Every year, millions of students enroll in college for the first time. It’s an exciting time for most - but for many, the cost of attendance looms large. Undergraduate scholarships can help to address these concerns, but finding financial aid awards can feel just as complicated as getting into college in the first place. Read below to learn where the best undergraduate scholarships are, how to qualify and how to maximize your odds of approval.
What is an undergraduate scholarship?
An undergraduate scholarship is one that is given to a student who is attending a two or four-year university. Community college students can also qualify for undergraduate scholarships, depending on the specific scholarship rules.Undergraduate scholarships can give out as little as $100 or cover the entire cost of attendance. Many scholarships fall in the middle, providing $1,000 or $5,000 per semester or academic year.
Undergraduate scholarships can be given on the basis of need or merit. Need-based scholarships will take the student’s financial situation into account, while merit-based scholarships will only look at the student’s academic, athletic or artistic record.
How to apply for an undergraduate scholarship
If you're interested in a scholarship, visit the award’s official website and read the eligibility section first. This will determine if you meet the basic criteria, which typically include factors like age, gender, residency status, planned major, race, ethnicity and more.
If you're eligible, you can move on to the scholarship requirement portion, which describes what you need to complete the application. This will usually include a transcript, essay and at least one letter of recommendation from a teacher, coach or another adult who knows you.
Many schools also require that students complete the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) to qualify for an internal scholarship. By completing the FAFSA, you'll also be able to receive federal grants and student loans. Filling out the FAFSA is a step that all college students should take, no matter their background.
Many states have their own scholarship system that requires either the FAFSA or a separate application. Some schools have one singular application that will grant you access to multiple scholarship opportunities, while other schools require a separate application for each scholarship.
How to qualify for an undergraduate scholarship
How to qualify for an undergraduate scholarship Every scholarship has its own stipulations. A 3.0 GPA is usually considered a baseline requirement, but some organizations may ask for a 3.5 GPA. Most scholarships require that students have a Social Security Number, but it's important to submit all of the required documents by the deadline. If you fill in the application after the deadline, you will not be considered for the award.
Make sure to read through the fine print. For example, if the scholarship asks for three letters of recommendation and you only attach two, you will not be eligible. Understand all of the rules and double-check to make sure you’ve included everything.
If you have any questions, email the scholarship provider as soon as possible. If the deadline is coming up and you haven’t received an answer, try to submit everything the scholarship asks for and send a follow-up email to the scholarship provider. If you apply and are denied a specific scholarship, you can try again next year if you still meet the eligibility requirements.
Frequently asked questions about Undergraduate Scholarships
Can any grade level apply for an undergraduate scholarship?
One common - and expensive - misconception is that only incoming freshmen are eligible for undergraduate scholarships. But in reality, students from every grade level can find scholarships. Students should always keep looking for scholarships, even if they're already a senior in college.
What's the best place to find undergraduate scholarships?
Third-party resources like our Scholarship Directory are a great place to start. While many undergraduate scholarships are open to almost all students, you can also filter undergraduate scholarships by skills, gender, ethnicity, hobbies and more. This can help you find unique scholarships that you’re most suited for.
Even if you're not attending school locally, you may be able to qualify for scholarships and grants from your own state. Visit your state's department or board of education and see what you’re eligible for.
Can two-year students apply for undergraduate scholarships?
Community college students are usually still eligible for undergraduate scholarships, as long as the scholarship doesn’t specifically exclude them. For example, the Texas Urban Scholarship is available to both two-year and four-year students. The Coca-Cola Community College Academic Team Program awards scholarships exclusively for two-year students. Community college students may also be eligible for state grants.