More than half of American families used scholarships to pay for college last year. From merit-based to artistic-focused, there are a variety of awards available.
High school senior Grace Vaughn of Trinity, Florida, knows how to successfully secure a college scholarship. After winning the $10,000 dress grand prize in Duck brand’s Stuck at Prom Scholarship Contest in 2022, Vaughn is sharing helpful tips to increase students’ odds of earning funds for college:
Research, research, research
Search databases and websites to discover award options that may be new to you. Scholarships.com, FastWeb and Bold.org are resources to help narrow down opportunities that match your interests and unique talents. Vaughn also encourages students to leverage social media, where she discovered the Stuck at Prom contest, which challenges teens to create Duck Tape prom creations for a chance to win cash scholarships.
In addition to researching national opportunities, check in with your school counselor and teachers to learn about any local or regional scholarships that are offered through the school or other nearby organizations.
Apply early and often
Federal Student Aid recommends searching for scholarships during the summer between your junior and senior year, but some awards are open to teens as young as 14. Vaughn says entering Stuck at Prom early on in high school gave her an edge on the competition. When she wasn’t selected as a finalist her sophomore year, Vaughn submitted for the contest again as a junior and went on to win the $10,000 dress grand prize.
“When I began working on my entry in 2022, I already knew how to construct the dress from Duck Tape, so I went into the process with confidence,” Vaughn explains.
If you have the time and energy, she suggests applying for multiple awards to increase your chances of securing funds for school.
Leverage your creative side
Not all programs are focused on academics and athletics, so flex your creative side to win scholarships that will reward artistic abilities in drawing, painting, music and more. Beginning at an early age, Vaughn excelled at visual arts and design, which is how she knew Stuck at Prom was a perfect fit for her.
“Creative awards programs are a good outlet for students to show off their talents outside of typical schoolwork,” Vaughn says. “Even if you aren’t crafty, scholarship applications could be a chance for you to try something new.”
Make scholarships a priority
Vaughn spent 143 hours crafting her prom dress made from Duck Tape to enter Stuck at Prom.
While not all scholarship program submissions will take 143 hours or require making Duck Tape attire, Vaughn says it’s important to block off areas on your calendar so you can balance busy school schedules and extracurricular activities along with applications—ensuring there’s enough time to work on a polished entry, whether it’s creating a piece of art or writing an essay.
While applying for scholarships is time consuming, it can make a huge impact when it comes to paying for college.
Vaughn notes, “It takes commitment and drive to apply for scholarships, but the results are worth it.”