How To Get A Scholarship For Online College: A Step-by-Step Guide


As expenses increase across the board, the overall college cost also increases. Colleges and universities are unable to lower tuition prices. Many, however, have created initiatives to offer affordable alternatives to increase student application.

Enter online colleges and scholarship programs.

This combination helps many students pursue college without getting buried in student loans. Online colleges offer reduced living expenses as you don’t need to relocate or travel to campus daily. Meanwhile, scholarships help pay for tuition.

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The presence of online education and scholarships helps students a lot. Yet, they still need solid financial planning to capitalize on these benefits fully. Furthermore, applying for scholarships is not a walk in the park. You’ll face thousands of competition.

Why Scholarships Are Important for Online College Students

A report from the National Education Statistics shows a significant increase in college tuition from 2012-13 to 2022-23. In ten years, the average undergraduate tuition went from $20,233 to $27,673, which is 36%!

Those are just the averages and do not include personal living expenses. You already know how costly everything is today, especially in the United States, where the current inflation rate is 3.4%.

It’s important to note that tuition prices in the United States are not regulated. This is unlike many developed countries where higher education is free or highly subsidized. Here, colleges and universities can decide how much they want to charge for tuition. This flexibility has led to large differences in college costs between the U.S. and other countries.

Many people are already struggling to make ends meet in their day-to-day lives. Given these financial challenges, online education and scholarships play crucial roles.

There are several financial aid opportunities for all types of students. However, scholarships are the most accessible of the bunch. Scholarships for online college can:

  1. Minimize student debt
  2. Support equitable outcomes
  3. Support student performance
  4. Expand student network
  5. Be a great addition to your resume

According to a recent Forbes report, private scholarship recipients have a higher college graduation rate than those who only have student loans.

However, with hundreds to thousands of applicants in a financial aid program, applying will be a competitive endeavor. According to Investopedia and the FAFSA, the best way to secure financial aid is to apply early.

How to get a scholarship will likely be the same for on-campus and online students. However, online students have a more challenging time than their counterparts. This is because on-campus students are typically seen as having a greater financial need. For one, they are expected to incur additional expenses like housing and commuting.

This means that online students must double their efforts to locate a scholarship. Here’s a quick guide on how to find scholarships for online students.

Step 1: Researching Scholarship Opportunities

The first step in how to get scholarships for college is to know where to look. It can be not easy actually to find them. These are some of the greatest places to look for scholarships that match your skills and passions, giving you a head start on paying for your school.

This stands out as a comprehensive platform for scholarship seekers. It offers a user-friendly interface along with a massive database of scholarship opportunities. You can tailor your search to specific demographics, interests, and academic achievements.

Fastweb aggregates scholarships from various sources and allows users to create profiles for personalized searches. It notifies users of new scholarships matching their profiles and upcoming deadlines, streamlining the application process.

ScholarshipOwl organizes scholarships by amount, requirements, winners, and application deadlines. It automatically resubmits applications for recurring scholarships, freeing up time for other applications.

With a user-friendly interface, allows easy navigation and filtering of scholarships by education level, award category, amount, and deadline. Users can find scholarships that don’t require essays with a simple toggle.

Operated by the U.S. Department of Labor, CareerOneStop provides over 8,000 scholarships. Users can filter awards by keyword, amount, deadline, and location, aiding in finding relevant opportunities.

Other trusted websites include:

Finding reputable scholarships can also be facilitated by visiting official government websites, such as the Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) or the Office of Postsecondary Education of the Department of Education. These websites give links to outside scholarship programs and details on government financial aid alternatives. 

Beware of scholarship scams, which have increased. Here are a few things you should take note of:

  1. Legitimate scholarships don’t require payment to apply or receive.
  2. Scholarships that promise guaranteed winnings are likely scams.
  3. Be cautious of scholarships asking for sensitive personal data.
  4. Legitimate scholarships have clear eligibility criteria.
  5. Beware of scholarships you didn’t apply for reaching out to you.
  6. Scammers may pressure you into quick decisions or payments.
  7. No contact info or unresponsive providers could signal a scam.
  8. Legitimate scholarships usually have official websites and active social media.
  9. Poor quality materials or communication could indicate a scam.

Step 2: Understanding Scholarship Requirements

Beyond knowing where to apply for scholarships, you should also understand the specific requirements of each opportunity. Applying for scholarships entails more than just completing an application. Some of the most typical prerequisites requested by scholarship examiners include:

  • academic transcripts
  • letters of recommendation
  • proof of participation in extracurricular activities
  • other relevant accomplishments, among many other things

For merit-based scholarships, common requirements include:

  • Average GPA or demonstration of special skills/talent
  • Standardized test scores
  • Letters of recommendation

For need-based scholarships, you might need additional requirements, such as:

  • Tax returns or proof of financial need
  • Documentation of family income
  • Essays or personal statements explaining financial circumstances
  • Information about dependents or other family members

One big mistake you might make when applying for a scholarship, besides not having everything you need, is not reading the instructions carefully. After all, how can you get a scholarship if you’re not qualified for it?

To avoid this, start early and ensure you understand what to do. Take your time to gather and sort out all the info you need.

Step 3: Preparing Your Application Materials

After fully understanding the qualifications and scholarship requirements required, it’s time to prepare the materials needed for the scholarship. Make sure each document is up to date and accurately represents your accomplishments.

Preparing them is one thing. However, making them stand out is another problem.

An essential part of your scholarship application is your essay. You should:

  1. Spend some time creating an engaging story highlighting your accomplishments, aspirations, and why you should be awarded the scholarship.
  2. Observe any formatting requirements, word count restrictions, and special instructions the scholarship provides.

Furthermore, make sure to request recommendation letters well in advance. Speak with mentors, professors, or instructors familiar with you who can vouch for your credentials. Give them your resume, details about the scholarship, and a firm deadline.

Step 4: Tracking Deadlines and Staying Organized

Make sure you know when each scholarship application is due. You can do this by creating a calendar or setting reminders to avoid missing deadlines. Here are some of the best tools for managing scholarship deadlines and submissions:

  • Google Calendar
  • Trello
  • Microsoft Excel or Google Sheets
  • RemindMe
  • Pomodoro technique

Step 5: Submitting Your Application

Once you’ve completed all the necessary materials for your scholarship applications, it’s time to submit them. Here’s a step-by-step guide to the submission process:

#1: Carefully review the guidelines provided by the scholarship program.

#2: Choose the appropriate submission method, whether online, via email, or by postal mail.

  • If completing an online form, ensure accuracy and completeness.
  • For email submissions, craft a clear message and attach the required documents.
  • For postal mail, organize all documents securely and consider using certified mail for tracking.

#3: Double-check for completeness and accuracy before final submission to avoid errors.

Step 6: Following Up After Submission

Avoid bombarding the selection committee with messages. Asking frequently for updates can only annoy them. Once you’ve confirmed your complete application, thank them and wait patiently. Only reach out if your contact info changes or you no longer qualify.

If you don’t win, consider asking for feedback on your application. Some may offer insights for improvement.

Keep pushing forward even if you don’t win the desired scholarship. Stay focused on academics, sports, and community involvement. Your efforts could lead to other opportunities, even scholarships for current college students. Keep improving your resume, and good luck!


Rising tuition costs have made higher education unaffordable for many. Fortunately, options like online colleges and scholarships can make things more manageable. This combination allows students to learn while working and without incurring staggering student debts.

There are numerous financial aid opportunities available, including those provided by the government, educational institutions, and private organizations. Even if you get rejected in one scholarship program, don’t be discouraged.

Keep exploring other avenues and applying to multiple scholarships to increase your chances of success.