How to Find Scholarships

by Lucero Denisse Oceguera

Higher education is one of the most important investments a person can make, yet financing a four-year university or graduate school education can seem daunting for many individuals and families. Although myriad loans exist for students with reasonable grace periods and low interest rates, the idea of acquiring debt while in school can feel like a deterrent. That’s where scholarships can help.

According to the University of Hawai’i Foundation, “two-thirds of college students now graduate with loans, and their average college debt is nearly $20,000—an increase of more than 50% since the early 90s.”1 Even with Federal and State aid and any additional financial assistance universities provide, there is often a gap to be filled that students and their families cannot always provide. That is why scholarships, money that is not to be paid back, are very important in any student’s education.

Scholarships help students minimize their financial gap and receive awards for their academic merit or community achievements. Various types of scholarships are available to students that range in amounts; the two most recognizable are Merit-based and Ethnic/Need-based scholarships.

Merit-based scholarships are commonly awarded to those who have a connection with an affinity group, significant community contribution, or to those who exemplify exceptional academic, athletic, or artistic ability. These scholarships often come with guidelines the recipient has to abide by in order to maintain the scholarship status. It is important to note that these are often awarded to students by the universities and can be taken away from the student for lack of performance.

Ethnic/Need-based scholarships are just as they sound. These scholarships are given to students who identify with a certain ethnic group such as African American, Native American, Pacific Asian Islander, or Hispanic/Latino, and to those who fall into a certain socio-economic status. These scholarships are also geared towards students wishing to or who are already pursuing a certain career such as Latinos in Engineering and African American Women in Law, or are first-generation students. These scholarships can be renewable and vary in amounts, but are equally as helpful as any other when paying for college.

Numerous other types of scholarships are available to fit any student’s interest or need—it just takes research to find the right one. Below are some Dos and Don’ts to follow when applying for scholarships, as well as websites to help you start your search:

Scholarship Dos:

  • Do start the scholarship search process sooner rather than later.
  • Do apply for scholarships in different categories.
  • Do include letters of recommendation even if they are not required.

Scholarship Don'ts:

  • Don’t count out scholarships with lower award amounts.
  • Don’t become discouraged if you don’t win right away.
  • Don’t avoid scholarships that require essays.

Scholarship Websites:

Related Information:


  1. UH Foundation, 2015

Lucero Denisse Oceguera '19 is an editorial intern at the Office of University Relations. She is a sociology major and TESOL minor.