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The Best Time to Search for Scholarships, According to an Expert

Carmen spending time with Wilma and Wilbur

An Arizona scholarship pro shares her best insider how-tos.

Meet Our Expert, Carmen Maldonado

As the Office of Scholarships and Financial Aid's (OSFA) Project Manager for Scholarships Operations, Carmen's job is to help University of Arizona students find scholarships and understand how they work. Here is what she had to say about where, how, and when Wildcats can find the most scholarship money.

Where to Search for Scholarships

Find everything in one place 

Scholarship Universe (SU), a scholarship search platform, connects Wildcats to millions of dollars worth of scholarships based on their personalized profiles. So, instead of scrolling through endless lists, the tool matches students directly to the scholarships they’re eligible for.

Getting started

All admitted Wildcats can log into Scholarship Universe using their NetID and password to create a profile and start searching. Not admitted yet? You can get a sneak peek of some available scholarships here.

Carmen Says: "SU is like a smart Google search for scholarships, so you can spend less time searching and more time applying."

When to Search for Scholarships

Right now!

OSFA refers to November through April as scholarship season – a time they specifically recommend students search. Why? Because more scholarships for the upcoming academic year open and close during this period than any other.

Check back often

Scholarships are added all the time, especially now, so students are encouraged to log in frequently to see what is new.

Carmen Says: "I recommend logging in at least once a week during scholarship season."

What to Look for in a Scholarship

What’s the difference?

Scholarships are considered "free" money, meaning you don't have to pay them back, and they are a great way to reduce out-of-pocket costs. Frequently, many types of financial aid, such as grants and loans, are combined to help pay for your education. Learn about other types of aid.

Know what you're getting

Not all scholarships are renewable, so it's important to know the specific requirements of the scholarships you receive. If the scholarship can be renewed, make sure to pay close attention to any conditions, such as maintaining a certain GPA, filing the FAFSA each year, or even just applying again next year.

Carmen Says: "Scholarships can usually pay for any educational expenses, but be mindful of scholarships intended to assist with specific costs such as tuition or housing."

Increase Your Odds of Getting a Scholarship

Fill out your FASFA

An essential first step in accessing grants or student loans, filling out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid can play a part in your eligibility for some scholarships as well.

Get ready and then apply, apply, apply

Prepare ahead of time by drafting some common essays/personal statements and starting conversations early with potential letter of recommendation writers. Curate your application materials for each particular scholarship.

Review committees can usually spot a generic resume or personal statement, so do some research, mix up your answers, and make sure your resume really highlights the things you want it to. Finally, apply to any and all scholarships you are eligible for to increase your chance of being selected.

Carmen Says: "It’s never too early to start looking for scholarship opportunities, and you can't win if you don't apply."

Want to solve all the mysteries of scholarships and financial aid? Everything you need to know about the types of aid, calculating the cost of college, workshop schedules, and how to apply is waiting for you on the OSFA website.

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