When should secondary school and high school students start applying for scholarships?

Seema Kaushik
Dec 24, 2020

Have you ever thought about scholarships? What are they? Who gets them? Well, a scholarship is a form of financial aid that partially or fully covers schooling costs. There are many different scholarship opportunities available, and the scholarship criteria can be based on academic performance, skills, or the candidate’s financial status. 

Scholarships are open to pupils of all ages all year round. So if there are scholarships, when should you start applying for them? The short answer is right away. This way, you will have more time for application and preparation. You are also less likely to miss the application deadline.

Practical tips to help you navigate the scholarship scene

Tip 1: Start early

This may be the most crucial tip here. When applying for secondary school or high school scholarships, the earlier you start, the better. With an early start, you can apply for the scholarship you are most qualified for before the prescribed deadline. Moreover, you also get more time to find, analyse and apply for these scholarship opportunities and find the answer to common questions like:

What kind of scholarships am I eligible for?

What documents are they asking for?

What is the eligibility criteria they are using?

What do the terms and conditions say?

Can I apply for more than one scholarship at a time?

Moreover, an early start buys you more time to create a quality application. Scholarship essays can be especially tricky. However, you have all the time you need to research and come up with something good without worrying about approaching deadlines.

Most scholarships such as those offered by the Global Indian International School (GIIS) will be merit or means-based, including writing an essay, submitting specialised work such as a portfolio, a report or project, taking a test, and passing an interview. 

As a bonus, during your search for scholarship opportunities, you may also come across some that can make your college applications a lot smoother.

Tip 2: Make a list

Given the number of scholarships awards available, it is best to keep a detailed list of possible opportunities, requirements, and deadlines. A spreadsheet is a great way to do this.

As you are going through these lists, note down all the awards you can apply for and gather information on every individual scholarship. Some scholarship offers are open to all, while others may require more rigorous requirements, such as good grades and exceptional academic performance. Similarly, some scholarships might only be available to secondary school students, while others might be open to students across all grades.

Don’t bother applying for scholarships whose eligibility criteria you do not meet. This is usually the first filter used to shortlist applicants. Also, read through the terms and conditions of every scholarship you can apply to, so you can fully comprehend what you are getting into before you begin the tedious process of scholarship applications. 


Tip 3: Cash in on scholarship season and leave no stone unturned

Most scholarships are offered all year round, while others are available from August through December or January through to May. Think of these as peak scholarship seasons as it is during this time that schools start advertising their scholarships.


Since most scholarships are yearly awards, they are offered before the beginning of the next school year. At GIIS, most of our scholarships are open from November through to December.

Additionally, explore every resource. Besides schools, there are companies, religious organizations, community initiatives, and alumni networks that offer scholarships.

As you search for scholarship opportunities, write down any potential changes that might come your way. Make a list of your unique talents and interests and search for awards that match that. For example, if you are interested in technology, the Dr APJ Abdul Kalam Global Skills scholarship would be an excellent fit for you. The goal is to find ideal scholarships that fit you like a glove. 

Tip 4: Evaluate each opportunity individually

After building your scholarship list, you have to appraise each opportunity individually before you start applying. You also have to sort the scholarships by relevance, amount of work required, the grant amount, and deadlines.

For example, you should be aware of the deadlines. Once you have a clear idea, you can adequately prepare for the scholarship application. It also helps to have answers to important questions like:

How much is the award worth?

Is it a full or partial scholarship?

What are the terms of the scholarship? 

Answering these queries will help you pick the best scholarships for you. Some scholarships have minimal terms & conditions and hundreds of applications, while others might have challenging scholarship criteria and only a handful of applicants. 

Remember that every little bit of scholarship money helps, and you have a better chance of receiving smaller scholarship awards over fully-funded tuition grants since they are less competitive.

Make sure that the awards you are applying for are legitimate so you don’t get scammed. Unfortunately, some devious characters are looking to take advantage of the many students searching for scholarships. An easy way to identify if a scholarship is a scam is to ask yourself if the deal is too good to be true. If an organization is offering a guaranteed scholarship, it’s probably a scam. 

Moreover, it would help if you ideally stayed away from any awards that ask you to pay for a hefty registration or processing fee. Legitimate scholarship awards will never ask you to pay any fee for a scholarship application. We advise you to resort to official websites when searching for scholarships.  

Tip 5: Organize and prioritize your scholarship opportunities

Now that you have comprehensively gone through all the awards and identified each scholarship's value, deadlines, the amount of preparation required, and the award amount, it is time to move on to the next step. Using this information, you can create a simple rating system to help you organize and prioritize your scholarships. A simple way to do this is by using a simple scale such as 0 to 10 to rate each scholarship. Apply to all scholarships rated five and above.

Tip 6: Master the application process

The quality of your application will dictate whether or not you will be awarded the scholarship. A quality application goes a long way in increasing your chances of winning a scholarship.

When applying for a scholarship, you will be asked to fill out an application form and submit other requisite documents. These can include copies of your transcripts, your ID, passport or visa, a letter of motivation, recommendation letters, and the results of standardized tests. You might have to include additional documents such as a written scholarship essay, a portfolio, financial statements, and health evaluation forms.

These additional documents will depend on the kind of scholarship offered. For instance, if you are applying for an art scholarship, you will have to attach your portfolio. Similarly, suppose you’re applying for our APJ Abdul Kalam Scholarship. In that case, you are required to either submit a paper, thesis, or published documents and any technology project documents along with your application form.

Familiarizing yourself with and mastering the scholarship application process will make it a lot easier to apply for other scholarship opportunities.

Scholarships can offer a gateway for you to continue your learning in secondary school unhindered. They can help you get closer to achieving your academic pursuits by supporting your education. This way, you have a lot less to worry about, and you can focus wholly on your academics. However, there’s a lot of confusion surrounding scholarships, so you must check the scholarship's authenticity before applying. We hope that this information has answered some of the questions you had about scholarships. 

Seema Kaushik

Ms Kaushik is the Career Counsellor with the GIIS SMART Campus in Singapore. She has mentored and guided hundreds of students over the past decade to connect with Universities of their choice, write essays and choose subjects which will give them a jumpstart in their higher studies.

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