While you might be looking forward to a summer of fun in the sun and a break from the books, it’s also the ideal time to start researching summer break scholarships. Don't miss another application window and lose out on financial assistance just because you were underprepared. Scholarships are competitive and the process of finding and applying to one can be long and opaque.
If you’re hoping to get some financial aid for summer classes, then it’s essential to start planning early. Incfile's Young Entrepreneur Scholarship Grant is a great place to start. For other opportunities, we spoke to four experts in the education field who shed some light on how you can find the best scholarships during summer break.
Start Looking for Scholarships Early
The first thing to know about scholarships is that you need to stay on top of them early on. “Many scholarships have deadlines in the spring, so it’s important to begin your search as soon as possible,” says Samantha Hawrylack, a personal finance expert and co-founder of How to FIRE.
This means spending the time to research the different options and application processes as soon as you know that you want financial aid for summer classes.
“Students need to be proactive in seeking out scholarships and searching for them consistently and from multiple sources,” says Amelia Manning, Director of Student Services for My College Planning Team. Unfortunately, it’s estimated that up to 42 percent of scholarships can’t be found with an easy Google search, which means you’ll have to go and seek out organizations and ask the question yourself.
It’s what Manning calls a “hustle game,” so if you’re prepared as early as possible, it allows you to get ahead of your competition.
Scholarships Can Come from Different Sources
While you might think of scholarships as coming directly from colleges, there are many different organizations that offer summer break scholarships. For example, schools and colleges only offer around 35 percent of all scholarships and grant money, with federal, private and state sources making up the rest
When it comes to researching, you can break it down into these distinct groups to help you organize what you might apply for:
Online search tools: There are several online search tools to help find scholarships, such as Scholarships360.
Local scholarships: You can find these by asking school counselors, local non-profits, community groups or places of worship in your area.
College scholarships: Scholarships offered by specific colleges, which you can usually find online or directly at their student office.
National organizations and government: There are federal and national scholarships available for summer break, such as the National Society of High School Scholars and Federal Student Aid.
There Are Scholarships for Everyone
You’ll find a variety of scholarships available depending on your needs and eligibility. There are commonly thought to be two main types of scholarships: needs-based and merit-based. The former is to help those facing financial difficulties to pay for their summer classes or college course, while the latter is based on academic results. Both tend to have very different eligibility criteria and application processes.
However, according to James Lewis from the National Society of High School Scholars (NSHSS), “There are scholarships for everyone.” There are also scholarships available, Lewis says, for student athletes or those “active in extracurricular activities.”
Whatever your unique situation is, you'll find a scholarship that fits your needs. Will Geiger from Scholarships360 says it's all about looking for one thing: "Scholarships that are aligned with your unique background, experiences, interest and goals.”
Research the Eligibility and Application Process Thoroughly
With all the different scholarships available, it’s important to really pay attention to the application process for each one. It can be a lengthy procedure, but Hawrylack says you’ll need to “research the organization/college before applying, make sure you understand the eligibility requirements and the application process.” Unfortunately, this changes with almost every type of scholarship.
For example, private organizations and companies that offer summer scholarships tend to have very specific eligibility requirements that differ from typical college applications. On the other hand, Geiger says, “Some merit scholarships may require additional applications or essays, so students should be aware of that if they intend to apply." He adds, “Needs-based financial aid is something that is re-assessed each year, so students will need to submit their updated forms.”
It can be a difficult process to keep track of all the different requirements, but this is where starting early and doing your research will help in the long term.
Consider Other Funding Options
While your typical summer break scholarship might be what you’re aiming for, there’s an abundance of other financial assistance and aid that you can also seek out. From grants and loans to taking up a part-time job or startup business funding for young entrepreneurs, there are many ways you can get financial aid for summer classes.
You may be eligible for other grants or loans from the federal government. There is needs-based financial aid via the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA), which helps students every year.
“In addition," Hawrylack says, "many colleges offer summer financial aid packages for students enrolled in classes or internships. These packages typically include grants, loans or work-study opportunities.” You can check in with your academic department or career service to find out about specific packages available to you.
If you’re taking an internship, there are also different funding opportunities. “Many colleges will offer grants and stipends to support students who are pursuing summer internship opportunities,” says Geiger.
There are so many different funding options depending on what you’re planning on doing and your personal circumstances, so it pays to think outside of the box.
Part-Time Jobs and Employee Assistance
Another great way to help you cover costs is to get a part-time job. There are usually many jobs available for students during summer break, and this can also give you some real-world experience.
On top of that, some companies offer tuition assistance programs for students. For example, according to Manning, “Mcdonald's offers assistance for crew members employed for at least 90 days through its Archways to Opportunity program.” These are the kinds of financial aid that many people don’t think about, so it can be helpful to widen your search.
Do Your Research Now and Get Ahead of the Crowd
According to Research.com, there are more than 1.7 million fellowships and scholarships awarded every year, and that doesn’t include other grants, loans, packages and funding opportunities. This means that there are plenty of prospects for you to get financial aid for summer classes — you just have to find them.
It’s best to be proactive and start your research early so that you can collate all the different scholarships and grants and their various application processes before applying for the ones that relate to you. While it can be a huge task, getting ahead of the crowd can pay off in the long term.
Jenna Scatena is a writer and content strategist with a love for stories that have never been told before. More than a decade of working with prominent magazines and brands informs her approach to impactful storytelling. Her stories have reached more than 30 million readers, won multiple awards and been anthologized in books. Jenna's work has appeared in Conde Nast Traveler, Vogue, Marie Claire, The San Francisco, BBC and The Atlantic. She's the founder of the editorial consultancy, Lede Studio.