Frequently Asked Questions

The 2019-2020 Common Scholarship Application will launch December 5, 2018.

How do I prepare to work on the Common Scholarship Application?

Before you begin the online application, review the criteria and find out which scholarships you are eligible for and preview the application and see what’s involved. Once the application is available, you will be able to preview the application prior to entering any information.

Please note that SmarterSelect, our online application system, works best on the following web browsers: Firefox, Safari, and Chrome. You are likely to have difficulties completing the application using Internet Explorer.

What types of scholarships are offered by The San Diego Foundation?

Scholarships are available for graduating high school seniors, undergraduates, graduate, medical and professional school students and adult re-entry students who are attending community colleges, four-year universities, career/technical schools, teaching credential programs and graduate, medical or professional schools in the United States.

Get More Information About the Common Scholarship Application

Get More Information About Other TSDF Scholarships

How many scholarships and how much money do you award each year?

The number of scholarships that we award and the amount of each award varies by scholarship from year to year. Last year, we awarded more than $2.7 million to more than 900 students.

How much does it cost to apply for a scholarship?

It does not cost anything to apply for our scholarships, though we do estimate it may take up to 5 hours to complete the application in full.

Unfortunately, scholarship scams which cost money and do not provide any useful scholarship information do exist. Beware of organizations and websites that charge a fee, guarantee that you will receive a scholarship or are sent to you through direct mail or email spam.

Do I have to be a resident of San Diego County to apply for your scholarships?

Most of our awards require San Diego County residency and/or school or college attendance in San Diego County. None of our scholarships are available to foreign students studying outside the United States, or for students attending an institution outside of the United States.

San Diego County residents must have lived in San Diego County for at least one full year before they can apply for our scholarships and they or their parent(s) must file federal income tax returns for the previous year in San Diego County. The only exception is for active members of the military and their dependents, who must have lived in San Diego County for at least one full year before they can apply for our scholarships but may file federal income tax returns for the previous year in another county or state.

Undocumented/CA Dream Act students are able to apply for scholarships which are not ONLY for US citizens and/or permanent residents.

To determine whether you are eligible, you should carefully review the criteria for each scholarship.

I do not qualify for financial aid through my school. Am I still eligible?

Not all of our scholarships are based on financial need. As well, we may determine your financial need differently than your school’s financial aid office. Because of this, we encourage you to apply to financial need-based scholarships if you have at least some financial need.

I am not a straight-A student or athlete. Am I still eligible?

Our scholarships are not solely based on academic merit, athletic ability or leadership experience. Some are based on these criteria but most are geared to applicants with some financial need, participation in community service, extra-curricular activities and/or work experience, a minimum GPA of 2.0 or 2.5, attendance at particular high schools or colleges or specific majors or career goals. Please review the criteria of each fund to see which awards you may be eligible for.

Can I apply for and receive more than one scholarship?

You may apply for as many scholarships as you are eligible for. If you are awarded multiple scholarships, you may accept them. However, if you apply to more than five scholarships for which you are not eligible, your entire application will be disqualified. Please be sure to carefully review the criteria for each award to which you would like to apply.

In the application, you ask for my financial information but my parents have not yet completed their taxes. How should I gather my financial information?

The 2018–19 Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) launched on Oct. 1, 2017. On the FAFSA for the 2018–19 academic year, students (and parents, as appropriate) will report their 2016 income information rather than their 2017 income information. The same change to the Common Scholarship Application’s guideline was made in September 2016 to coordinate with the FAFSA.If you or your parents do not file a federal income tax return, please estimate your Adjusted Gross Income (AGI).

How will my application be evaluated?

All scholarships have different criteria and different priorities. Staff will check your application for basic eligibility and then one of our scholarship selection committees will consider all of the information that you provide in your application, such as your activities, your academics, your financial need and your personal statements.

What are my chances of receiving a scholarship?

The possibility of you receiving a scholarship depends on several factors, including how many applicants are eligible for the scholarship, how many scholarships will be awarded and how competitive the other applicants are. Because of this, we encourage you to apply to all scholarships for which you are eligible and to be thorough and thoughtful in completing your application.

Will I be interviewed during the application process?

We do not conduct interviews for most scholarships,  but some do require a personal interview. If you will be interviewed, we will contact you through email in March or April to schedule a 20-minute interview which is usually held at our office in Point Loma.

When will I be notified about the outcome of my application?

You will be notified whether you are awarded or declined a scholarship. If you are declined a scholarship, you may reapply the following year. If you are awarded a scholarship, we will notify you by June and provide more details on your next steps. Please note that we communicate primarily through email, so if you have ANY email address changes, you MUST update us at

If I am selected as a recipient, how much will I receive?

Awards for each scholarship vary but they range from $1,000 to more than $5,000, with an average award of $2,500. The most common award amount is $1,000. Beginning this year, each scholarship’s “details” page on the Common Scholarship Application will include the number and value of awards, if that information is available.

What will my scholarship pay for?

Depending on the scholarship, it may pay for tuition, room and board, books, fees and/or other related educational expenses. This will be outlined in your award notification.

If I already have all the funding I need for this school year, can I defer my scholarship to next year?

The Community Scholarship Program does not defer scholarships from year to year. Please notify us immediately if you are fully funded for this school year.

Will my scholarship check be sent directly to me?

Scholarship checks are only paid once we have received your required award agreement and any additional necessary verification documents. Scholarship checks are designated for the student and are mailed directly to your school’s financial aid or scholarships office, which will deposit the check and post it to your student account. There are no exceptions to where we send the check. Scholarships are divided into two equal payments – one for the fall semester or quarter and the other for the spring semester or winter quarter.

If I receive a scholarship one year, will I automatically receive it the next year?

Some of our scholarships are renewable for up to four years but others are one-year awards or require that students submit renewal applications the following year. If your scholarship is renewable, you will need to maintain your GPA,  meet any other required criteria and submit required renewal materials for additional payments.

If your scholarship is NOT renewable (i.e. is only for one year) but you remain eligible for it, you may re-apply for it through the Common Scholarship Application.

If I change schools, will my scholarship be transferred to my new school?

Some of our scholarships are limited to certain schools. If you transfer schools, please notify us immediately so we can determine whether you are still eligible for your scholarship. If you are eligible, we will transfer your award to your new school.

Is my scholarship taxable?

Your scholarship may be tax-free if you are a student pursuing a degree at an educational institution and the scholarship pays for tuition, fees, books and supplies that are required of all students in your classes. For more information, consult a tax expert or your school’s financial aid office.

Do I need to pay back my scholarship?

No, you do not need to pay back your scholarship unless you use it for purposes other than those allowed by your scholarship agreement.

Should I still complete the FAFSA?

Yes! We encourage all students seeking aid, regardless of their financial circumstances, to complete the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) to secure the maximum support for their education. Please visit for more information.

Contact Our Scholarships Team

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