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Scholarships are a form of gift aid. Unlike student loans, you do not have to pay back what you have been awarded.

There are millions of scholarships available, and most are searchable online. Some scholarships are open to applicants throughout the year as long as they meet the sponsor’s requirements. Others have specific deadlines and want applicants who meet certain criteria.

If you want to increase your chances of qualifying for free money to help pay for school, use these scholarship tips.

1. Find Scholarships You May Qualify For

Each scholarship will have different criteria. Some will require a certain grade point average, course of study, or gender/age/ethnicity and career field of interest.

Instead of searching through hundreds, thousands or millions of scholarships to find good fits, many sites allow you to create a profile to help match you with scholarships.

Here are two of our favorite websites:

Be aware you may increase your chances of being selected by applying for scholarships with smaller amounts compared to larger awards that likely will have more applicants. There's no limit to the number of scholarships you can seek but if you value your time, use it wisely by applying for those that offer you the best chance of winning.

2. Connect with Mentors

Many scholarships require letters of recommendation. Connect with your mentors now so they have time to prepare letters of recommendation in case you need them for a particular scholarship sponsor. You can ask teachers, your manager at work or any other professional mentor who might be willing to advocate and recommend you for the scholarship.

Get more effective recommendation letters from your mentors by providing them with helpful information and materials they can use when writing your recommendation letters. You can provide a general view of what you want them to highlight, a few key points about your character, interests or achievements. Make sure you provide them your résumé so they get a clearer view of your achievements. You might also want to tell them about your educational goals and your career goals so they are able to create a letter of recommendation that clearly conveys your ambitions and commitment to work hard in school to reach your goals.

3. Get Organized

If you plan to apply for multiple scholarships, you will want to stay organized so you do not miss submitting required materials by the scholarship deadline or mix up what you need to submit for which scholarship. Keeping a simple spreadsheet can help you remember due dates and requirements.

On your spreadsheet, add names of the scholarships you want, the requirements for each one and their deadlines. Check your spreadsheet periodically to make sure you are on track with collecting letters of recommendations and submitting applications and required materials by the deadlines. 

4. Write Unique Essays

Scholarship essays are not one-size-fits-all. Those who are judging them are quick to dismiss an essay that reads like it has been used for multiple scholarship applications. It takes time to write unique essays for particular scholarships. Keep in mind the essay portion of a scholarship application may be the deciding factor on who wins it.

If the scholarship you want requires an essay, read the instructions carefully. Take time to gather your thoughts, brainstorm and take notes. Then create an outline and write the essay.

Spelling and grammar mistakes may seem minor, but in some cases they could disqualify an applicant. Ask a parent, mentor or friend to proofread your essay before you turn it in. Ask for feedback regarding the content. If there are errors, correct them. You can also use a free online tool like Grammarly to quickly scan your essay for errors.

5. Follow Instructions Thoroughly

Adhering to scholarship instructions and requirements indicates to the scholarship donor that you can follow directions — a key attribute you will need to succeed in school.

Before turning in any scholarship application, double- and triple-check that you have gathered all the materials needed. Read the instructions again to make sure you have correctly followed them.

6. Portray Your Best Self Online

Although your online presence does not really relate to the actual scholarship application, it may play a role in whether you are selected for scholarships. It definitely influences hiring decisions. A 2018 survey by CareerBuilder confirmed more than half of employers chose not to hire someone based on something they found on social media.

There might be scholarship donors who search finalists online, too. Make sure any public social media profiles only include content you would be OK with an employer seeing. Would you want someone considering you for an award to see photos of you drinking or partying online, or to read an angry political rant? You might want to consider switching social profiles to private and deleting any content that might be questionable.

You can also set up a Google Alert for your name to see if you are mentioned in any blogs or publications. Managing your reputation online is important for how you are perceived in person.

Get Scholarship Help From UTI

Maybe you have been out of school for a while, or maybe writing and filling out applications is just not your thing. That's OK, but that should not keep you from applying for scholarships. Universal Technical Institute (UTI) has an entire Financial Aid Department dedicated to helping aspiring students apply for the financial aid needed to attend school.10 We can help you.

If you have questions about specific scholarships, want insight on scholarships for which you might be a good fit, or need assistance in any other way, call us at (800) 859-7249 or email us at

How to Fill Out a FAFSA

If you need any assistance while completing the FAFSA, we’re here to help. You can schedule an appointment with one of our Financial Aid Support Specialists by clicking below or by calling toll-free at (844)-338-0032.