And, believe it or not, it’s never too early to start applying for scholarships. In fact, you’re doing yourself a disservice by waiting until senior year. Parents: this is important for you to note, too. Did you know that there are scholarships available to kids?

There are awards available to kids that are only 4 years old! While you may be thinking, “that’s a bit early to be thinking about college,” applying to these scholarships for your child can actually make a huge difference 14 years down the line. Getting your children involved in community groups, clubs, and volunteer work is also a great way to give their future selves a better chance of winning those competitive scholarships.

For students in high school, though, there are plenty of awards available to those in 9th through 12th grade. One example would be the National Merit Scholarship through the PSAT. For others, simply put the student’s grade in a database, and awards will pop up that they’re eligible for!


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Applying Throughout the Year

Scholarship deadlines are year-round, so there’s no real universal deadline for these types of financial aid awards. However, certain times of the year can open new opportunities for students interested in applying.


Scholarships often have an opening date in the fall, especially if they’re going to be awarded for the following school year of college. Most of the major deadlines during this season will fall between October and December 31st.


Springtime actually tends to be one of the more popular seasons for scholarship deadlines, and they can happen anywhere between January and May. Spring break also presents students with the perfect opportunity to complete quite a few applications.


Summer may have fewer scholarships available to students, but it’s still important to look and apply during this month. As we started before, scholarships are available year-round!

Applying in College

The hunt for scholarships doesn’t end after you graduate high school, either. Many awards are dedicated to students in college going after their undergraduate or graduate degrees and are not open to high school students. Just keeping your scholarship database accounts active will mean you’re getting emails about new awards you’re eligible for, even when you’re a senior in college.

Tips for Applying to Scholarships

The real answer to the question, “When is the right time to apply for scholarships?” is “before the due date.” But how else can you improve your chances of winning the awards beyond submitting your application before the deadline? Here are some tips to keep in mind!

  • Apply to all scholarships you qualify for, large and small.
    • Many students skip over the smaller awards, but these add up if you win a few! They also tend to be less competitive. 
  • Use scholarship databases (like College Raptor’s scholarship search tool).
    • These will help you find awards you qualify for faster and alert you of new awards
  • Don’t apply to awards you don’t qualify for.
    • While you may be tempted to go after that $50,000 scholarship, if you don’t meet the requirements, you’re simply wasting your time.
  • Write down any and all scholarship deadlines and due dates
  • Complete your Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) every year
    • Many scholarships actually require you to complete your FAFSA, so don’t skip it even if you think you won’t qualify for any financial aid!

It’s really never too early for students and their parents to start the scholarship hunt! And the search should truly continue until you’re completely done with school, whether that’s your undergraduate degree or a terminal degree like a doctorate! Keeping on top of deadlines is also essential to give yourself the best chance of taking home the top prize.

Between college applications and your senior year of high school, tracking down scholarships can feel like just another task you need to complete. But what if there was an easier way? College Raptor’s Scholarship Search Tool does the heavy lifting for you and helps you identify the best awards for you! Start with it here for completely free.


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