This piece is by David Safford.
If you want to win money for college, you have to know how to find scholarships first.
Maybe you’re overwhelmed because there are so many places to look and so many chances to get distracted. Or, perhaps, you’re frustrated because you’ve tried finding scholarships, but haven’t come up with much.
If all this money is supposedly out there, how are you supposed to find it?
Never fear! Everything you need to know about finding awards to win is right here in this post. And the secrets to finding lots of scholarships that you qualify for and can win is a lot easier than you might think.
Let’s dive in!
How to Find Scholarships
While there are tons of ways to focus your scholarship search, there are four primary areas you’ll want to focus your efforts:
- Search Engines
- Your University
- Through Family
Let’s look at each focus area and learn how to start collecting scholarships to win!
1. Use Scholarship Search Engines
Some scholarship-seekers already know how to find scholarships: Search Engines.
Specifically, these search engines gather your personal data, like GPA, extra-curricular activities, and future goals, and go find scholarships that you qualify for. These are a great place to start because they do most of the work for you.
Here are some of the most popular scholarship search engines:
Another great thing about these tools is that parents/guardians can manage them and gather scholarships for you to apply for. That way you spend less time searching and more time writing essays that win.
There are significant drawbacks to using these search engines as your only source of scholarships.
First is that everyone uses these tools and sees many of the same awards you do. That means the competition is going to be numerous and tough. You want to turn the odds in your favor, and that means lowering the number of competitors you’ll be up against.
Another drawback is that the awards you’ll find aren’t always the best for you, in terms of value and fit. In other words, the prizes aren’t always great and your qualifications aren’t always exact, forcing you to write new essays or application data. That’s a major drain on your time and energy.
That’s why you need to start searching in areas that matter most to you in specific and high-paying ways!
2. Search by University
Perhaps the best source of scholarship money will be your college or university.
Schools draw students like you with promises of big bucks in scholarships. All successful universities and colleges, public and private, offer massive awards to students of all backgrounds and areas of interest.
Your job is to find them.
Universities use endowments, donations, and trusts to fund these awards. And each award usually has a purpose. Most of this money will reward students in one of two areas:
The way to find out about these awards is to ask your admissions counselor. If you don’t have an admissions counselor, call the Office of Admissions and start asking the important questions. Look at the website of your intended college or department of study. If you want to study business, find the “School of Business” and search for information about scholarships and student assistance.
A good guideline here is this: “The bigger the school, the deeper you dig.”
Small colleges can usually take more time to match you with scholarship opportunities and entice you to apply. Large universities, however, only court the super valedictorians and most elite sports prospects. You’ll have to dig really dig in order to find the awards you want and then plan to apply for them.
As an example, let me share that this is how I won most of my scholarship money. I attended a small private school and won an academic scholarship for my GPA/test grades. I additionally applied for (and auditioned for) two arts scholarships, winning them both. These college-based scholarships added up to about 50% of my total cost of tuition and other expenses, and I couldn’t have gone to my school of choice without them!
3. Go Local
There is a lot of money in your community, city, or state, just waiting for you to find it and get it.
Local businesses offer scholarships to local students. Organizations, like Rotary, Lion’s Club, and the Veterans of Foreign Wars love to support young men and women in their community. Alumni groups are all around, usually meeting up around football or basketball season, and sometimes offer scholarships to future students at their alma mater.
The best way to get started here is to ask your guidance counselor what he or she knows of. Check your guidance or student services offices for printed scholarships, and look at bulletin boards for announcements with website URLs.
Then continue your work from home. Google your city’s name with the word scholarship. Replace the city name with your state, region, or community. Ask around town, finding managers at local businesses or even branches of “big box” retailers. I won $1,000 through a scholarship offered by a famous “big box” store, all because it was advertised locally.
Just remember that these local groups will want to choose a candidate who represents the best of their values, and of the values of your community. This isn’t the time to run around proclaiming, “I just can’t wait to get out of here!”
4. Interview Your Family
The last place you should really dig deep for scholarship opportunities might surprise you: Your family.
What you specifically want to look for falls mostly into three categories:
- Medical History
- Employment and Trades
- Military Service
First, family members with serious medical issues often qualify you (as a relative or child) for awards.
I won such an award because my father has a bleeding disorder. While I don’t have it myself, he does, and the award could be given to the child of someone with such a disorder. I wrote a shiny essay about my father’s bravery, and found myself a winner!
Second, ask about family membership in various careers and trades. Is anyone close to you a police officer, fire fighter, nurse, or teacher? This might qualify you for some awards. Are any family members Free Masons or Shriners? Scholarships are out there from these organizations, as well.
And third, find out if there is a military history in your family that you maybe haven’t learned about yet. Lots of scholarships reward military servicemen and women, and their families, for their sacrifices. Some of these come from the government itself, while others do not. Your job is to identify (with great specificity) how and when your family member served, and to use that information to go find awards.
By interviewing your family, you will not only learn some wonderful information about your heritage, but you will discover opportunities to pay for college that you never would have considered!
Look Everywhere, Then Look Again
There are even more places and ways to look for scholarships.
But these four focus areas will get you started on the path to winning! The key is to be persistent and never give up, even when you feel like you’ve looked everywhere.
It doesn’t hurt to look in the same places again and again, either. Has it been a month since you last spoke to your guidance counselor? Go see him or her again. Haven’t refreshed your list of scholarships on a search engine? Better go do that!
There is so much money out there that can all be yours if you’re willing to work hard enough to find it. And now you know where to look.
Go get it!