Grants and Scholarships For Community Causes and Students

Grants & Scholarships
Scholarship FAQs

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Timeline
How to Apply
Account Information
Application Details
Award and Payment Information
General FAQs
Helpful Resources

SCHOLARSHIP SEASON TIMELINE

Every year, scholarship season is a busy one at HCF, with all the planning and preparation that goes into administering more than 200 scholarship funds. To help you understand the timing of some of our processes, here is a general timeline of a typical scholarship season:

  • October: Start that Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA)! You will need it when our scholarship application opens!
  • November: The HCF Common Scholarship Application opens for the following academic year.
  • November – January/February: Students can apply online and should plan sufficient time to retrieve all the documents and information needed to submit their application by the deadline.
  • February – May/June: HCF staff and volunteer committees begin reviewing applications based on each fund’s criteria. Once final eligibility is determined, recommendations are made, and selections are determined.
  • May – August: While we will do our best to notify students prior to the May 1 Decision Day, we cannot guarantee notification of awards, due to the lengthy review and selection processes we go through each year. In some cases, we may even continue to notify students throughout the summer, so long as funds are still available or become available.
  • May – July: If you are selected and notified of an award, you will need to take some additional steps during the summer to be sure we get all the information we need to prepare payment to your institution. Keep an eye on the email you used in your application!
  • July – August: Our first round of payments is prepared, for students that have completed their required steps.
  • August – September: Institutions begin receiving scholarship payments.

HOW TO APPLY

  1. Where do I go to complete an application?
    All applications are completed and processed online. Our HCF Students page is the best place to begin, and to check for updates on important information. For a pdf of helpful instructions, click here.
  2. What do I need to complete my application?
    Complete your application by following the steps below:
    1. Gather the following materials to upload to your application:
      • Your Student Aid Report (SAR). You get this by applying for your Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). Since it can take up to a few weeks to process, you will want to submit your FAFSA as soon as possible to have access to your SAR.
      • Your most recent grade transcript.
      • Any short essays and/or other documents required for some specific scholarships. Although some may be marked as optional, we encourage you to complete all that may be applicable to you.
    2. Login to Scholarship Manager
      • Returning Users:
        If you already have an existing account, log in with your username and password. DO NOT create a new account if you forgot your username and/or password, or are locked out. Instead, please refer to the instructions in the related FAQs below.
      • First Time Users:
        Register for an account. Keep in mind that the email you use to create your account will be the email to which all notices will be sent, including award notifications. *If you are a University of Hawaiʻi student, you will need to use a non-UH email address for our HCF application (i.e. a personal Gmail address would be sufficient).
    3. From the portal, locate the open application you’d like to complete. In most cases, students are completing the HCF Common Scholarship Application. If needed, you can begin the application and save it, then return later to complete and submit it before the deadline.
    4. Submit your application by the deadline date and time.
      • You will receive an email notification from the webmaster confirming that you have successfully submitted your application. We highly recommend submitting early, as website traffic increases around deadline time, potentially causing connectivity problems and submission errors.

ACCOUNT INFORMATION

  1. What should I do if I forgot my username and/or password?
    Do not create another account if you have forgotten your username or password associated with your existing account. Forgotten usernames and passwords can be accessed or reset accordingly by clicking on the links on the login homepage, or by clicking on the appropriate shortcut link below:
  2. I logged in incorrectly too many times and am now locked out of my account. Now what?
    We can help unlock your account. Send an email to scholarships@hcf-hawaii.org. For verification purposes, the email should include your full name, the email address your account is registered under, and a brief description of how we can assist you. Or you can contact us via our Scholarships Hotline at (808) 566-5570, during normal business hours: Monday through Friday, 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.
  3. Can I change my username or email associated with my existing account?
    Yes, once you successfully login using your current account information, click on your account settings to update your username and/or email associated with your account. Any future notifications from us, including award notifications, will be sent to the email address currently associated with that account.

