12 Essential Tips for Winning More Scholarships

It’s no secret that scholarships are one of the absolute best ways to pay for college, but how in the world do you get started? With nearly every scholarship application requiring an essay, letters of recommendation, and a plethora of personal information, starting the process and figuring out how to get scholarships for college can be overwhelming.

At the same time, with the cost of school on the rise each year, scholarships are becoming more and more important. Unlike student loans, scholarships don’t need to be paid back and they offer free no-strings-attached money. Winning scholarships can significantly reduce (or even help you completely avoid) the burden of student debt and increasing interest rates after graduation.

Despite how fantastic they are, students are often puzzled about how to get scholarships. Where should you begin? When should you begin? Which scholarships are worth your time? How many should you apply for?

The questions can start to become overwhelming and even scare some students away. Luckily, applying for scholarships really isn’t all that complicated when it comes down to it! With a little dedication and perseverance, you can be well on your way to winning scholarships of your own.

Check out our 12 best tips on how to get scholarships and make your applications shine!

how to get scholarships

1. Go Local

While national scholarships generally get more visibility and press online, local scholarships usually offer better chances. You’ll only be competing against other students in your area rather than thousands of students all over the nation. Not only that, but you’ll be supporting local initiatives in your community that represent awesome causes.

Your high school guidance counselor or college admissions office should have plenty of information on local scholarships that apply to your situation. If not, try searching for “scholarships + your state/city” on Google or using a scholarship search engine, where you’ll likely be able to find lists of scholarships. Did we mention that we have tons of state-specific scholarship articles on our blog? 

Going Merry also makes finding local scholarships a piece of cake (really, what don’t we do?). Simply head to your profile and click on “scholarships” then “local scholarships” to see what’s going on in your area.

2. Find Your Edge

Scholarship providers spend countless hours reviewing scholarship applications and essays that are responding to the same prompt. Unsurprisingly, a hefty majority of applications are forgotten. The memorable have the best chance of winning. Just like in marketing, search for what gives you an advantage over your competition and use it.

Start by creating a list of your strengths. What are you good at? What are your friends always asking you to help them with? Then, figure out how to highlight your strengths throughout your application, specifically in the short answer and essay questions. Show the scholarship committee why your skills make you the perfect candidate for the award.

Your life experiences can also make your applications stand out. You’ve likely experienced events or challenges that are different from others: brainstorm a list and use it to your advantage.

how to get scholarships

3. Make Your Essay Shine

Another way to make your application shine is to approach the essay from a unique angle. As long as you’re thoroughly answering the prompt and using your best writing skills, there are no rules saying that you can’t put your own unique spin on the essay (unless your application does, in fact, have specific instructions not to do this!).

But what exactly does it mean to put your own unique spin on an essay? Basically, take your own life experiences and incorporate them into your writing. For example, let’s imagine that the essay question is “why do you want to study medicine?”. It’s safe to say that a good majority of the applicants will respond with something along the lines of “I want to help people.” While it’s a perfectly acceptable reason, it doesn’t make for a very interesting essay.

Instead, try approaching the essay differently by telling a story about a doctor you once had, the first time you felt inspired to study medicine, or a dream you have that medicine can help you achieve. It’s okay, and even recommended, to take some time and reflect before writing the essay. The deeper you can dive into your personal dreams and goals, the better.

If you’d like more tips on how to write an amazing essay, check out our step-by-step guide on applying for scholarships.

4. Seek Out Similar Applications

Let’s be real, scholarship applications can be lengthy and time-consuming. Between classes, homework, studying, and work, who has time to write several essays a week? Luckily, if you’re smart about your approach, that won’t be necessary at all.

Lots of scholarship applications are actually quite similar and, while it may feel like cheating, there’s absolutely nothing wrong with using the same responses on various applications (as long as they’re relevant, of course). If it fits, you could even reuse the same essay or slightly change one that you’ve already written to fit different applications.

Applying for scholarships seems a whole lot less overwhelming when you already have half the work done! Plus, you’ll increase your chances of winning scholarships with less overall work.

