So you are about to begin your search for scholarships. You have combed through websites and lists of various scholarships you could potentially apply for, but it can seem a bit overwhelming. Here are the five things you should have ready before beginning a scholarship search. If you do, I promise, filling out online applications and uploading documents will seem more like a breeze than a storm of confusion. Be sure to obtain these and scan, if necessary, to a PDF file, and keep them in an easily accessible folder on your computer desktop.

1. Transcripts

Many scholarship donors would like to see an incoming student’s high school transcript if the student has had no previous college experience. If you do not have a copy of this transcript, make a visit to your high school website or give them a call to see how to get a copy.

If you graduated with a high school equivalency exam such as the GED, you can get a transcript which shows that you passed, when you passed, and test scores. If you no longer have your GED scores and obtained the GED in Colorado, you can order these by going to or by calling (303) 866-6613.

If you are a previous/current college student, scholarships may be more concerned with your college experience rather than high school. If you previously went to a different college, you can often go to that college’s website and print out a copy of your unofficial transcript or call the office of the college registrar.

2. The Essay(s)

Yes, the dreaded essay. This is a common divider between those who receive scholarships and those who decide that maybe they will wait to apply for scholarships (and never do).

The essay does not have to be a deterrent or even an ultra-time consuming task if you plan ahead and save your essays. Write your initial essay when you apply for your first scholarship. In your essay, explain who you are as a person, your background, and what you are trying to achieve in life by going to college.  These will be common themes in almost all scholarship essays. Keep this essay as a common baseline and then tweak and adjust it to fit the questions asked for other scholarships.

3. Letters of Recommendation

Many students worry about where they are going to get these, especially if they are first time students, have not attended school in a while or simply never established a strong relationship with a teacher or instructor. While a teacher or professor may be a first choice to ask for a recommendation there are many others around you who can speak to your character and work ethic. Anyone outside of a personal friend or family member could be a potential candidate, such as your boss or someone you have a working relationship with, a mentor, a sport coach, a religious or club leader. Try to get three recommendations. Be sure to give them time to write it, so ask at least two weeks before you need it. Also, be sure to ask if they will write your letter as a general scholarship recommendation so you can use it multiple times.

4. A Calendar

Use a calendar to track days that you applied for scholarships as well as the due date for upcoming scholarships that you plan to apply for. This can be an important tool in prioritizing what scholarships you need to focus on for that week. Scholarship deadlines can vary wildly with some deadlines being as early as January for the next school year and others going right up to the beginning of the semester. Organization of your scholarship to-do lists will make scholarship searching much less overwhelming.

5. A list of accomplishments

Many scholarship applicants freeze when they hit questions about their volunteer work, special projects, or activities. At first you may think that you haven’t done much, but think a little deeper. Were there any activities you volunteered for through work or school? What are some of your hobbies and interests and what have you done within these that you are proud of? Write down everything you can think of. Then go back and prioritize the top 3-5 you are most proud.

With these items in hand, and in an electronic format you can easily view, upload and attach them to scholarship applications. Also be sure to visit with your college scholarship coordinator to help with finding new opportunities and assisting in your search. Good luck!

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