Scholarship Season: Seniors work on daunting task of searching for and applying to scholarships, peers and counselors offer advice


Lexie Crawford

A students desk, covered in scholarship applications.

     Since the Common Application opened on August 1, seniors around the nation have felt the pressure of college applications. Desperately choosing between including Green Club and Art Club, deciding whether or not to send ACT scores, and painstakingly writing supplemental essays, all of the hurt and pain ended when many applications closed in mid-January. 

     For a month or two, students were able to take a break from the college craze. However, now that March has rolled around, the mania begins again. It’s scholarship season. 

     While scholarship applications are open year-long, the time between college applications closing and students leaving the hallowed halls of Highlands High School is prime time to look for and apply for scholarships. 

     The counselors at Highlands know the importance of scholarships and work to make sure students are set up to succeed with their applications. 

     “Scholarships are important because you can look at them as free money for college,” Counselor Laura Schnitzler said. “Scholarships can range in amount, but every little bit helps.”

     She said that scholarships can be used for tuition, books, room and board, and sometimes, depending on the scholarship, for anything, if it is just a check written out to the recipient.

     Some Highlands students started their search for scholarships early. Senior Corina Mills, for example, applied to the Coca-Cola Scholars Program scholarship. 

     Due on October 31, 2020, Mills found this scholarship when she attended the Hispanic Scholarship Fund’s University of Southern California Youth Leadership Institute. In one of the sessions regarding undergraduate scholarships, they mentioned the Coca-Cola Scholars Program. 

     The initial application only required her academic record, list of clubs/organizations, honors and awards, and work experience. When she was selected as a semi-finalist, she had to put a bit more work in. This portion of the application included additional essays and short answers, her transcript, and a reference letter. 

     Mills has applied for many other scholarships too, such as the Elks Most Valuable Student Scholarship Competition and the Hispanic Scholarship Fund Scholars Program. She began her scholarship search in the summer before her senior year but suggests students start earlier. 

     While that advice would help younger students, most seniors are seriously beginning their scholarship search now. 

     There are many school-specific scholarships available, but the guidelines for qualifying to these vary by college. Students may need to apply for some separately but may qualify for some just by applying to the school. Students are absolutely encouraged to apply for these scholarships, especially if they are committed to a college. 

     Scholarships that aren’t just for one school are sometimes even better. These scholarships are in honor of deceased students, given based on traits or experiences, and just from various different organizations. Some are just for students from Highlands and some are competitive, drawing applicants from across the nation. 

     Any scholarship that the counseling office knows about, they post on the Scholarships page in Naviance. These can be found by clicking on Colleges. Students can also search for scholarships on Naviance beyond those the counselors’ post. There is also a scholarship book students can look at in the Counseling Office. 

     In addition to these scholarships, many websites exist for the sole purpose of publicizing scholarships., FastWeb, and SallieMae are just a few of these sites. On these sites, students input information about themselves, from extracurricular activities to their parents’ jobs. Algorithms work to find scholarships that fit each student and notify students whenever a new one is available. 

     Some scholarships are as simple as inputting a name and email, but some require essays, transcripts, and letters of recommendation. 

     “If you are someone who needs to earn scholarships in order to help pay for college, there is definitely a time investment that is needed in order to investigate, make a list of, and complete items needed for scholarship applications,” Schnitzler explained. 

     While scholarship season is a daunting time, it may be the difference between affording the small expenses of college or leaving college in debt.