If you’re not sure where to look for scholarships with essay topics similar to what you’ve already done, feel free to shoot us an email at support@goingmerry.com. Give us a list of topics you’ve written essays on before and we’ll do our best to find scholarships with similar or matching ones for you! You can also comment down below and you’ll be able to get feedback from us and fellow students.

how to get scholarships

5. Use Another Set of Eyes

Having another person, whether it’s a family member or a friend, look over your application can save you the embarrassment of unnecessary typos and also provide you with a second opinion. Often times, others can notice things about our writing that we have trouble seeing, like being too repetitive, writing too much unnecessary information, or being too boring.

Family and friends can provide helpful insight on how to get scholarships that you may have not thought about yourself.

6. The More the Merrier!

When it comes to scholarships, more is always better! There’s no limit on how many you can apply for and applying for more only raises your chances. Try setting time aside each week dedicated only to searching for and applying for scholarships. You could even try setting a monthly goal for how many scholarships you’d like to apply for (but keep it realistic).

If you only have a few minutes on hand, it’s even worth boosting your chances of winning scholarships by applying for some scholarship sweepstakes or scholarships without essays. Check out our extensive list of easy scholarships for an idea of where to get started.

how to get scholarships

7. Get a Head Start

Waiting until the last minute hardly works out in any situation, and scholarships are no exception. The best way to take advantage of as many scholarships as possible and avoid the last-minute stress is to start early!

High school students can start applying for scholarships as early as their junior year (Going Merry has a wide selection of scholarships for juniors to help you out!). High school seniors and college students can start applying as early as one year or more before the semester they hope to win scholarships for.

Scholarships are available all year with a number of different deadlines, but many deadlines fall around March.

8. Take Advantage of Going Merry

Not only does Going Merry allow you to apply for scholarships online for free, but it also helps make the scholarship application process easier by automatically matching you with scholarships that you qualify for and allowing you to directly apply to each one (just like the Common App does for college applications!). Not only does it require less effort on your part, but it can introduce you to hundreds of scholarships that you never even knew existed!

Plus, did we mention that it’s completely free for students? If you’re wondering how to get scholarships, Going Merry is a fantastic starting point.

how to get scholarships

9. Check Yourself Out Online

In this day and age, social media says a lot about who we are. Some scholarship providers might do a quick Google search of your name or head to your social media profiles to see if you’re online presence aligns with what they’re looking for. Doing a quick search of your own name to see what pops up can help you avoid any surprises.

Your social media profiles don’t necessarily need to be professional (except LinkedIn), but be careful about posts that could be viewed as negative by scholarship committees.

10. Do Your Research

On the flip side of things, doing a little research on the scholarship provider doesn’t hurt either. Not only is it a great way to make sure that the scholarship is legitimate, but it can give you an advantage on your application. Take some time to find out the type of person they’re looking for and play on your strengths to show them that you’re the perfect candidate.

It’s also worth checking to see if the profiles of past winners are available on the scholarship provider’s website. Doing your research on the type of students who won this scholarship in the past can give you an advantage during the application process. Some providers also allow you to see the winning essays, which can give you an idea of exactly what they’re looking for!

how to get scholarships

11. Plan Letters of Recommendation in Advance

When students are trying to figure out how to get scholarships, asking for letters of recommendation is often the most stressful part and requires the most advanced planning. Waiting until the last minute to ask your teachers, professors, counselors, etc. for a letter of recommendation is only going to stress them out. Make sure to notify them at least four weeks before the scholarship deadline.

Going Merry makes the process of getting Letters of Recommendation easier by allowing your recommender to upload their letter on the site so that you can reuse it for various applications. This means that you can ask for recommendations at the beginning of the school year and use them for your scholarship applications all year round!

Besides asking in advance, selecting the right person to recommend you is crucial. If you’re trying to get a scholarship for foreign language study, a recommendation from a French teacher will be much more relevant than one from a physics teacher, for example. It’s also helpful to ask for a recommendation from someone who has witnessed your academic ability and/or personal character.

12. Keep Your Eye on the Prize!

Whatever you do, don’t lose hope during the application process! Figuring out how to get scholarships can seem overwhelming and time-consuming, but it’s 100% worth it in the end. Don’t be discouraged if you find that you’re not winning as many scholarships as you had hoped.

