Your Quick Mid-Year Scholarship Search Checklist

You're halfway through the school year, but there's still a lot to be done. Make sure you're on track in your scholarship search with this checklist.

The start of a new year is also the unofficial halfway point of the academic year. This is the time when more students at every education level begin to focus more on their scholarship pursuits. With more students conducting the scholarship search, competition increases for awards with deadlines in January through June. This is an important time to focus your attention on how to work smarter in your process to expedite scholarship applications more quickly. With the end of the academic year only months away, this is the time to use organizational tools like the scholarship search checklist below.

Scholarship search checklist

  • Spend time expanding your potential scholarship search categories by money mapping any large or small categories related to your past accomplishments and future goals. For example, a female student who has the goal of working as an electrical engineer should include Engineering, women in STEM, and STEM keywords in her scholarship search criteria. If she only searches for scholarships focused on electrical engineering, the student will miss potential opportunities. Expand your search and continue to revisit your money-mapped personal search engine list.
  • Identify all ready-to-go materials that you can access for scholarship applications. Ready-to-go materials includes all past papers, essays, projects, or poems you’ve done in the past three years. If you’re a graduate student, your ready-to-go material can extend to the past five to 10 years. Not all scholarships you pursue have to directly relate to your future profession. A Finance student can apply for poetry scholarships; a Theatre student can apply for graphic design scholarships; a Pre-med student can apply for history-related scholarships. It’s essential that you compile a list of your ready-to-go materials and identify any themes or subjects connected to them. For example, if you wrote a paper about the Civil War and discussed Abraham Lincoln in it, search for scholarships related to each of them. You could use part of your essay in your cover letter for the Civil War Institute Summer Conference Scholarship Program. Searching for scholarships related to your ready-to-go materials can help you expedite applications quickly, as you’ve already spent the time and energy in the past creating them.
  • Thoroughly research local scholarships. This is by far the most important action to do at the mid-school-year point. Strategically, every scholarship seeker should highly prioritize local scholarships. Awards offered by local companies, organizations, individuals, clubs, and foundations with geographic eligibility restrictions should be researched thoroughly. Learning more about local awards is a smart use of your time, as competition for these awards will be restricted to your high school, college campus, state, city, or even county. Strive to learn more about these awards by reaching out to the scholarship committees to ask what they’re looking for in an ideal candidate. The conversation alone will help increase your visibility to decision makers. It may also provide valuable information on how you can approach your application.

Related: Why the Scholarship Search Matters, Plus Quick Tips and Tricks

Private scholarships are offered year-round, so it’s never too late to start or amp up your search. Every week of the year brings new scholarship deadlines from scholarship sources. As you look ahead to the second half of the academic year, be sure to check these items off your to-do list, and you’ll be starting the new year as a focused scholarship seeker with a clear mission.

Keep yourself organized in your scholarship search by using our Scholarship Search Spreadsheet Template! 

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About Jean O'Toole

Jean O’Toole is an educational consultant and author of the bestselling book Scholarship Strategies: Finding and Winning the Money You Need. Over the past 15 years, she has helped tens of thousands of students in the United States. Individuals collectively have been awarded millions of dollars by applying Jean’s scholarship strategies. In 2008, Jean co-founded Connections101, a company specializing in providing motivational tools for scholarship searching. It is her goal to empower students to design their paths to their future without college debt. Visit for more information, and follow Jean on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.


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Rhiannon Teeter

Rhiannon Teeter

$2,000 Community Service Scholarship Winner, 2012

I have spent a lot of time aggressively searching for scholarships. It was a long and frustrating process until I found the CollegeXpress network. This site made my search so much easier. With the simple check of a few boxes, the site sorted out scholarships I was eligible for and led me directly to the correct websites. Winning this scholarship has definitely given me and my family some financial relief, and CollegeXpress has allowed me to improve my chances of winning further financial aid. Thank you so much!

Sierra Carranza

Sierra Carranza

High School Class of 2022

I had absolutely no idea where I wanted to go to school; I was considering colleges in almost every state. CollegeXpress was an amazing resource and helped me compare all of my top schools. Without the help of CollegeXpress, I probably wouldn't have made such an informed and confident decision.

Elizabeth Stafford

Elizabeth Stafford

High School Class of 2021

As a UK student moving to California due to my dad's job in the military, when I first signed up for CollegeXpress a few months ago, the college process ahead seemed daunting and incredibly stressful. That all changed after I started to explore what this website had to offer. Not only was I helped by the vast array of resources available to me, but through being a CollegeXpress member, there have been so many more benefits. There have been emails with college tips—all of which I found incredibly helpful—as well as invitations to events and notifications of scholarships that'll make college possible for me. Overall, I'm very grateful to CollegeXpress for all of these things and more. Not only have they helped me grow my understanding of the college process, but they've also helped me to grow as a person, giving me new skills that I can take with me through life.

Samantha Fils-Aime

Samantha Fils-Aime

High School Class of 2019

I love that CollegeXpress has helped me find some scholarships to apply for but also helped me succeed in school with lots of tips. I also really like how they consistently email me about webinars that teach me a lot of things from the comfort of my home!

Keydi Banegas

Keydi Banegas

Scholarship for Students of Color Winner, Class of 2022

CollegeXpress is a great application that helped me search for many different scholarships, and it narrows the scholarships depending on how you set your profile. Not only that, but it helps you choose different colleges to apply to by finding matches through the description of your profile. It was the best experience for me.

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