This article was originally written for FirstGenerationStudent.com, now a part of ImFirst.org.
The Who, What and How of Scholarships
As you apply to college, you also should be thinking about searching for scholarships. Many of the largest national scholarships will have the earliest deadlines, sometimes as early as October the year before you start college, so it’s better to start searching and applying before you’ve even been accepted to college.
When it comes to searching for scholarships, here are some important tips:
1) Start local. Check with your high school’s guidance office and the public library in your city or town. Both usually keep a listing of local scholarships. While local scholarships may be small, $500 to $1,000 can really begin to add up. Also, the pool for local scholarships will be much smaller than the pool for national scholarships, increasing your chances of being awarded one.
2) You may be a member of an organization that offers scholarships. Do you belong to a religious organization? Are your parents members of a local club like the Rotary Club? Make sure you check with these organizations, including your parents’ employers or your employer, because they may offer scholarships.“You should never have to pay to apply for a reputable scholarship, nor should you have to pay for a scholarship search.”
3) Check with the colleges or universities where you are applying. In many cases, you’ll be considered for institutional scholarships when you apply to a specific college. For some schools, scholarship consideration also will depend on the information you put on your financial aid application. Make sure you contact your school and search its website to make sure you are considered for all institutional scholarships. In some cases, you may have to fill out a separate application.
4) For national scholarships, use a personalized search engine. There are many websites available to help you search for regional and national scholarships according to your qualifications. These websites let you fill out a profile with very specific questions regarding your demographics and various achievements. Then the website will let you know about the scholarship opportunities available to you and will send you emails with new opportunities as time passes. Here are some of the top scholarship search websites (in no particular order):
- Scholarship America (http://scholarshipamerica.org/students.php)
- Fastweb (http://www.fastweb.com/)
- College Board’s Scholarship Search (https://bigfuture.collegeboard.org/scholarship-search)
- The Scholarship Page (http://www.scholarship-page.com/)
- CollegeNET (http://www.collegenet.com/mach25/app)
- Scholarships.com (http://www.scholarships.com/)
Things to be aware of with scholarships
- You should never have to pay to apply for a reputable scholarship, nor should you have to pay for a scholarship search.
- Since scholarship searches are very popular, there are many websites and services that try to scam students. It’s important to be aware of these scams. Please visit http://www.finaid.org for more information.
- Be sure to ask your college’s financial aid office about its scholarship process. This is crucial since some colleges and universities will reduce other financial aid they’ve given you if you are awarded an outside scholarship. You must always report any outside scholarships to your college.
- Remember, some scholarships are taxable, and if you are awarded a scholarship, it is up to you to read all the fine print!
- Many scholarships are not renewable. For scholarships that are renewable for multiple years, you’ll often have to meet certain requirements like keeping good grades. Make sure you understand the terms and conditions of any scholarship offer before you sign on the dotted line.