In the end, your patience and time can help you pay for college while avoiding dreaded student loans at the same time, leaving you in a significantly better financial situation after graduation.

how to get scholarships

What are your best tips on how to get scholarships? Share them with us below!

Want to bring your scholarship applications to the next level? Check out our list of awesome scholarship tips to help you save money on college tuition!

16 Essay-Free Scholarships to Apply for

Scholarships are a fantastic way to save money on your college tuition and to avoid being stuck with loads of student debt after graduation. But, let’s face it, the process of applying for scholarships can be time-consuming and, sometimes, it would be nice if it was just a little easier.

The good news is that easy scholarships and scholarships without essays do exist. Some require as little effort as simply entering your name and email address while others require only a short video rather than an essay.

However, it’s important to keep in mind that, while these offers for easy scholarships and no essay scholarships are legitimate, your chances are much lower than with traditional scholarships. You also run the risk of being spammed with loads of emails. In fact, many scholarship sweepstakes are created with the sole idea of getting your email address in mind.

We recommend using scholarship sweepstakes and easy scholarships as a secondary option for paying for college and using the majority of your time applying for scholarships that you find on reputable scholarship sites or ones recommended to you by your high school guidance counselor or financial aid advisor.

2019 Update: Looking for more scholarships?  Check out an updated list of No Essay Scholarships for 2019. 


scholarships without essays

Avoiding Scholarship Scams

While these scholarship offers are legitimate, scammers will sometimes offer too-easy-to-be-true scholarship opportunities in an effort to get money or your information. You should proceed with caution and follow the tips below to avoid getting scammed.

Scam Tip #1: Say “No!” to Upfront Fees!

A scholarship shouldn’t cost anything at all to apply for (except postage). Be wary of any company or scholarship provider who requires you to pay an upfront fee in order to apply. Chances are they have nothing to offer you!

Scam Tip #2: Do The Paperwork Yourself

Some scammers will try and lure you in by telling you that they’ll take care of all the scholarship paperwork for you. You can just sit back, relax, and wait for the money to start rolling in. It almost seems too good to be true, doesn’t it? We hate to break it to you, but that’s because it is. It might be painful, but filling out your own applications will save you loads of trouble!

Scam Tip #3: Guaranteed Scholarships Don’t Exist

If scholarships were guaranteed, student loans would be a thing of the past. Avoid any company claiming to offer you a guaranteed scholarship. It’s a guaranteed scam.

Scam Tip #4: Avoid Dodgy Offers

If you receive an email from an unknown and unprofessional-looking company claiming to offer an amazing scholarship if you enter personal information on their site, it’s best to avoid it. If you’re unsure, simply do a quick Google Search and see if others have reported it as a scam before.

Scam Tip #5: Do Your Research!

Doing a quick search can save you tons of trouble in the end. Unfortunately, easy scholarships are too good to be true a lot of the time. We just want to reiterate that using trusted sources, like Going Merry or your counselors/advisors, is always the best option when it comes to scholarships.

scholarships without essays

Now that we’ve got that out of the way, here’s our list of 25 scholarships without essays:

1. C.I.P. Scholarship

Amount: $1,000

Provider: College is Power

While this scholarship technically has an essay, it’s only a short 150 words, so we’re adding it in! To apply, just fill out the super short application form and write a mini-essay about the goals you have for your university education.

2. Beliz Law Firm Scholarship

Amount: $500

Provider: The Beliz Law Firm

If you love getting behind the camera and bringing ideas to life, apply to this scholarship by creating a short video (3 minutes or less) detailing three important bicycle safety tips.

3. HeadSetPlus.Com College Scholarship

Amount: $1,000

Provider: HeadSetPlus.Com

HeadSetPlus.Com wants to help you pay for college…no essay needed! Be creative and create a video with a maximum length of five minutes detailing why you deserve the scholarship and what inspired you to pursue a degree in your field.

4. $2,000 No Essay College Scholarship

Amount: $2,000

Provider: Niche

Niche awards a $2,000 scholarship to a lucky student twice a month…and all you have to do is create a free account! These scholarships without essays are open to all high school and college students planning to attend college within the next year!

scholarships without essays

5. $5,000 Course Hero Scholarship

Amount: $5,000

Provider: Course Hero

In order to win one of these no essay scholarships, simply review a college course on CourseHero.com. If you have more than one college class you’d like to review, you can improve your chances by leaving as many reviews as you’d like!

