Navigating through the scholarship application process can be a challenging task. That is why the Community Foundation of Sarasota County has compiled a comprehensive list of Frequently Asked Questions to help guide students and their applications towards success.

Drawn from decades of community experience, we have provided answers to your questions on eligibility, the application process, and required supporting documents, such as the FAFSA SAR and other important documents. Click on a topic below to view related questions and their corresponding answers.


Are these scholarships based on merit?

Scholarships are awarded through a competitive process. While most of our scholarships require financial need, the Community Foundation does provide scholarships that are solely merit-based. Dedicated volunteers on our scholarship committees make their selections based on:

  • Financial need
  • Academics
  • Experience
  • Essay
What does the ideal scholarship recipient look like?

The ideal applicant has demonstrated financial need, earned a 2.5 GPA or better, worked to earn money for school, and expressed well-defined goals and objectives for their education.

Is the scholarship renewable for more than one year?

Some scholarships are renewable, and some are awarded for one year only. Please read your notification letter carefully as it will detail all the terms of your scholarship award.


Who is eligible for these scholarships?

Scholarships are not restricted to four-year universities; we consider higher education to be college, vocational or technical school, and accredited courses of study for select career fields. You are eligible for this scholarship program if you are:

  • Currently attending or enrolling in an accredited college or vocational school
  • A current resident of Sarasota, Manatee, Charlotte, or DeSoto County
  • 24 years of age or older as of December 31st of the year in which you apply
If I am already enrolled in school, am I still eligible to apply for a Community Foundation of Sarasota County scholarship?

Yes, if you are a current resident of Sarasota, Manatee, Charlotte, or DeSoto County.

Can I apply for a scholarship even if I am not sure which school I will be attending?

Yes, although it is in your favor to know what school you want to attend and what career path you want to pursue.

Do I have to be planning to attend a Florida state college or university?

No. Scholarship recipients can attend any accredited college, university, or community college, as well as any accredited technical school or vocational school.

Do I have to be attending a four-year college or university to be eligible for a scholarship?

No, scholarship funds may also be used at vocational or technical schools and community colleges.

Application Process 

Do I need an interview?

Scholarship applicants may be asked to attend an interview, but this is not typically the case. Students may be invited to our donor appreciation reception and are expected to attend if invited.

Do I have to write an essay?

Yes. Our Adult Scholarship requires a general essay in response to the following propmpt:

Using between 400-600 words, please explain why you are pursuing the course of study that you have chosen. In your response, consider how your chosen course of study reflects your life’s journey thus far and your personal and professional aspirations for your future.

In addition to this required essay, students may be given the option to write additional essays to be considered for other scholarship opportunities.

Outside the Adult Scholarship, most of our applications require an essay specific to the scholarship opportunity.

What documents must I include with my scholarship application?
  • Transcript, Official or Unofficial - Must be in a non-editable format and include any courses completed within the last five years.
  • FAFSA Student Aid Report (FAFSA SAR) - See FAFSA SAR and Other Documents section for more information.
    • Or, your most recently filed tax return documents (Form 1040).
  • Letters of Reference and Additional Attachments are optional, but will stregthen your application.
What happens if I can’t get my required documents in time before the deadline?

All documents, in their entirety, must be submitted and received by the deadline. For specific scholarship deadlines, visit Scholarships For Students 24 Years of Age or Older.

Are my answers and financial information kept confidential?

All information is kept confidential by our scholarship committee members.

When will I find out if I was awarded a scholarship?

All students who apply for the Adult Scholarship for full-year funding between March 1 – April 15 will be notified whether or not you were awarded a scholarship around July 15.

All students who apply for the Adult Scholarship for half-year funding between September 1 – October 15 will be notified whether or not you were awarded a scholarship around November 15.

Students who apply for scholarships requiring separate applications will be notified approximately 3 months after the stated application deadline.

Is the scholarship award sent to me?

Scholarship awards are sent directly to the school of the student’s choice, on the student’s behalf. Scholarship funds are never directly released to the student.


Selection Process

Are all applications submitted online? 

Most applications are submitted digitally through our online portal, but some applications may require a paper submission.

How will my application be reviewed?

Once submitted, all applications are reviewed by a dedicated committee of community volunteers. Depending on the type of scholarship, interviews may be conducted on a case-by-case basis.

How will I be notified I am selected as a scholarship recipient?

After a scholarship decision has been reached, applicants will be promptly notified of their award status via email. Please keep in mind that once a decision has been reached, it cannot be altered in any way unless under extraordinary circumstances. 

What does the selection process look like? 

selection process flow chart

FAFSA SAR and Other Documents 

What is the FAFSA SAR?

FAFSA stands for “Free Application for Federal Student Aid” and is used to apply for different types of federal, state, and private financial aid for education. According to the FAFSA website, FAFSA "is the first step in the financial aid process."

SAR stands for “Student Aid Report.” It summarizes the information provided on the FAFSA and delivers information about the applicant’s financial need, including the EFC, also known as “Estimated Family Contribution.”

Typically, it is a 5-8 page document and all pages will need to be submitted to be considered for a scholarship opportunity. View a sample FAFSA Student Aid Report (FAFSA SAR). 

How do I complete a FAFSA?

FAFSA may be completed on the web at or possibly at your school if they participate in Electronic Data Exchange (contact your school for this information).

FAFSA can also be completed by paper. It may be possible to obtain a hard copy at your school.

According to the FAFSA website, filing online "is the fastest and most accurate way to apply for student aid.” FAFSA can be reached by phone at 1-800-433-3243.

When should I complete a FAFSA, and how long will it be until I get a response?

As soon as possible! The earlier in the year that you apply, the quicker you will get a response. Conversely, the later in the year you apply, the longer it will take to get a response. Depending on the time of year during which you are applying, there may be multiple FAFSA applications available for different academic years. Please ensure that you are applying for the academic year for which your scholarship will be awarded. For instance, if you are applying for a scholarship that will be awarded for Fall 2021 – Spring 2022, you should complete with 2021–2022 FAFSA application that becomes available in October 2020.

It is recommended that you have filed your tax return prior to completing your FAFSA, but it is not required. It will take longer if you have not filed your family’s taxes with it. Please visit the FAFSA website at for more information.

What is a college aid award letter?

A college aid award letter is provided to the student by the college they will be attending. It lists the cost of attending the college and aid that is available to the student for the upcoming school year, including grants, scholarships, work-study, and loans.

You will receive the college aid award letter only after you have completed the FAFSA and requested that the results be sent to your chosen college.

Download a PDF version of our FAQs

Need assistance?

Laura Dykstra

Coordinator, Community Impact