You can look as early as you want!
I agree with Gabriel's advice.
Some more tips I will add are:
#1. Start off with finding scholarships locally - in your school district or local businesses.
Online scholarships are great. They just have more competition. [Since it's visible to thousands of people, thousands of people are trying to get it]. Finding scholarships where you live means you may face less competition for them. [For instance, local banks sometimes like to offer money!]
In your case, here's some good websites to start with!
#2. Maintain your GPA, and if possible take the SAT/ACT.
A good GPA to aim for is 3.5. Most college students earn around a 3.5 for their bachelor's degrees.
Currently --- Most colleges do not use the SAT/ACT anymore for admission requirements.
However, a lot of colleges use test scores for 𝘴𝘤𝘩𝘰𝘭𝘢𝘳𝘴𝘩𝘪𝘱𝘴.
If you care about money, I recommend practicing for these tests and trying to earn a test score that meets the scholarship requirements you're looking for.
Sending you encouragement with finding scholarships for college! :)
I would start looking when you become a junior in high school. Also, don't get discouraged if you do not get the first few scholarships that you apply for. After applying many times, I did not get my first scholarship until after the ninth try. If they were easy then everyone would be getting one! Also, many students go after the "big scholarships" but those are usually harder to obtain and get handed out far fewer times. My strategy was to get a handful of small to medium size scholarships that would add up to a large scholarship. Even though this is more work for you these small/medium size scholarships are usually easier and universities/donors hand them out more frequently.
I know it can be frustrating at times but you can do it and remember to keep moving forward!
Longer answer - The timeline varies depending on your goals. Knowledge is a powerful tool. The more you learn before the scholarship/grant application deadline, the better prepared you'll be. If you belong to specific demographics, search for programs and scholarships that support those groups. As some people might point out, you could receive scholarship offers based on your standardized test scores.
School counselors are experts in guiding students to find suitable scholarships, so don't hesitate to rely on them. Their assistance can make the entire process much more manageable.
You should start looking now. And I say that without knowing what grade in school you are or anything. Start now. If you happen to be a sophomore in high school, it doesn't hurt for you to look just to get a peek at what is out there.
Number one...never PAY to apply for a scholarship. If anyone claims to want to give money away but is asking for you to give them your money...scam. Run away.
Number two...there are sites like fastweb.com or scholarships.com that will help you with your search. These services are free, but the trade-off is a bit of spam. I would recommend you create an e-mail account....gmail, yahoo...whatever...JUST for the purpose of scholarship searches. If you use your everyday e-mail you might get tired of the adverts and just unsubscribe. If you have a dedicated account you can go in once a week and not be bombarded in your everyday life.
Number three...do not be afraid to "represent" yourself honestly. There are scholarships out there based on major, but many are offered to students of a specific gender, ethnicity, race - and many are offered to kids who are not just first-time freshman. So make sure you apply the entire time.
Number four...finally, do not be afraid to "over-share" your personal bio with admissions at whatever universities you are interested in. The university I work at has many scholarships from private donors. But the recipients they are looking for are based on criteria that the usual college application does not capture. We don't ask about religion or specific country of heritage - but some scholarships are awarded based on that. So ask whatever schools you are looking at about any endowed scholarships and criteria.
Again, grain of salt...but it is never too early. Hope I was able to help a little bit. And just make sure you fill out the FAFSA form as early as you can!!!!
You got this!