If you play your cards right, finding scholarships for college can take a huge load off the financial burden of secondary education. Whether you are trying to put yourself through college or getting financial help from family, who would want to turn down free money?
Depending on where you live, local scholarships are going to be the easiest to get. If you can apply for as many local scholarships as possible, they could be your best bet. Even in small towns, there are probably more scholarships than you think.
If you’re in high school, you can check with your counselor’s office or your teachers; they should be able to help you find lots of scholarship applications and will probably be the most motivated to help you apply. Your teachers might know about some scholarships too and can help you out with the application process and writing letters of recommendation.
If you’re looking for more or aren’t in high school, you can also reach out to your community for scholarship opportunities. Organizations like the Rotary Club, Elk’s Lodge, Girl/ Boy Scouts, etc., might all have scholarships that don’t get advertised too much online.
Even if you don’t qualify to apply for the scholarships, you can still apply for them anyway. Sometimes you can get lucky if you have a good application but are only missing one or two of the qualifications. Compelling essays could be enough for them to overlook a few things like being a year too old or too young.
Once you’ve tapped out your school, teachers, and community, you can also turn to your family. Many employers have scholarship programs that are only available to employees or their families. If you have a job, you can ask your boss or human resources manager too. These scholarships are usually only open once a year, so be mindful of deadlines.
Not every employer will have a scholarship program, but even if they don’t, it never hurts to let people know you’re looking for opportunities. They might let you know about scholarships they come across or put in a word for you with someone who does know. Finding scholarships isn’t as hard as you might think; you just need to commit to putting yourself out there.
Look Through Your Intended College or University
Once you know where you want to go to school, it can be easier to find scholarships. Some colleges offer incentives for students with high GPAs in high school automatically. Sometimes in acceptance letters, they will even mention these grants to entice you into going to their school.
Sadly, the more elite the school is, the less likely they are to automatically offer these kinds of grants, but it’s a nice bonus if the school you want to go to already offers something like this. Many state schools will have these kinds of incentives, and you can always ask if they do if you’re not sure.
Once you have been accepted into your chosen college, it is a good idea to contact the financial aid department next. They should be able to point you in the right direction for a lot of scholarships specific to your chosen college that won’t be available online.
Financial advisors might even know if there are specific departmental scholarships that could interest you. Or they can help you reach out to the advisors of certain educational departments who would know more about department scholarships, too; there are usually a bunch of those.
There are many scholarships out there set up by different foundations for specific industries and careers, so this is a huge resource you want to look into. Whether you want to be a journalist, engineer, doctor, lawyer, artist, dancer, or almost anything else, there’s a scholarship out there.
If you’ve reached out to everyone you know and even contacted your college about scholarships but haven’t been able to find as many as you’d like, don’t worry, this is the digital age, after all—loads of opportunities waiting at the click of a button.
The downside to using the internet for scholarships is that a lot more people can apply for them, which makes it harder to stand out and get the scholarship. Even if there are more people to compete with, there are nearly endless possibilities.
FOR EXAMPLE, the US Department of Labor has a free-to-use scholarship search tool with thousands of scholarships to apply for. There are even filters you can use if you’re looking for something specific, and since each scholarship will have gone through the Department of Labor, you can rest easy knowing you’ll be avoiding scams.
The Department of Labor’s website also includes the deadline for each scholarship upfront and the organization offering the money, which is nice. You won’t have to wonder where the money is coming from, and if an interview is involved, you can do your research upfront.
If you’ve taken an AP test, you’ve probably heard of the second website I’m going to talk about. That’s right, Collegeboard.org also has a great list of scholarships. It’s nice because CollegeBoard has many of the same features the Department of Labor’s website does and will also provide a personalized list of recommended scholarships.
CollegeBoard also has the same filters that let you find scholarships based on state, keywords, etc. You may have to apply on a different website, but you’ll be able to see pretty much everything you need to know through CollegeBoard first.
When Should You Apply?
Most deadlines for scholarships are at the beginning of March, but some are open throughout the year. Do early research and figure out when applications start accepting and when their deadlines are. Organize what and when you want to apply to keep things easier in the long run.
Many students also stop applying for scholarships after their first year of college, which means competitively, any scholarships unavailable to high school students are a lot easier to get. College students don’t pay as much attention to getting scholarships, which you can use to your advantage.
It may sound hellish to continually apply for scholarships when the applications are so tough to fill out but trust me, every penny is worth it. Student loan debt is not something you want any more than you absolutely need. Writing one more essay now is way better than taking on another $2,000 you have to pay back later.
Remember that finding scholarships is only the first step. Next up is actually applying for them. In a sense, a scholarship application isn’t too different from a job application. You’re going to be selling yourself, explaining why your application is most deserving, possibly doing some interviews, and you may need to provide letters of recommendation.
Even if you decide that you don’t really need the money (although again, who would want to turn down free money???), you can use scholarship applications as practice for job applications. Lucky for you, we have a bunch of blogs about job hunting too! If you need help filling out applications, the National Society of High School Scholars has a great page full of tips.
Preparing for college can be overwhelming; trust us, we know. Try not to sweat the big picture and focus on the little things you can tackle every day. Finding a handful of applications to fill out each day or each week feels pretty great when it leads to hundreds or thousands of dollars you don’t have to pay yourself.
Finding scholarships for college isn’t that hard if you know where to look. Asking people at your high school, in your community, your family, and your employer is a great start. You can also find a bunch of resources online with a few keywords in Google.
Do you have any experience looking for scholarships? Share your experiences below!
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