Independent Scholarship Opportunities


Emily DeMotte, Staff Writer

     As the second semester rolls around, many seniors have completed or are finishing up college applications and are looking toward a crucial next step in the college admissions process- affording it. While many schools award merit scholarships and financial aid, there are several independent scholarships that students can apply for that can make a significant difference in the affordability of attending a college or university. Giovanna James, the lead counselor of the PSHS counseling department, offers some advice to students seeking out these scholarships.

     “Looking for scholarships can feel like a part-time job if you are really aggressive about it,” Mrs. James said. “We do post some scholarships; we have a lot of foundations that reach out to us so we keep a scholarship database on our website. That tends to be a little more local though: scholarships that are designated for Collin County students or Texas students.”

     Despite their lesser spotlight, local scholarships are often more fruitful for students than more national scholarships are and James encourages students to look into pursuing these opportunities. 

     “National scholarships are posted for every student [and] there are about 25,000 high schools in the United States, so you are competing with all of those students,” James said. “But then there are some that are run by local foundations or local businesses who want their money to directly impact students who live in this community. You have a much better chance because you are only competing with other Plano students, Collin County students or even other Texas students.”

     In addition to the PSHS scholarship database, there are many other places where students can find scholarship opportunities, both local and national. 

     “There are some apps that are really good for keeping you updated with what scholarships you could apply for,” James said. “Scholly is one of them, the College Board keeps a database as well, so I think you have to be willing to kind of look in a lot of places. There’s no one place that you can go but being willing to hunt around and spend a little time every day scrolling and saving and searching is the best bet for maximizing what you can get.” 

     A key piece of James’ advice to students for the scholarship search process is centered around time commitment and management. 

     “You have to decide if it’s worth it to put the time in to do the application. I had someone a couple of years ago phrase it like this: ‘If it takes you an hour to do the application and you win $500, that hour was worth your time,’ so just go for it,” said James. “Decide how much time you’re willing to spend on it and if you can spend that much time on it, then do it. A lot of them require essays; a lot of the essays are very similar. So you can have a set saved in your google drive of stock college scholarship essays and just tweak them and fire them off to whichever scholarship you are applying for.” 

     Available scholarship opportunities range in award amounts from a few hundred dollars to tens of thousands. While many write off the smaller awards, James urges students to seek these out instead. 

     “Go for the little ones,” James said. “Everybody applies for the $60k dollar scholarships,  but small scholarships can be stacked. We have some that go unclaimed because they are not big.” 

     However, James notes that the time commitment on these smaller scholarships may look different than the larger awards. 

     “The smaller scholarships are easier to get because a lot of people overlook them, and you can stack them,” James said. “But this is the part where it will feel tedious because you can have one $12,000 scholarship or twelve $1,000 scholarships. You are more likely to get twelve $1,000 scholarships, but that was 12 applications. [But] you have a better chance of actually hitting that goal.” 

     Finally, James also urges students to begin applying to these scholarships early on, advice aimed particularly at current juniors. 

     “[Spend] your junior year doing the research so that the summer between junior and senior year you can do the applications,” said James. “That’s going to enhance your chances of getting the financial aid scholarships that you may need.”