6. $5,000 VIP Voice Scholarship

Amount: $5,000

Provider: VIP Voice

VIP Voice offers points in exchange for completing online surveys. Once you’ve completed two surveys, you can use your points to enter for this scholarship and more. The more surveys you complete, the higher your chances of winning!

7. School Survey Sweepstakes

Amount: $1,000

Provider: Niche

Just one of the many scholarships without essays offered by Niche, you can enter for a shot at this $1,000 scholarship by creating a free account and reviewing your school. A new winner is drawn each month.

8. The $1,000 SuperCollege Scholarship

Amount: $1,000

Provider: SuperCollege.com

In order to ease the pain of paying for college, SuperCollege offers a monthly drawing for a $1,000 scholarship. All you need to be eligible is to fill out the exceptionally short application form and you’re good to go!

scholarships without essays

9. Local Survey Scholarship

Amount: $1,000

Provider: Niche

Yet another of the no essay scholarships from Niche, all that this scholarship requires is that you review your neighborhood or town. A new winner is selected on a monthly basis.

10. Opinion Outpost $10,000 Quarterly Drawing

Amount: $10,000

Provider: Opinion Outpost

Entering to win $10,000 has never been so easy! All you need to do is fill out at least one survey on the Opinion Outpost website. If you have more time, you can fill out as many surveys as you’d like. Each survey gets you another entry into the drawing.

11. Digital Responsibility E-Waste Scholarship

Amount: $1,000

Provider: Digital Responsibility

If you’re excellent at fitting your feelings and opinions into a Tweet, this easy scholarship just might be the perfect one for you. To enter, just fill out a short application form and submit a Tweet-length message about e-waste.

12. Tetherbox Creative Video Challenge Scholarship

Amount: $1,000

Provider: Tetherbox

Put your creative talents to the test to be eligible for this no essay scholarship from Tetherbox. Create a short commercial (between one and four minutes) for Tetherbox to be entered to win.

scholarships without essays

13. Make a Recycling Bin Scholarship

Amount: $5,000

Provider: DoSomething.org

DoSomething.org wants to inspire people to recycle their used beauty and personal care products in order to promote environmental sustainability. To apply for one of these scholarships without essays, unleash your creative side and design a recycling bin that will make people want to recycle.

14. Christian College Scholarship

Amount: $2,500

Provider: The Christian Connector Inc

If you’re planning on attending a two- or four-year Christian college, you’re eligible to enter the drawing for this $2,500 Christian College Scholarship. Simply fill out a short online survey and you’re good to go!

15. AFSA High School Senior Contest

Amount: $2,000

Provider: AFSA Scholarships

If you’re ready for an extra $2,000, simply fill out the online entry form on the AFSA website and be registered to win one of 10 prizes. This scholarship is open to high school seniors during the school year and deadlines change on a yearly basis, so head to the scholarship website for the most up-to-date information.

15. AFSA Second Chance Scholarship

Amount: $1,000

Provider: AFSA Scholarships

If you didn’t have the luck of winning the AFSA High School Senior Contest, try your luck again after graduation with the AFSA Second Chance Scholarship. This $1,000 award is awarded to five high school graduates during the summer months. Deadlines change on a yearly basis, so check out the scholarship website for the most up-to-date information.

16. Scholarship 4 Moms

Amount: $10,000

Provider: Scholarships 4 Moms

If you’re a mom who is planning on heading back to school, you’re already halfway done applying to win one of these scholarships without essays. The next step is to simply register for the site and cross your fingers!

scholarships without essays

Soon you’ll be able to apply to all of these scholarships without essays on Going Merry (let us know in the comments section if there are others we should include). In the meantime, we already have thousands of scholarships which you can apply for directly.

Just fill out your profile, see what we match you with, and click apply! It’s that easy.

Want to apply for scholarships but short on time? Check out our list of scholarships without essays. These no essay scholarships usually offer lower chances, but can be a great additional option when applying for scholarships!

