The Pittsburgh Foundation

FAQs About Scholarships Learn more about the process of applying for scholarships and other helpful information.

A student from Langley High School works in the industrial arts shop.
A student from Langley High School works in the industrial arts shop.


Get more scholarship search tips.

To find all scholarships for which you are eligible, you’ll need to try several different types of searches.

You will find the greatest number of scholarships that might be a match for you by simply choosing your current status in school. After that, you may either scroll through the scholarships one by one, or reduce them further by using the drop-down menus on the left margin.

We recommend just utilizing one drop-down at a time and then resetting the criteria to do another search. Keyword searches are great too.

Keep mixing it up and jot down each scholarship you want to revisit along with its due date so that you can prioritize your efforts.

Ready to try again? Click the button below to search.

Not sure about your status in school?

HS Senior includes scholarships for high school seniors for their first year of college. Some scholarships are renewable.

Undergraduate includes scholarships for both 2- and 4-year educational institutions, including trade schools (vocational and technical), community colleges and universities.

Graduate includes scholarships for advanced degrees including master’s, doctoral, law and medical degrees.

Pre-K to grade 12 includes scholarships for academic and enrichment programs.

Special Education includes scholarships for special education programs and enrichment.

What is the SAI (Student Aid Index)?

The Student Aid Index (SAI), formerly called the EFC (Expected Family Contribution), is a number used by your college’s financial aid office to determine how much to award you in federal student aid. The information you report on your Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) is used to calculate your SAI. The SAI, in effect, measures your ability to pay for college. A higher SAI number typically translates to less financial aid, while a lower SAI number may increase your eligibility for need-based aid.

According to the U.S. Department of Education, the new SAI is calculated differently than its predecessor, the EFC. For example, the new formula no longer factors in the number of family members a household may have in college at the same time. It also allows a minimum SAI of negative 1,500 to give financial aid administrators more insight when making determinations for students with especially difficult financial challenges.

Note: Your SAI is not the amount of money your family will have to pay for college nor is it the amount of federal student aid you will receive. It is a number used by your school to calculate the amount of federal student aid you are eligible to receive. At The Pittsburgh Foundation, scholarship committees use this number to gauge financial need.

What makes a good letter of recommendation?

Why Letters of Recommendation Matter
When applying for a scholarship, grades and test scores only tell part of your story. Scholarship selection committees want to feel a connection their applicants, so they rely on letters of recommendation written by people who know the applicants well and can attest to their character, accomplishments and potential. Scholarships offered through The Pittsburgh Foundation typically require two letters of recommendation, but some may require three.

A good letter of recommendation is…

• Personalized. Don’t use a generic template. Selection committees will get a much stronger, positive impression of you if your recommendation letters describe first-hand experiences with you and provide specific details about your background and accomplishments.
• Relevant to the scholarship. Sometimes a scholarships committee is looking for specific qualities in a candidate. Read the scholarship requirements carefully and equip your recommendation to write a letter that describes how you meet those requirements.
• Specific. Vague language and dull adjectives suggest that an author does not know you well. For the selection committee to gain valuable insight into your qualifications, your letters should provide specific details and examples.
• From a motivated advocate. Think of the people who know you well, have been rooting for you as you’ve pursued your education and whom you know want you to succeed. Those are the people to ask to write a letter of recommendation for you.
• Mindful of preference language. A scholarship may state that the selection committee will give preference to candidates from a certain demographic or with a certain experience. If this is the case and you meet the stated preference, your letter of recommendation should highlight this.


Who to Ask
Now that you know what should be included in a good letter of recommendation, think about people in your life who could provide a letter like this for you.

Every scholarship is different, so it is important to pay attention to letter requirements or suggestions provided in the scholarship. Approach people who will speak positively about you and who know you well enough to submit a detailed letter that is relevant to the scholarship you are pursuing. For example, you may feel very comfortable asking your basketball coaches to write a letter, but if they only know your performance on the court, they may not be the best selection to speak to your qualifications for academic scholarships.

Just to be safe, think of a few back-up references. There is always a chance that the people you have in mind will be unavailable or do not feel that they know you well enough to write a letter of recommendation for a specific scholarship. If a reference declines to write a letter, this gives you an opportunity to find someone who is better fit to write a strong letter for you. We recommend asking one person more than you need in case your first choices are not able to fulfill your request.

How to Ask
You may feel a bit nervous approaching someone to ask them to write you a letter of recommendation. Remember that students ask advocates like teachers, guidance counselors and coaches for references all the time. To make the process go as smoothly as possible, make an appointment to speak with your prospective references either in person or over the phone to describe your request. You should be prepared to tell them what scholarship you are applying for, why you are applying and why you think they would be a good source to speak on your behalf. Ask them to confirm that they are willing to write a letter of recommendation for you.

If you’re unable to set up a formal appointment with a reference, send them a clear and concise e-mail that includes all relevant information. You will want to approach this in a professional way so they feel motivated to craft a meaningful letter about you.

You should ask for the letter at least four to six weeks before the scholarship’s due date. This will give the reference ample time to create something that is professional and thoughtful.

It is helpful to your reference to provide some documents about your qualifications and accomplishments. A resume, academic transcript or list of relevant accomplishments are excellent background materials to provide.

Finally, remember to thank your reference. They are taking time out of their busy schedule to help you with this, so they deserve a gesture of appreciation. Be sure to also follow up with them after the scholarship is awarded to let them know the outcome.

Here are some additional resources on letters of recommendation that you may find helpful:

Letters of Recommendation-Syracuse University, Center for Fellowship & Scholarship Advising
Advice: How to Ask for a Letter of Recommendation-University of Maryland, National Scholarships Office
Ask Early and Ask Nicely for Letters of Recommendation-U.S. News & World Report
Seeking Your Scholarship Letter of Recommendation-Fastweb
Build Your Brag Sheet-Fastweb 
Download a sample reference request letter (Word doc).


Having trouble attaching files to your application?

If you're having trouble attaching files, here are a few things that can cause problems:

• File upload fields will only accept one file, per field.

If you're uploading multiple pages, they must be combined into one document before upload.

• Upload fields have size limits.

If you attempt to upload a file that is larger than the set MB limit, you will receive an error message informing the you that the file is too large and will not be saved.

• Upload fields may also have file type restrictions.

If you attempt to upload a file in an unacceptable file type, you will receive a warning and you will not be able to upload the file.

• Once a file has been uploaded, it may be deleted by clicking the red X next to the file name. Then a new file can be uploaded.


What is a FAFSA and the FAFSA Submission Summary?

To apply for federal student aid, such as federal grants, work-study and loans, you need to complete the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). Completing and submitting the FAFSA is free and easy, and it gives you access to the largest source of financial aid to pay for college or career school. The FAFSA Submission Summary (FSS) provides the most comprehensive view into a student’s financial need and is something that every college-bound student who is seeking financial aid should have. The FSS is the analysis returned after completion of the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA).

If you are seeking financial aid and have not yet completed your FAFSA, please do so at

Find more financial aid resources.

There are many other resources available to you online and from your guidance counselor. Here are a few that may help you through the process: