Hoping to Get College Scholarships? Here’s How to Gain an Advantage

October 5, 2021

Getting a college degree continues to be the number one way to build a career and enjoy financial security throughout your lifetime. However, many of today’s would-be college students are unsure about covering the cost. Given that paying for college has gotten more expensive over the past few decades, how might today’s high school graduates and current college students afford it?

There are definitely federal loans and private student loans (e.g. Sallie Mae) that can help high school seniors and current college students cover college costs, but for anyone hoping to keep their student loan debt manageable, scholarship opportunities are highly attractive. Thankfully, as college tuition has risen, so has the ubiquity and availability of scholarships — for those with a high school diploma or GED, those who are already in college, and those who are transferring schools (William Peace University [WPU], for example, offers a substantial Transfer Merit Scholarship). For any aspiring college grad asking how to get scholarships for college, here are some tips that will give you an advantage in the scholarship search.

Keep Up Your Grades

It’s almost a moot point, but academic success does translate into scholarship money. Spending the extra time to turn homework in on time, to do any and all extra credit, and to study for tests might not sound like a good time when you’re 16, but it will pay off. You don’t even have to be the valedictorian. A lot of colleges and outside organizations offer salutatorian scholarships and other scholarships for students who have excelled academically. If you’re hoping for a non-academic scholarship (e.g. athletic scholarships, local scholarships, legacy scholarships, etc.), a 3.0 GPA is often still required.

It’s also important to keep up your grades even once you’re in college. Should you decide you want to pursue a Master’s degree, you’ll want to be in the running for any scholarships for graduate students.

Get Meaningfully Busy

Colleges and the organizations and businesses handing out scholarships like to reward students who have experience with civic-, community-, arts-, and/or sports-related activities. Whether you volunteer for a local church or justice organization or run the lights at all your school plays, those extracurricular activities can help earn you free money. Be sure to include all your extracurricular activities on all your scholarship applications and college applications — even if they don’t seem pertinent. By showing that you’re already someone who takes initiative and follows through with meaningful activities, you’re signaling to scholarship providers that their investment in your college education will likely pay off.

Need the Financial Help

Need-based scholarships are among the most plentiful, for those with a high school diploma and for transfer students as well. Unless you’re positive your parents or guardians make too much money to qualify for need-based help, it’s always worth filling out your FAFSA to find out. Many states — not just colleges or organizations — also offer scholarships to students who can demonstrate financial need. If you live in North Carolina and are already enrolled in a college or university, for example, just perform a search engine search for “NC need based scholarship”. You’ll find ample help from the College Foundation of North Carolina (CFNC).

Be an Athlete (or a Mathlete)

Perfecting your layup, your field hockey shot, or your recitations of Pi can also earn you a college scholarship — depending on where you choose to go to school. Even if you don’t have the talent to go pro (or even semi-pro), there are still plenty of opportunities available at smaller schools.Whether you’re a varsity athlete or a debate champion, there are likely scholarships available for you if you’re willing to continue competing at the college level. Some scholarships, like WPU’s Theater Scholarship, require a scholarship audition in order to win the award. 

Choose a Strategic Major

Depending on what you want to major in, you might be able to find scholarships specific to that course of study. From Sustainability scholarships to HR scholarships for Human Resource Management majors, angling to get a scholarship based on what you want to do with your life is a solid way to help finance your education.


For high school students, current college students, and transfer students, the question of how to find college scholarships has a lot to do with how well prepared you are to apply for them. Follow these tips to give yourself an advantage.

If you’d like to learn more about WPU’s student aid and financial aid options, reach out to a team member in our Financial Aid Office today.