APPLICATION DETAILS

  1. What are the basic eligibility criteria?
    Each scholarship has specific eligibility criteria defined by the donor when the fund is established. General criteria that apply to most scholarships include:
    • Be a resident of the state of Hawai‘i
    • Demonstrate financial need
    • Attend an accredited two- or four-year not-for-profit institution within the United States as either an undergraduate or graduate student
    • Be a full-time student as determined by your institution (some funds allow part-time status)
    • Maintain a minimum 2.0 GPA (unless otherwise stated)
  2. How do I obtain my Student Aid Report?
    All applicants are strongly encouraged to complete the 2023-2024 Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) to obtain a 2023-2024 Student Aid Report (SAR) that contains a valid Expected Family Contribution (EFC) calculation. Submitting your FAFSA will help to determine your eligibility for federal student aid from your institution and help to qualify you for the many scholarships administered by Hawaiʻi Community Foundation that require applicants to demonstrate financial need.

    If you choose to not upload a 2023-2024 SAR to validate the EFC you reported, understand that your application may only be considered for a limited number of scholarships that do not require applicants to demonstrate financial need.

    Your SAR will be sent to you after your FAFSA has been processed. Beginning October 1, you can start your FAFSA for the following academic year, by going to https://studentaid.gov/h/apply-for-aid/fafsa. Click here for further instructions. For more information regarding the FAFSA process, please visit the FAFSA Help website at https://studentaid.gov/apply-for-aid/fafsa/filling-out/help.
  3. What information needs to be on my uploaded Student Aid Report (SAR)?
    Your uploaded report must be a 2023-2024 processed SAR which includes all pages of your report, including your full name and Expected Family Contribution (EFC) calculation. Click here to see a sample SAR.

    Some examples of SAR’s that will be deemed invalid are as follows:
    • FAFSA Summary Report (the report you receive immediately upon submitting your FAFSA), as it will not show your processed FAFSA information and EFC
    • A SAR that does not match the academic year for which you are applying for funds
    • A SAR that states that there is missing or incorrect information submitted on your FAFSA which needs to be corrected or addressed
    • A SAR on which the name listed does not match the name on your HCF scholarship application
    • A SAR on which the name and/or EFC cannot be clearly read, or in an attached file format that cannot be opened by HCF and/or its committee members

      NOTE: The validity of your SAR is up to the discretion of HCF’s staff. Any SAR suspected of being doctored or edited will be eliminated from review, and the applicant will not be considered for awards.
  4. What information needs to be on my uploaded grade transcript?
    An official or unofficial grade transcript is required for all applicants. A valid transcript for HCF scholarship qualification purposes must include all the following:
    • The institution’s name
    • The student’s full name
    • A list of course history
    • Current grades/information for each course:
      • Transcripts for continuing college students must also include past semester grades/information
      • Transcripts for high school seniors must include ninth through 11th grade at a minimum (if available, include grade 12 information)
    • Current cumulative Grade Point Average (GPA)
    • Transcripts should be as recent as possible and should not be a duplicate from a prior year HCF application.

      Some examples of grade transcripts which will be deemed invalid:
      • A transcript without your most recent academic history
      • A transcript on which the name listed does not match the name on your HCF application
      • A transcript that cannot be clearly read
      • A transcript that does not include all pages and/or all course work
      • A transcript in a file format that cannot be opened by HCF and/or its committee members

        NOTE: The validity of your transcript is up to the discretion of HCF’s Scholarship staff. Any transcript suspected of being doctored or edited will be eliminated from review, and the applicant will not be considered for awards.
  5. What cumulative GPA do I use if I have a GED or am in a pass/fail program?
    If you have a GED or equivalent, enter “8.88” into the cumulative GPA question in the application. If you are in a pass/fail program which does not issue grades on a graded scale, please enter “9.99” into the cumulative GPA box. These instructions are also listed in the application.
  6. What should I include in my required personal statements?
    Over the years, HCF has updated our approach to gathering applicant information. While our application no longer requires a lengthy personal statement, there are multiple short answer/essay statements included in our application process that help us gather the information we need to make determinations on applicant eligibility. Since the personal statement requirements can change from year to year, we encourage students to log in as soon as the application opens to review the statement prompts for that specific year. Keep in mind that your application may be read by HCF staff, other decision makers, and donors who may have established these scholarships.