How To Apply for Scholarships: A Step-by-Step Guide

With the cost of universities rising higher each year, it might feel like the price of furthering your education is getting out of control. In fact, between 1988 and 2017, the cost of attending a public university increased by 213% and the cost of a private one by 129%. Even after taking inflation into account, attending college is much more expensive than in the past. Nowadays, students can expect to pay around $9,970 per year for a public university and $34,740 per year for a private university. Figuring out how to apply for scholarships can save you big bucks in the end.

When it comes to paying for college, scholarships are the best option. Not only is there a scholarship for nearly everything from being left-handed to showcasing your talents on the football field to being top in your class, but scholarships are basically free money (and what could be better than that?). When you receive a scholarship, the money is yours to keep and you never have to worry about paying it back.

While the application process can be enough to scare some less-motivated students away, it’s really not so bad if you know what you’re in for (plus, Going Merry can help make the process easier!). Whether you’re applying for scholarships for the first time as an incoming college freshman or just looking for some extra cash to get you through grad school, here’s our step-by-step guide on how to apply for scholarships:

Step 1: Get Out and Search


how to apply for scholarships

You can’t find what you don’t look for, right? So it should come as no surprise that the first step in this guide on how to apply for scholarships is that you need to go out (or go online) and search for one.

The first thing to do when beginning your search is to decide which types of scholarships you qualify for and which ones are right for you. While a huge range of scholarships exists, they can generally be split into need and merit-based.

Need-based scholarships depend on your or your family’s ability to pay for college and are only awarded to candidates who need a little extra help financially. Merit-based scholarships are awarded to applicants based on their achievements or abilities. They may be focused on academics, art, or athletics. There’s also a large range of situation-based scholarships, such as ones for women, minorities, journalism majors, or gamers. Both need and merit-based scholarships may be offered by your college, private organizations, or individuals.

Once you’ve come up with a general idea of which scholarships you might qualify for, you need to figure out where to look. The first step is to talk with a high school guidance counselor or the financial aid office at your university. Both will have experience finding scholarships that apply to your circumstances, while the financial aid office will also be able to tell you about university scholarships (you can usually find the most up-to-date information by checking out the financial aid or admissions section on the university website, too).

For some merit-based scholarships it’s also worth speaking to your teachers, e.g. if you’re looking for scholarships for French majors, chatting with your French teacher could be a great way to find them. If you have a knack for sports, it might also be helpful to speak to your high school coach! Universities with top-notch sports teams are usually willing to shell out a fair amount of money to get talented players to attend their schools.

Besides university-sponsored scholarships, there are thousands and thousands of privately-funded scholarships out there and various ways of finding them. Just like we mentioned above, the first search method is to sit down and discuss your options with a high school guidance counselor or a financial aid representative. Alternatively, a simple Google search generally turns up a fair amount of results as well.

However, in our opinion, the best way to find private scholarships is to use an online scholarship website. Going Merry, for example, helps you find and apply for scholarships all in one place. Simply create a profile and fill out your information. Based on the data you provide, Going Merry automatically matches you with scholarships you qualify for.

We save you the time of reading through various, boring scholarship descriptions and puzzling over which apply to you and which don’t. And we don’t stop there: we then allow you to apply directly to each scholarship, auto-filling your information as you do.

Step 2: Create a Calendar

how to apply for scholarships

When it comes to how to apply for scholarships, timing is key. It’s a good idea to begin applying as soon as possible…those deadlines really sneak up on you! From the start, make a list (whether in an Excel sheet or the vintage way with pen and paper), with the scholarships you’d like to apply for, their due dates, and their required documents and essays (Going Merry also has an estimate of the application time for each one).

Make sure to start your scholarship applications well in advance so that you’re not rushing to gather documents and materials.

Step 3: Figure Out the Requirements

Not all scholarships are created equal and it’s important to research the specific requirements for the scholarship you’re applying to. Luckily, scholarships are generally straightforward so everything you need will be listed out right in the description.

Here are the most common documents and materials needed for a scholarship application:

Scholarship Application Form 

It might be obvious, but a scholarship application without the application isn’t much of a scholarship application at all. Make sure to fill out the application portion thoroughly and double check for errors.


