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College scholarship requirements

Hadiya Iqbal

Senior Associate, JPMorgan Chase


    College scholarships can provide a great opportunity for students, but applying for them does come with some level of work. Generally, college scholarship applications require transcripts, test scores, and recommendations. They may also ask for a resume, a photo, and an essay. Keep in mind that every scholarship application is different because each scholarship funder is looking for something specific from its applicants.

    For example, professional organizations may want to know why you’re interested in their field. As another example, a computer science scholarship funder may want to know what your achievements in computer science have been.

    While there’re variations regarding what scholarship applications ask for, here’s some items you might need to prepare before applying for scholarships.


    Ask your school for several copies of your official and unofficial transcript. You’re likely going to need them for your scholarship applications.

    Standardized test scores

    Many scholarship funders want to see how you did on the ACT, SAT, or other college entrance exams. When you take the test, you’ll have the opportunity to get copies of your scores. Just like with transcripts, get several copies and keep them on hand to send in with your scholarship applications in case you need to.

    Letters of recommendation

    Generally, three kinds of letters of recommendation might come up on scholarship applications. They include:

    • Academic recommendations: These letters come from teachers or others familiar with your performance in school. Some applications ask for a letter, while others just ask you to list the names and contact information of your references.
    • Nonacademic recommendations: These recommendations might come from a boss at a summer job, the coach of your sports team, or the pastor at your church.
    • Personal recommendations: These recommendations could come from someone connected to the scholarship or even a friend who can reflect on your character.


    Don’t be surprised if some scholarship applications ask for your resume. You may think you have nothing to put on the page, but you probably have more than you think. List any part-time jobs you’ve had, volunteer work you’ve done, and internships you’ve completed.

    If you’ve never written a resume before, don’t worry! There’re tons of resources and templates online to help you through it.


    Scholarship funders will sometimes ask for a headshot with your application. Usually, this is for promotional purposes to send out with a press release or newsletter should you get selected for the scholarship. Be sure to send a photo of yourself that gives a full view of your face with a pleasant expression.


    Scholarship applications routinely ask for essays, which is a fantastic opportunity to make your package stand out from the competition. Even though you may see similar questions on different applications, be careful about cutting and pasting. Read every question carefully and make sure you answer it clearly and precisely. Having someone else read and critique it before you send it in could be a good idea.

    Final thoughts

    Make sure to check each scholarship you’re applying for to understand its unique requirements. You wouldn’t want to miss an opportunity because of a technicality.