College Scholarship Search: High School Seniors' Guide

Chase Yano
January 18, 2024

Regular Decision season is over, and, finally, you can sit back and do nothing at all… Just kidding! There’s still the rest of senior year coursework and exams and the all-important subject of today’s blog: college scholarship.

Most have an ineffective approach to a college scholarship; the real money makers are not the “$250,000 Full-Ride Scholarships” associated with big name corporations or associations. These awards attract an applicant pool and level of competition that make them unattainable for most. Instead of these major scholarships, it is in most people's best interest to pursue scholarships that have as limited of a scope as possible– this means seeking scholarships that are more in the range of 500 to 5000 dollars.

That is not to say that big name college scholarships aren’t worth applying for, period; this isn’t the case at all. You should apply to the ones that catch your eye, but don’t expect too much from them. Additionally, most big name scholarships have deadlines that are in the Fall of senior year, so they have passed by now. Therefore, we are today going to focus on obtaining lesser-known scholarships for high school seniors, which is a more sure-fire way to get some level of financial support for one of the biggest investments of your life.

Want to work one-on-one to find scholarships with a college student who just went through the process? One of our dozens of admissions counselors can help! Set up an appointment here. 

Finding Scholarships

Your number one priority is to assess the options you’re eligible for that have the least number of applicants. This number won’t be available anywhere, so it is a judgment you will have to make. 


The most effective way to do this is through pure geographic eligibility: start with the resources local to your school and community. Some great places to start include poking around your counselors’ office or anywhere else where college scholarship resources for high school seniors might be available.

Of course, this also means checking in with any organizations that you are a part of in and out of school, from robotics to art to athletics, and see if your organizers or peers know of any funding opportunities available to you. You should also look online by searching for scholarships based on your city, county, state, and even region. Remember, the less people eligible, the less that will apply, and the higher the grant rate.


Another way to narrow down the eligibility pool of college scholarships is to use aspects of your academic or personal background. This way you can find scholarships that are specific to a smaller subset of the population. For example, maybe you research scholarships related to your ethnic or cultural identity or find scholarships that line up with your intended field of study.

As you might guess, this isn’t as effective as the geographic approach, but there are often scholarships for intersectional identities that will create a small eligibility pool– think “Scholarship for Hispanic Software Engineers.”

Having trouble meeting scholarship application word limits? Check out our blog on the topic!


A final and seldom discussed aspect of applicant pools is the barrier to apply. Most college scholarship applicants are, probably like yourself, submitting applications en masse to a variety of sources. Thus, you likely have had the common experience of finding a scholarship that seems like a good opportunity for you, but it has some barriers, such as making you sign up for an account, getting a teacher’s recommendation, or providing a transcript.

Although you may be inclined to say “there’s plenty of fish in the sea” and move on to a less tedious application, you should recognize this as an opportunity to separate yourself from the many others who actually will move on. Of course, there’s a limit to how much tedium per potential scholarship dollar you should tolerate, but view these tedious applications as opportunities to be more closely considered.

Resource List

As previously mentioned, you should start your scholarship search by talking to those around you to make your options as local as possible. After you exhaust those options, here are some scholarship boards to help your search.

Remember, scholarships are extremely competitive– even more so than elite college admissions. This means all that you can do is maximize the number of applications you submit.  There are so many different factors that come together when it comes to choosing where to apply to college. Read this article for a deep dive into the top fit factors for choosing what colleges to apply to.

Need some more help seeking out and/or completing scholarship applications? Set up an appointment with a Dewey Smart tutor today!

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