The essay portion of the application is your chance to shine. Even if you’re not a strong writer, it gives you the opportunity to express your personality, ideas, and opinions. You only have a certain amount of space and scholarship sponsors want to see how you’ll use it. Check down below for tips on how to turn your essay from a headache into your strong point.

how to apply for scholarships

Letters of Recommendation 

Most scholarships require Letters of Recommendation from personal or professional references. When requesting a LOR from professors, teachers, guidance counselors, or personal sources, make sure to give the person recommending you at least four weeks notice. The last thing you want is a rushed recommendation or a stressed-out recommender. For many students, asking for recommendations is the most stressful part when it comes to how to apply for scholarships.

Copies of Transcripts and Diplomas 

Even if a scholarship isn’t merit-based, it may require a copy of your high school, or most recent college, transcripts and your high school diploma. You can easily get transcript copies through your high school or university website or through the Guidance or Registrar’s Office. Occasionally, scholarship applications will also require your test scores from the SAT or ACT. Prepare yourself by keeping these test-taking tips in mind

Financial Aid Information 

Some scholarships, especially if they’re need-based, might require you to submit your FAFSA form or sometimes even your parents’ tax and income information along with your application.


An up-to-date and modern resume can make a big difference when it comes to applying for scholarships. Along with your essay, you should view your resume as one of the central pieces of your applicationwhere you can highlight your skills and accomplishments. If you’re looking to take your resume writing skills to the next level, try out these tips.


Sending a portfolio can significantly strengthen an application, especially for art and design-related majors. If you don’t have a portfolio and feel that you might need one, don’t sweat it. It’s not that difficult to get started if you take it step-by-step.

Step 4: Rock the Essay

how to apply for scholarships

As we mentioned above, the essay can make or break the application, so it’s important to give it the time and effort that it deserves. Even if you’re lacking confidence when it comes to your writing skills, following a few simple tips can help take your essay to the next level.

Essay Tip #1: Read the Instructions

So many amazingly written essays get tossed aside simply because the applicant didn’t take the time to read the directions and respond properly to the prompt. If you take anything at all from this guide on how to apply for scholarships, do yourself a favor and make sure you understand what you need to do before you pick up the pen.

Essay Tip #2: Give Yourself Time

When you give yourself sufficient time to write the essay, you’ll be less stressed, have more time to think through your ideas, and have more time for proofreading. Rushed essays are more likely to be filled with grammar and spelling errors and usually end up being pretty boring. Plan your time out beforehand.

Essay Tip #3: Find Your Own Path

When you apply for a scholarship, you’re responding to the same writing prompt as hundreds, or maybe even thousands, of other applicants. How can you make your essay stand out from the rest? What can you bring to it that nobody else can? Set some time aside simply to think over your strengths and to brainstorm ways to make your essay stand out.

Essay Tip #4: Create an Outline

An outline can help ensure that your essay is fluid and follows a logical sequence of events. Outlines don’t always need to be detailed, even just a basic one can help you organize your ideas!

Essay Tip #5: Liven It Up

Nobody wants to read a boring, lifeless essay…much less scholarship committees, who are reading hundreds of applications! Don’t be afraid to put your personality into your writing and let your passion show through. Big, fancy words aren’t necessary either and often do more harm than good.

Essay Tip #6: Proofread, Edit, Repeat

Taking five extra minutes to proofread your essay can make a world of difference. We’re all human and, whether we like it or not, we all make mistakes. Having the correct spelling and grammar will make your essay appear more professional.

Step 5: Submit Your Materials

how to apply for scholarships

Now that you’ve gathered all of your documents and materials, the next step on how to apply for scholarships is simply to turn them in! Some scholarships should be submitted by mail while others are submitted online, so be sure to check the requirements. If you requested any Letters of Recommendation, be sure that the person providing you with the recommendation is aware of the deadline. Also, provide them with either the email address or a stamped envelope with the correct destination address on it.

Step 6: Wait!

The last and final step in our guide on how to apply for scholarships is simply to wait and, realistically, there’s not much else you can do. Most scholarships will let you know when you can expect to hear back by. Some only contact the recipients.

After submitting your application, take a deep breath and relax. Keep a positive attitude and hope that your hard work paid off!


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