Starting Your Own Scholarship

August 20, 2013 ·

Starting your own scholarship can be exciting and rewarding for you and your recipient.  The process can be fairly easy if you follow a few main guidelines.  The two most important of which are:

    • BE SPECIFIC on every last detail

In planning your scholarship – you should be able to very specifically answer the following questions:

WHO – who may apply for this scholarship?
Specific answers might be:

  • - high school seniors at Central High School
  • - female high school seniors that have documented 100 hours of community service

WHAT – what are the eligibility requirements?
This is tougher than it sounds – for every restriction you put on your scholarship you must follow up and verify the winner meets the requirements.

WHAT – what must the person do to apply?
Very specifically put this in writing so there are no questions – if there is even a sliver of gray area – expect a flood of calls from students and their parents.

An example: “Submit a typed  double spaced essay of at least 500 words but not more than 750 words on how you plan to help stop global warming.”

HOW - How do participants send you their application?
Here again, be specific if you want it via mail, email, hand delivered.  Whatever you state, stick with it as a requirement of the program, it will save you headaches later.

HOW - How do you evaluate the applications?
With traditional scholarships this is often a very subjective point.  To help simplify your process you may want to create a standard grid and check off “completed requirements” for each applicant.  If your scholarship has essays, you should have a list of things you are looking for and provide a score or check as each is found in the writing.

HOW - How do you announce the winner?
State how the winner(s) will be announced up front in clear writing.  Will you send a formal letter, announce it through the winner’s school, personal visit?  By the way, are you going to notify the applicants that didn’t win?  One solution to this problem, if you have the ability to email all the applicants at once, send one email on the announcement date congratulating the winner.  Use the Blind Carbon Copy Bcc feature so you are not broadcasting every applicants’ email address to the world!

WHEN - When is the application due?
Put this date in writing and do not waiver from it.  If you accept an application that is a day late you may well get complaints!

WHEN - When will you announce the winner?
Provide a specific date and stick with it.  A day early or a day late and you are likely to get calls, emails and letters.


When most people start a scholarship they want to know how to handle the scholarship money.  Do they need to start a not for profit, is the scholarship tax deductible, who actually receives the scholarship check and so on.

First, you do not have to start a not for profit to create a scholarship.  The easiest thing to do if you are awarding a scholarship to a high school student heading to college is contact the school and speak with the person in charge of scholarships.  Most schools have a fund you can donate the money to with instructions on how you want your scholarship named and awarded.  This is almost always tax deductible and you should get a letter from the school for tax purposes.

Another way to handle scholarship payout is to make your payment directly to the college or university your winner is attending.  You can make your check payable to the school for deposit into the student’s account once he or she is registered for classes.  You can also request a letter or receipt from the school.

Note of Warning

There are laws about awarding scholarships.  The most important deals with who can win your scholarship.  For example, you cannot create a scholarship in which your family member is guaranteed to win.  Generally, ensure that recipients are selected in an objective and non-discriminatory basis. Those responsible for selecting scholarship recipients must not be in the position to derive an economic benefit-directly or indirectly-from the scholarship process, and relatives of applicants also should not serve on selection committees. Relatives of donors are ineligible to receive scholarship grants from a donor-established scholarships.


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