    Tip: Compose your essays in a Word document (or equivalent) first, and then copy and paste it into your application to avoid the system timing out after 45 minutes.
  7. Do I need to submit letters of recommendation (LOR)?
    Letters of recommendation are typically not required. However, there are several scholarships which require applicants to submit one or more LOR to qualify. For these, it’s a good idea to request a minimum of two recommendations. To determine whether a particular scholarship requires an LOR, please search through our scholarships on the Scholarship Manager home page by using the filters on the Category Search Filter.
  8. How are letters of recommendation submitted with my application?
    In the letter of recommendation (LOR) section of the application, enter your recommenders’ name and email address. The system will instantly send an email to your recommender with a link that is specific to your application. This link will allow recommenders to either upload a previously written letter, or complete the online recommendation form.

    Once you have made your request, check in with your recommender to be sure they received the email from scholarships@hcf-hawaii.org. Many institutions and businesses put up strict firewalls to prevent unfamiliar emails reaching an inbox, so, if your recommender has not seen the email yet, encourage them to check their spam or junk folder. It’s also a good idea to let them know ahead of time that they will be receiving an email from scholarships@hcf-hawaii.org, and to check their spam/junk mail folder periodically for emails from this source.
  9. Can I see if my recommender submitted their recommendation?
    Yes, you can request and monitor recommendations from up to three different people. At any time, you can view the status of your recommendations by logging into your account.
  10. Who should I ask to complete my recommendation?
    When choosing a recommender, think of people who are able to speak to your academic performance, leadership capabilities, or community service involvement. This could be a previous or current academic instructor, a school counselor, a club advisor, a mentor, a coach, an employer and/or church leader, etc.

    Some examples of invalid recommendations:

    NOTE: The validity of a submitted letter of recommendation is up to the discretion of HCF’s Scholarship staff. Any letters suspected of being forged, doctored, or edited will be eliminated from review, and the applicant will not be considered for awards.
    • Recommendations from parents, friends, and relatives
    • Paper or hard copies of letters sent or delivered to HCF
    • Recommendations in a file format that is unable to be opened by HCF staff or decision makers
  11. Can I change my recommender after an initial request has been sent?
    Yes, you may withdraw a request to a previous recommender(s) and send a request to a new recommender by logging in to your account prior to the application deadline. Click on the withdraw option next to your recommender’s data, then enter your new recommender’s information.
  12. Do I need to attach any other documents besides my SAR and grade transcript to submit my application?
    The SAR and grade transcript are the primary documents needed to submit your application; however, additional documents may be needed to qualify for specific scholarships. Examples of additional documents may include: letters of recommendation, SAT/ACT scores for high school seniors, verification of organization affiliations, Native Hawaiian ancestry verification, etc. If you do qualify for a scholarship with an additional document requirement, a section to upload (or request for LOR) that additional document will appear within your application. We recommend you search through our scholarships to determine what additional documents may be required for those opportunities. All additional documents must be uploaded and submitted with your online application. We will not accept hard or email copies of any documents.

    NOTE: The validity of any documentation submitted is up to the discretion of HCF’s Scholarship staff. Any documents suspected of being forged, doctored, or edited will be eliminated from review, and the applicant will not be considered for awards.
  13. Do I need to answer the additional essays or short answers for very specific scholarships to submit my application?
    No. Short essays and/or answers may be required for specific scholarships, but are not required to submit your application. Answering these additional questions and providing additional documents may qualify you for more scholarships, so we encourage you to complete this section if it is applicable to you. Use the Search Scholarships feature on the application homepage to determine if an additional essay may be required to be eligible for a specific scholarship.
  14. How do I know whether an answer, attachment, or essay is a required section to submit my application?
    All required answers or attachments are indicated with a red asterisk. The system will also prompt you with an error message if you try to submit your application without filling out a required answer or section. Carefully review your application prior to submission. Submitting your application in advance of the deadline will allow you time to correct any missing/required answers.
  15. If I am currently attending college, do I still need to upload my ACT and/or SAT scores?
    No. If you are currently enrolled and attending college, you do not need to attach your ACT or SAT scores. This is an optional document for current high school seniors only.
  16. What if I don’t have a scanner to scan and upload my support documents?
    We highly recommend you format your documents as PDF files before attaching them to your application. You can download a free PDF converter on your computer or mobile phone to convert documents into a PDF format. There are also online tools, including www.freepdfconvert.com or www.pdfonline.com. Your school or local library may also be able to help you convert paper documents to PDF files.
  17. How can I upload or attach multiple pages to my application?
    You can create and upload a zip folder by right clicking a blank area on the desktop or in an open folder. Then point to New and click Compressed (zipped) Folder and drag your files into the zip folder. Upload the zip folder onto the application.
  18. Can I mail my supporting documents?
    No, all supporting documents must be submitted online. We recommend you start early to gather the necessary tax documents to complete the FAFSA when it becomes available, and request a copy of your transcript from your registrar’s office once your most recent semester is completed. Online applications can only be submitted once all required support documents have been uploaded.
  19. How long will it take to complete the online application?
    It will take approximately 2 to 3 hours to fill out the application. Your application session will time out after 45 minutes of inactivity, but will regenerate if you use the save function or move on to a new question in the application. You may save your application and return to it at any time prior to the deadline.
  20. Is there any cost to apply for scholarships?
    No, the HCF application that accesses more than 200 scholarships is free.
  21. Can I make changes to my application after it has been submitted?
    Once your application has been submitted, the only change that can be made is to switch out your recommenders. You cannot edit any other part of your application, so review all your information carefully before submitting.

