Written by Jordan Schanda, Owner and Co-Founder of ScholarPrep.org
With the average student graduating college with more debt each year ($37,172 in 2016), pressure is on parents and students to find and win scholarships to cover some of the costs.
If you’re like everyone else, you’re probably wondering where to start your search. In fact, that is one of the questions we hear most often: how can we actually find college scholarships?
TIP: Seniors should start their search as soon as possible. Also keep in mind that there are scholarships out there for high school juniors!
To help you get started, we have put together answers to your top questions.
Where should I look for scholarships?
You have to search locally and online for scholarships.
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.
These local scholarships typically have far fewer applicants than other 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.
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.
Don’t forget to check with the colleges and universities where you are applying. They will have scholarship opportunities for incoming freshman, transfer students, and continuing students. They will probably also have a list of department (major) specific scholarships and private/outside scholarship opportunities.
What if I don’t receive any scholarships from the college or university I want to attend?
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, affiliations and career aspirations. Examples of these include:
- Civic organizations
- Faith based organizations (Church, synagogie, mosque, temple, etc…)
- 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
Where is the best place to look for scholarships online?
When taking your search online, there are several legitimate websites that can help you find college scholarships. Some of the most well-known include:
- College Prowler
- Scholarship Monkey
- The College Board
Now all you have to do is start your search, compile your list, fill out the applications and be mindful of the deadlines.
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!
Be thorough in your search and best of luck, but don’t forget about the importance of planning! Understand the obstacles that exist for students when they are applying and start preparing for this process early.
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