Many students have come to learn and recognize that applying for scholarships is a great way to be proactive about offsetting the many costs that come with attending college and medical school. However, simply recognizing this fact is not enough to actually get that money into your pocket. Haphazardly applying for scholarships here and there is not only inefficient, but it can also lead to consequences such as missed deadlines or submitting the wrong essays in the wrong places. That’s why having a strategy for applying for scholarships is one of the most crucial aspects of the entire process.

What does it mean to have a strategy?

Each person likely has a different idea of what constitutes a “scholarship strategy”. However, there are a few key questions that every strategy should address and answer:

What is my goal with applying for scholarships? Am I looking for a full-ride or to offset smaller expenses?

Knowing the answer to this question will help you to narrow down the types of scholarships you want to be searching and applying for, as well as help to give you a sense of how realistic your goal is given your timeframe and levels of competitiveness. If your goal is to cover the cost of your full tuition, then you will likely have to put in a significantly greater amount of time and effort to reach your goal than if you were only looking to offset smaller costs such as a laptop or textbooks.

What is my timeline for applying for scholarships?

Being realistic about your timeline, as well as how much time you can devote to the process, is also important. In general, you can apply for scholarships until you graduate from your degree. However, getting started with the process as early as possible (talking about high school!) is definitely smart if you want to give yourself time to get used to the process and create a routine for it.

Also, you should be asking yourself how much time each day, week, or month you are going to devote to applying for scholarships, and make sure that that amount of time aligns with your answer to question 1.

What resources do I have available to me to search and apply for scholarships?

Thirdly, identifying all of the resources that are available to you is crucial because, if you miss out on utilizing certain resources, then you are probably missing out on earning as much money as possible. So, I suggest sitting down, doing some research, and writing out a list of online AND offline resources that you plan to use to do your searching (Access Scholarships is a good place to start!).

How am I going to keep track of the scholarships I am finding, applying for, and waiting to hear back from?

To best keep track of scholarships, I find that students have the most success with creating some sort of word document or excel sheet. You should be updating your sheet every time you find a scholarship that you want to apply for, and inputting relevant information such as the scholarship provider, the deadline, necessary materials, and whether or not you have sent it in.

What types of scholarships should I be applying for?

This may be the last point, but it is certainly not the least! When it comes to the types of scholarships you should be applying for, part of any solid strategy is to not put all of your eggs into one basket. So for example, you may know that you want to try to cover your full tuition with scholarships. But rather than applying to only high amount scholarships, you should also make sure to be applying for the easy, no essay scholarships each month or quarter that they are running, to give yourself the best chance at winning some money.