An Actual Helpful Guide on How to Win Scholarships for College!

By Chris Landeros •  Updated: 03/02/23 •  11 min read

A $30,000 College Scholarship Gameplan

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Why learning how to win scholarships is important

College is expensive, that’s why! College student debt has grown to $1.7 trillion dollars and it’s not getting any lower.

Why is winning scholarships for college so hard??

Besides the fact that you’re competing with thousands of other students for scholarship money, the worst part seems to be all these websites telling you to do the same thing:

  1. Use Fastweb or
  2. Apply to as many scholarships as you can
  3. Pray

And yeah, that can work for students who spend every hour of their free time applying for scholarships. Yet, you still might end up applying to 100 scholarships only to win a $25 gift card to random website like I 10/10 would recommend if you like deals on cheap flights though.

Not to mention all the spam email you get from signing up for Fastweb.

So if you’re tired of the following the same old advice and getting no results, then this is the article for you. It’s going to take some work but these methods helped my friend win $30,000 in scholarships and helped me win a $120,000 full ride scholarship.

Practical Strategies for finding and winning scholarships

Apply to Local Scholarships

When it comes to winning scholarships for college, there’s one bit of advice that’s so simple and underrated it often gets overlooked:

How to find local scholarships in your area

These are scholarships that are found within your own community. They’re in the libraries, local organizations, and businesses that you pass by everyday. You can even reach out to your church or local sports club to see if they offer an annual scholarship.

Don’t forget to also check out the scholarship center your own school may have. Because these scholarships are usually funded by alumni, this means the scholarships are exclusively meant for you and your class.

This means less competition and a higher chance of success when it comes to winning scholarships for college.

Apply to FAFSA and CSS Profile

These are both some of the largest sources for scholarships and grants. Even if you think you don’t qualify for any of these types of scholarships, please still give it a shot.

Especially if you’re a low income student. There are scholarships like the pell grant that are specifically meant to support you on your academic journey.

Some scholarships, like the Promise Scholarship that I won, even use FAFSA to see if a student qualifies for their scholarships. So give it a shot!

Get creative when trying to find scholarships

So yeah some of these may seem obvious. And it’s true, they are. However, don’t be afraid to get creative as to where you would reach out to for scholarships.

Reach out to local businesses, law firms, or mom and pop shops willing to give money to support a good cause. They’re likely to do it, especially if it helps someone in their community.

It is also important for students like yourself to think creatively and consider all potential sources of scholarship funding, even if they are not directly related to education.

How to be creative to find local scholarships

One example would be reaching out to a local newspaper if you’re interested in majoring in English. You can reach out and ask them if they would be willing to support your education. A lot of times, business can use this as tax right off while also getting great publicity for supporting a local student.

Other example would be if you’re interested in law. Reach out to the local law firm to see if they would be willing to create a scholarship for you. You can pitch as them supporting the next generation of lawyers.

You can even add additional value to your proposition by offering to make or share a post of their company sponsoring your college education. Now you get a dope new scholarship and they get a banger instagram post. It’s a win win!

There are tons of other ideas so try to use your interests to figure these out!

Optimize your plan if you want to win scholarships

Scholarships can be a hit or miss which is why many people recommend applying to as many scholarships as possible.

And applying to as many scholarships as possible, even small awards, can add up. This is how my friend Kathy was able to pay off her college tuition by applying and winning a ton of small but meaningful scholarship awards.

But have a plan to make this process easier.

Many scholarships require an essay along with either your transcripts or a resume. You can reuse all of these for your scholarship apps.

For example, you likely wrote multiple essays for applying to colleges or to other scholarships. These can range from what you want to major in to what’s your favorite song. Many of these scholarships will likely use the same prompt to vet out who’s the best fit for their scholarship.

You may even have a personal statement that doesn’t exactly fit the prompt but with a little tweaking can be a top contender.

Try saving the big scholarships like the Coca-Cola scholarships for last as there’s a lower chance of you winning. Not saying you shouldn’t apply, but try applying to the smaller, easier to win scholarships first. That way, you can mix and match what you already wrote to submit to the Coca-Cola scholarship.

