How to Use Personal Characteristics to Narrow Your Scholarship Search

Find the Scholarships Best Suited for Your Strengths

With a seemingly endless supply of scholarships available online, through various organizations, and filling books in libraries, it may feel near impossible to discover which ones are worth applying to. Should you write an essay on a novel you’ve read, or create a video advertising your strengths? Is it worth your time and effort to apply to every single scholarship you can find, or only certain ones? Before diving into the world of scholarships and applying, it’s important to discover which ones fit you as an applicant best — your traits, your personality, your skills, and your accomplishments.

Begin your scholarship search process by doing a little delving into yourself, and narrow down the wide world of what’s available. The more a scholarship fits you as an applicant, the easier it will be to apply, and the better your chances of winning. Here are a few tips on finding the scholarships that fit.

Take Stock of Your Achievements

An easy way to begin narrowing down the scholarship possibilities is to create a list of accomplishments. In what ways have you shown particular excellence throughout high school — perhaps your GPA, your stellar grades in a specific subject such as English, or the number of AP courses taken. A wide wealth of scholarships are available to those who excel academically.

As USA Today mentions, students with a GPA of 3.0 or higher qualify for most scholarships. While applicants might assume that only students with a perfect 4.0 (or 5.0, if weighted) receive scholarships, there are many that focus on more specific academic achievements. If your transcript demonstrates great grades in the STEM fields, you may want to focus your scholarship applications on those specifically for gifted math and science students. Love writing, and have strong English grades? Consider applying for scholarships that ask students to submit pieces of creative writing, or analytic essays on literature. If you’re strengths lie in history or government, seek out scholarships that ask about political issues, local government, or similar topics. Remember, you want to find scholarships that will capitalize on what you’ve already mastered.

Give Your Activities a Once-Over

Scholarships don’t require fantastic GPA numbers alone — some have an entirely different focus, rewarding students who have displayed an excellence in various extracurricular or volunteer activities during their high school careers. USA Today suggests students look to the organizations they belong to, or are connected to in some way, for more suitable scholarships. If you are already tied to the cause, purpose, or activities of various organizations, you’re well on your way to being a good fit for their scholarships.

Do you maintain membership in an honor society, like CSF (California Scholarship Federation) or Sigma Tau Delta (National English Honor Society)? Have you joined any groups such as the Boy Scouts, Friendship Circle, or Los Hermanos? These are all fantastic places to narrow down your scholarship search. Rather than browsing through page after page of random scholarships online, you already know these organizations and work closely with them. And often, they offer in-group scholarships for students at the local, state, and national levels. Speak with the advisors, presidents, or administrators of your activities and membership organizations to find out if they offer any scholarships for you.

Additionally, go offline and speak with the leaders of organizations like the Elks, the Rotarians, the Kiwanis, and others within your local community as well. Even if you don’t currently work closely with these groups, they may have scholarships particular to students in your hometown. This means that you will be competing within a smaller applicant pool, and have a bit of an advantage — community-based groups tend to give preference to local students.

Find What Makes You Unique

Scholarships reward students for standing out in various ways. An excellent way to discover targeted scholarships is to search only for those that suit your unique traits — and your ethnicity, physical features, language, religious faith, and background can all help.

Whether you come from a background of diverse ethnicities, a single race, or have a family member who immigrated not too long ago, you can qualify for scholarships specifically designed for students like yourself. Skip searching for broad options, and choose one aspect to focus on. For example, organizations like the Italian American Clubs in cities around the U.S., the Armenian centers nationwide, and the NAACP all offer a variety of scholarships for students of these ethnic backgrounds. Additionally, even more scholarships exist for those who are first- or second-generation Americans. Turn to organizations like those mentioned above, or search online for scholarships directly seeking students with your own ethnic background.

Students can also find specific scholarships for personal physical qualities. As College Express and USA Today mention on their websites, individuals who are short, tall, left handed, ambidextrous, or physically different in any way can find a scholarship or two just for their appearance. Those who have physical disabilities and illnesses can also use their personal hardships to find scholarships. For example, if you require a wheelchair to get around, search the ADA and other organizations for scholarships suited to your situation. Or, if you suffer from an autoimmune disease, try searching for opportunities such as those on sites like School Soup for students with illnesses.

Use your most unique physical features, any disabilities or illnesses, or even your chosen writing hand to slim down your search terms. Don’t be shy — the more specific and detailed you get with your ideas, the more targeted scholarships you may find.

Go Ahead, Get Weird

Finally, if you truly want to find scholarships that suit your specific self, try looking for the weirdest, oddest options you can find. There’s truly a scholarship for every individual, no matter how different your interests. As shows on its list of unusual scholarships, there are organizations that offer students interested in asparagus, potatoes, duct tape, fashion, and everything in between. Conduct a quick search for “weird scholarships,” and you’ll discover a world of options that may offer exactly what you should apply for.

Helpful Resources

For additional scholarship searching, make sure to sign up for sites that help students gather scholarship opportunities from around the web. Databases and targeted online profiles through the following sites:



College Board’s Big Future.

If you’d like help narrowing down your options and finding perfect matches, create a profile on Unigo and receive information about how to apply to your closest fits.