Students who are residents of or are attending college in the Golden State should look for California scholarships to reduce the cost of attendance and keep student loans to a minimum. These scholarships can be fairly broad or designed for specific types of students. For example, some may be exclusively for those in specific counties or regions of California. Read on to learn how to find, apply for and win California scholarships.
What is a California scholarship?
As the most populated state in the country, California has a huge number of incoming college students. And there are many organizations and companies that offer awards for California students.
The exact limits of a California scholarship depend on the provider, but they can usually be used to pay for tuition, housing, transportation and other living expenses. These scholarships may be given for several years or just for one year.
Some California scholarships are only valid if you attend a public state school, while others can be used to pay for expenses at a private school.
While some California scholarships are available to any student living in the state, others have strict geographic restrictions. For example, the Folsom Garden Club Scholarship is only available to students living in or attending school in Placer, Sacramento, El Dorado or Yolo County.
How to apply for a California scholarship
California scholarships can differ greatly in terms of their requirements and deadlines. The first step is to start researching scholarships as soon as possible, ideally during your freshman year in high school. There may be some scholarships that you can qualify for and even be awarded well before your senior year.
Make sure to be mindful of any due dates and give yourself plenty of time to apply, compose an essay or essays if required and to source recommendation letters. Also, try not to write your essay at the last minute. Give yourself at least a week to write the essay, another week to get someone else to read it and then an extra week to make any necessary changes.
Once you’re enrolled in college, you can still keep applying for California scholarships. Don’t assume that just because you’re already enrolled in college, you can’t qualify for a California scholarship. There are plenty for college undergraduate and even graduate and doctorate scholarships available.
Frequently asked questions about California scholarships
Do I have to attend school in California to apply for a California scholarship?
Typically, you will need to either live in or attend college in California. For some, you may actually need to reside there in high school and also be accepted to and attending a California college or university.
For example, the AAUW Re-Entry Women Scholarship says you can either live in or attend school in San Diego County. This means that out-of-state students can still apply.
Is the Cal Grant also a California scholarship?
The Cal Grant is a state grant given to California students who meet basic residency criteria and who attend school in the state. Like other kinds of California scholarships, the Cal Grant does not have to be paid back after graduation. This would be a good example of the programs which require both residency and attendance in California.
Completing the FAFSA will also make you eligible for federal student loans and federal grants, including the Pell grant. Some schools even require that students complete the FAFSA to be eligible for their own scholarships.
How long do I need to live in California to qualify for a California scholarship?
Every California scholarship will have its own residency rules, but usually just attending college in California doesn’t count. You may need to have lived in California for at least one year before enrolling in college or have a parent who is a California resident to qualify.
If you want to attend school in California, you can consider moving there and establishing residency by getting a job. After a year, you may qualify for in-state status. This can also help you get in-state tuition rates at California schools, which are usually significantly less expensive than out-of-state tuition.
Are California scholarships only available for undergraduate degrees?
Eligibility requirements for California scholarships are very different, and many awards are given for community college or vocational students as well as graduate or professional students. While undergraduate scholarships for four-year programs may be the most common, they aren’t the only opportunities available.
No matter what kind of school you're enrolled in, you‘ll likely be able to find relevant California scholarships. The only potential caveat is if you're attending a school that is not accredited. In this case, finding awards may be trickier than if you were attending an accredited school.