AWARD INFORMATION

  1. When will I be notified if I am awarded?
    You will be notified online after the selection committees meet, which may be any time between April and August.
  2. How will I know if I am awarded a scholarship?
    Awards will be posted to students’ portals online, which can be viewed at any time between April and August by simply logging into your account. A notification will also be emailed to the address registered with that account. With more than 3,000 applicants each year, the awarding process is extremely competitive, and not all applicants will receive an award. However, we encourage you to apply every year.
  3. How will I know if I have not been awarded a scholarship?
    After all funds have been awarded, we will update our site to note that the awarding season has been closed. Since students often change their academic plans during the summer, we sometimes need to re-award funds as funds continue to become available. For that reason, we will not close the season until all funds have been awarded.
  4. What do I do if I receive an award notification?
    Once awarded, there is a two-step process that needs to be completed for HCF to send your award payment to your school:
    • Complete and submit the Student Award Acceptance Form (SAAF) to confirm your academic plans. Log in to your account and accept (or decline) each award. The email notification you received, as well as the award message online, will contain a link to the SAAF. We highly recommend you complete your SAAF within two weeks of receiving your award notification.

      NOTE: Any changes to your original academic plans must be reflected in your SAAF. This may affect your final eligibility and/or award amount. Your SAAF will be verified against the requirements of the scholarship(s) you were awarded and, if there are any changes to the awarded amount, we will send you an email.
    • Write a thank you letter to the donor. Thank you notes are highly encouraged. Donors enjoy reading thank you notes, and are often eager to learn more about the person receiving their scholarship. If you were fortunate to have received a scholarship from a fund through the Hawaiʻi Community Foundation, you can easily complete your thank you note online, through your portal.
  5. If I already filled out my SAAF but receive another award after, do I need to do another SAAF?
    No. Once you have completed your SAAF, the answers you submitted on the form will be applied to all awards you receive within the same academic year.
  6. What if I already submitted my SAAF but my academic plans change?
    Contact us as soon as possible to inform us of any changes to your enrollment. If your check has not yet been processed, we will work with you to edit your SAAF as needed. However, if your award check has already been processed, please send an email to us at scholarships@hcf-hawaii.org requesting a link to make changes to your submitted SAAF. Note that any changes to your enrollment may cause a delay in reissuing your school a new payment, or may eliminate you from being eligible for your award(s) altogether, based on the scholarship criteria.
  7. What if I do not want to accept my award or will not be attending school for the awarded academic year?
    We understand that circumstances may change between the time you submit your application and scholarships are awarded. If you receive an award notification and do not wish to accept your award, reach out to our office to discuss your options. If you still intend to decline your award, please login to your account and click the Decline Award option. Do this as soon as possible, as we may be able to award the funds to another deserving student.
  8. What if I declined my award, but my plans have changed again?
    Contact our office as soon as possible so that we can determine any further eligibility and next steps.
  9. What will my scholarship award cover?
    Scholarships can be used for any educational expense related to your school’s cost of attendance, which may include tuition and fees, books and supplies, room and board, and other miscellaneous school expenses for the awarded academic year.
  10. When will I receive the scholarship money?
    Scholarships are typically paid to your school in two equal payments: in August for the Fall semester and December for the Spring semester. The exact timing of each payment depends on different factors, including when the scholarship was accepted and if any changes have been made to your academic plan. Once awarded, you will need to submit the Student Award Acceptance Form (SAAF) to accept your award(s) and confirm which school you will be attending. You will be considered for payment after your SAAF has been submitted and verified for eligibility.