If I were to apply for scholarships again this is how I would do it:

  1. Apply to all the small local scholarships
  2. Gather the essays you wrote
  3. Apply to the large competitive scholarships without having to stress about what to write

By using this strategy, you prioritize the scholarships you’re most likely to win but also making it super easy to apply to the larger scholarships, giving you a chance of still winning it big.

Should I use AI to write my scholarship essays for me?

I say why not!

If all else fails, use the prompt from the essay and plug it in to ChatGPT with bullets points about how you would be the perfect candidate to win their scholarship. If you want to see me go further into this, feel free to sign up for my email list. You can message me there and let me know you need that step-by-step guide, ASAP no rocky.

Is college even worth it?

College is expensive, and many people have student debt. And as site focused on helping demystify college for first gen students, it’s obvious that low-income students have the hardest time paying for college.

And I can try to convince you that it is worth it with all these incredible facts like:

And for some students that’s enough, but I like to focus on the intangibles. College is about more than just the degree. It provides valuable experiences and creates an environment for personal growth.

You get to connect with people your age. You practice your social and professional skills for the first time. For many people, it’s the first time they have to learn how to live on their own. It’s a chance to find out what you value and what you care about while being surrounded by others with the same mission of working to be better learners.

College can grow your knowledge and can gives you the tools to work towards something greater than yourself. Whether that’s a white collar job, leading a new organization, or inventing the next Chat GPT (I’m addicted to AI stuff lately so sorry for the additional AI chat bot shoutout).

College is the one chance to challenge yourself to learn. It’s also the only time you’ll ever learn so much in such a short amount of time ever again.

I’ve made of my most important connections in college. I met life long friends. I learned how to build websites and lead organizations. Some of my friends even found the people they plan to marry. (True story, I’m going to be the best man to my best friend who’s marrying the girl he met in college).

College is what you make of it. So make it worth it!

Summary of how to win scholarships for college:

Here are all the tips I recommend for increasing your chances of receiving scholarships

I. Places to look for scholarships in the student’s community

II. Have a plan and be able to clearly articulate goals and need for financial assistance

III. Make college worth it

College is expensive regardless. So with or without scholarships. Make the most of it. Learn how to apply to internships, step out of your comfort zone and build a website, meet new people, talk to your professors. Hell, try a research project once. I wrote a post on all the benefits: The 5 Practical Benefits of Undergraduate Research

You can even use the library to learn how to take banger photos on Skillshare. And if you do, use my link to get the first month free while also supporting my blog!

Final thoughts on winning scholarships for college

It may take some work, but there are ways to mitigate the cost of college through scholarships. College can be worth it for more than just the degree, and can provide valuable experiences and opportunities for personal growth.

So find those scholarships and make college worth it!


Do I need to have a 4.0 GPA and perfect extracurriculars to win scholarships for college?

No, but it definitely makes it easier for you to stand out from the crowd. Ultimately, you should always apply because you never know what can come out of a scholarship application.

And sometimes life can happen and that’s why your grades or extracurriculars aren’t the best. Don’t be afraid to bring that up in your essay or scholarship interviews. If you have a compelling enough story or are the right fit for scholarship, don’t hold yourself back. The worst they can say is no.

Better to try and fail than to not do anything at all.

How Many Scholarships Do I Need to Apply to?

Honestly, as many as you need to. There isn’t a limit to how many scholarships you can apply to but a good number to get you started is at least 10. Remember, you should always use a strategy so that you’re applying to multiple similar scholarships with similar requirements as it is a numbers game at the end of the day.

Where are some great places to apply for scholarships?

There’s also tons of posts on reddit with a list of plenty more ideas like the frat and sorority scholarships or the yearly scholarship book.

Is there a scholarships book?

Yea, here’s an updated scholarship book for 2023:

The Ultimate Scholarship Book 2023: Billions of Dollars in Scholarships, Grants and Prizes

What are the best websites to find scholarships?

Chris Landeros

My name is Christopher Landeros but you can call me Chris. I started this website after struggling to find relatable and relevant info for first-gen college students. I kept learning the ropes and was wondering why there wasn't a resource to show you how to practically navigate college. So here I am, creating the most in-depth content for College Lighthouse.