One of the questions I hear most often is: how can we actually find scholarships?
So, here’s my best advice and top resources for finding and winning scholarships.
First, it’s important to know that there are four main sources of scholarships:
- The college or university you will attend
- The department that houses your major
- Local organizations and businesses
- Organizations and businesses nationwide
As I walk you through each of these sources, keep in mind that some of these tips are for seniors who are already applying to college (or have maybe already been accepted – congrats!). Other tips are applicable to ALL students (junior high, high school or college).
The college or university you will attend
You will likely automatically be considered for these scholarships when you apply; however, check with your school because you may have to submit a separate application.
The department that houses your major/minor
One of the reasons why it is important to declare your major freshman year is because it makes you eligible for scholarships from your department. Check their website for scholarship opportunities, which will require a separate application (you won’t automatically be entered to win these when you apply for admission).
Local organizations and businesses
I split up local and non-local sources because the way you find these can vary.
Finding local scholarship opportunities has become easier in recent years because of the internet. However, you may still have to make phone calls, visit businesses and read your local newspaper to cover all of your bases.
The best place to start is with your guidance counselor and even the counselors at other local schools. They are experts on college scholarship opportunities and will be able to point you in the right direction. Find out if they post these online or if they have an email list you can join. For some, you may need to call or stop by periodically to see if there are new scholarship opportunities available.
You can also check with the local colleges in your area. Typically, they will have a list of scholarships available to students in the region, regardless of where you actually attend school.
Why is searching locally so important?
Local scholarships have far fewer applicants than national or college specific scholarship opportunities. It’s important to find all of these scholarships, even if they are smaller awards. They are usually less competitive and just a few small scholarships will add up quickly.
Sources of local college scholarships include:
- Community foundations
- Local businesses
- Local chapters of national, state or international organizations
- State and local governments
A quick google search and some phone calls will help you put together a great list of local scholarship opportunities. Make sure you add them to our handy dandy scholarship tracking spreadsheet so that you can stay organized and never miss a deadline.
BONUS TIP: Get your parents involved by asking them to make a list of potential sources based on the ideas above. They might also want to ask around town about sources that may have been overlooked.
Organizations and business nationwide
There are so many scholarships out there. In fact, there may be as many scholarships as there are students. Personal attributes or life experiences are often eligibility requirements for student specific scholarships. Examples include students who are:
- First generation college students
- American Indians
- Immigrants or have immigrant parents
- Minorities or under-represented populations
- Parents, especially single-parents
- Handicapped or disabled
- Children of Alumni
- Adopted or were in foster care
- Victims of tragedy, loss or illness
- Veterans or have veteran parents
- And many more…
When searching for college scholarships, be sure to also think about your interests, community involvement, memberships, affiliations and career aspirations. Examples of these include:
- Civic organizations
- Eagle Scouts
- Boys & Girls Club
- High school clubs and organizations (FBLA, FCCLA, DECA, FFA, etc…)
- National Merit Scholarship (Did you take the PSAT junior year?)
- Varsity sports
- Musical or artistic abilities
- College majors
- Future career or profession
I have three favorite sources for finding scholarships:
I like google because you can search using keywords, like those listed above. For instance, if one of your hobbies is operating a ham radio, try searching “college scholarships for ham radio operators.” This is a real example that turned up a list of 80 scholarships for one of my students.
JLV College Counseling is a great site because you can search for scholarships by grade, age, interest, characteristics and more. She also keeps it current so you know they are scholarships still available.
The Ultimate Book of Scholarships on Amazon is a great resource for families because parents can flag scholarships when they have down time, like sitting at the doctor’s office, getting their oil changed, or waiting for kids to get done with practice.
Now all you have to do is start your search, compile your list, fill out the applications and be mindful of the deadlines. Make sure you stay organized by using our handy dandy scholarship tracking spreadsheet.
TIP: Try to think of searching for scholarships as a job. It may take you a total of 10 hours to find a scholarship, fill out the application, write the essay and submit all of the required materials. If you receive that $750 scholarship, you would have made $75 per hour!
- Our handy dandy scholarship tracking spreadsheet
- Where to look for scholarships blog post
- My favorite list of scholarships
- The best scholarship book on Amazon (okay, this one isn’t free, but it’s cheap and a great resource if you prefer searching for scholarships in a book vs. online)
Interview: How to Win Scholarships for College with Access 2 Admissions CEO Elisa Buckner