    Regardless of how early you complete your SAAF, payments are not sent to institutions earlier than mid-August for fall terms, and mid-December for spring terms.
  11. What if my school does not use the semester system?
    Awards are still generally split between two payments. It is up to your financial aid office to determine how an award will be disbursed.
  12. Are the scholarships awarded sufficient to pay the cost of my college education?
    No. HCF scholarships are intended to provide partial support. In addition to applying for scholarships through the Hawai‘i Community Foundation, you should look into other financial aid resources such as federal grants, institutional aid, and loans/work-study awards, if necessary. A complete financial aid package can be put together by your college’s financial aid office, and may include various types of financial aid.
  13. How much will I receive in scholarships from HCF?
    Scholarship funds have varying award amounts, generally ranging from $1,000 to several thousand dollars, depending on the size of each scholarship fund, the number of qualified applicants and the preferences of the donor(s). Applicants are encouraged to complete the application as thoroughly as possible (i.e. answer as many questions that are applicable, provide essays as requested) in order to increase their chances of being eligible for multiple scholarship opportunities. The average award for students is $6,000.

GENERAL FAQ’S

  1. What are the recommended browser requirements when applying?
    Internet Explorer version 8 and higher; Mozilla Firefox; Google Chrome. Apple users who use Safari may experience technical issues.
  2. Do I need to select the scholarships for which I want to apply?
    No. We will automatically match your application to all scholarships for which you may be eligible, once your online application is processed for committee review. Remember, some scholarships require answers to additional questions or additional documentation, so be sure to complete the entire application to increase your chances of eligibility for as many scholarships as possible. You may search scholarships for specific eligibility criteria and required documentation, but will not be able to select specific scholarships to apply for.
  3. If I receive a scholarship one year, will I automatically receive an award for the following year?
    No, students must complete the application process again to be considered for a scholarship award the following year. However, some scholarship funds are committed renewals and others may give preference to renewal applicants.
  4. My school is not listed in the institution drop-down list. How can I add it?
    If your school is not listed, please send an email to scholarships@hcf-hawaii.org and include the full legal name of your school as well as its mailing address. Allow up to three business days for the Scholarship team to respond and process your request.
  5. I have a double major. Can I add a second major to my scholarship application?
    No. The HCF application allows you to select only one major. Take the time to review the available scholarships for both majors using the Category Search function to determine which scholarships would be most beneficial to your selected major.
  6. How is my financial need determined, and who is responsible for making that determination?
    HCF determines financial need by subtracting your Estimated Family Contribution (from your FAFSA) from your Cost of Attendance. In recent years, we have also included several other financial situation questions that can help us to better determine presence of need beyond the FAFSA. For questions about how your EFC and Cost of Attendance is calculated, please contact your school financial aid counselor.
  7. How do you select scholarship recipients?
    Committees made up of various community individuals make recommendations for awarding based upon the specific purpose and criteria of each scholarship fund as established by its donor.

HELPFUL RESOURCES

  1. Where can I go to get help on my essays?
    Many college campuses have a Writing Center with in-person and online appointments available. Check with your institution’s Student Services department or counselor to inquire about resources available through your school.
  2. What if I have questions about completing the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA)?
    You can reach out to the Financial Aid office of the school you will attend, or go to studentaid.gov/apply-for-aid/fafsa/filling-out for more information.
  3. Are there other scholarships available?
    The HCF Common Scholarship Application is the primary source to apply for more than 250 funds from our organization. Other local organizations and institutions each have their own separate applications and processes, so it’s best to research each thoroughly. A great place to start is your school’s financial aid office/scholarship department.