Answering Your Questions About College Scholarships
DISTRICT | December 8, 2020
Answering Your Questions About College Scholarships

With the end of the year quickly approaching, the time is now for high school seniors to apply for scholarships that can make a big impact in helping them achieve their postsecondary goals. Last year’s graduating class earned over $1 billion in college scholarships!  While sending in each application takes time and patience, the strategies found below can help the process feel a little less daunting. 

Current seniors Dorian M. from Lindblom Math and Science Academy and Monique L. from Jones College Prep will share their approaches to finding and applying for scholarships, and we’ll also share helpful videos and other resources from the district’s Office of School Counseling and Postsecondary Advising. Click

Have a question that isn’t answered below? Email for more information. You can also follow CPS Scholarships on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram and use this one-pager for easy access to CPS scholarship resources.  

How should I begin applying for scholarships? 

One of the best ways to find relevant scholarships is through the district’s Academic Works platform that helps students connect with the scholarships that are best for them based on their academic profile. Students, parents and those interested in CPS scholarship resources can also sign up for direct scholarship alerts from the CPS Scholarship manager by clicking here and completing a quick form. The e-mail alerts will share new scholarships that are added, approaching deadlines and postsecondary programs that can assist with scholarship acquisition and exposure. The district also has a Scholarship Alert Workbook that helps students review all of the scholarship opportunities available to them. 

In the video below, CPS Senior Scholarship Manager Michele Howard (@cpsscholarships) will walk you through the district’s Resource Starter Guide for applying to scholarships. You can also tweet Michele  directly or email her at An auto-response email will provide you a list of all of the CPS scholarship resources.

What are some ways to manage my time while applying for scholarships along with completing all of my schoolwork? 

I devote different days of the week for different parts of the scholarship process. Sunday is my day to search for different scholarships, and I compile a list of ones that cater to me. Monday and Wednesday are my two days to either work on my essays or collaborate with my teachers or counselor if they need to review my work or send something in on my behalf. And then Friday is my day to send in materials myself for the scholarships that I am working on. – Dorian M. 

I group what I have to do by deadline. I take advantage of days off and days when I have less school work, breaking things down by deadline to help me create a schedule. If you do all of the easier yet less important parts of your application first, you’ll leave the really important parts until the end which is stressful. I also set goals for myself to keep me from staying up all night working on scholarships. – Monique L. 

What should I know about the FAFSA?

The district has partnered with Ladder Up to provide guidance for students and their families as they fill out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA.) A few key points: 

  • The FAFSA application opened on October 1 and students should apply as soon as they can. It is a free application. 
  • One of the first things students should do is list out all of the information and documentation they will need to submit their application. 
  • Students will need to fill out the FAFSA for every year they wish to receive aid. 
  • The FAFSA has never been as quick and as easy to complete. Visit to learn more. If you have questions, check out the FSA’s Youtube Channel for information or tweet @fafsa.

Below, a representative from Ladder Up will provide more details about applying for the FAFSA and understanding financial aid in general. 

What are some tips for writing a strong essay in my scholarship application? 

I would pick out the key words in the prompt that connect to both the future and things that you are doing right now. Then, I make an outline that includes the key points that I want to hit on in my essay and add additional supporting details from there. One tip I have is that a lot of the prompts are similar, so you can reuse essays—even just a sentence or paragraph—as you apply to different scholarships. – Dorian M. 

I am a very wordy person, and I’ve learned how to get specific and concise to get my point across. Scholarship essays usually have a maximum word count, so you don’t have the time or the space to be all over the place. The prompts will usually ask for specific things, and making sure you answer the question being asked is the most important part. It’s not likely that you’ll receive the scholarship if you write an entire essay and evade the question. – Monique L. 

CPS is working directly with the DePaul University Center for Access and Attainment to provide assistance for students as they write essays for college scholarships. More information can be found in the video below and on their website which offers free essay editing and a quick turnaround time for feedback.

How should I work with my school counselor and/or college and career coach on scholarship applications? 

It’s really important to build a strong relationship with your counselor because outside of your parents and family,  they are your main advocate when you are applying to colleges and scholarships. They’re also submitting materials on your behalf. I’ve built a bond with my counselor by sharing my plans for college, and I’m always emailing her with questions. My counselor’s letter of recommendation included all these details from our first conversation, which shows that they really do listen and get to know you! – Dorian M. 

I would recommend emailing your questions to your counselor as soon as you think of them and being in constant correspondence with them. They’re usually pretty responsive, and keeping the conversation flowing helps ensure that you are staying on track to meet your goals. If you put off asking an important question, you might forget to ask it later. – Monique L. 

We hope this advice from your fellow seniors and resources from the district’s Office of School Counseling and Postsecondary Advising will be useful as you continue to find and apply for scholarships through the end of the year and beyond. As a reminder, you can always email with any questions that you have, and, if you missed the CPS Senior Student & Parent Scholarship Information Session that took place in November, click here to review the session’s presentations. You got this!