Searching for Scholarships
Searching for scholarships is just the beginning of the scholarship application process. But it's also the most important. If you don't know where to search or how to search, the results can be overwhelming. A smart scholarship search involves strategy, and with these tips, you'll be able to effectively find scholarships that you qualify for as well as have a chance of winning.
- Start Searching for Scholarships ASAP. It pays to start your search for scholarships as soon as possible. Many scholarships have early deadlines, even as early as August or September. Start searching for scholarships at an earlier age. Most students don't start searching for scholarships until their senior year in high school. But there are many awards available for students in earlier grades, even junior high school.
When completing a profile on an online scholarship search, be thorough, answering every question. Some of the questions may have a long laundry list of attributes and activities, but it is worthwhile to read through them carefully. A complete profile will often match twice as many awards as a minimal profile. If you have a more complete profile, you will match more awards.
- Apply to as many awards as possible. Apply to every award for which you are qualified, no matter how small the award amount. Every penny helps, and winning an award adds a line to your resume that can help you win other awards. The less lucrative scholarships are often less competitive, so you have a better chance of winning them.
You can't win if you don't apply. Even if you are extremely talented, your chances of winning any particular scholarship are low, since you are competing with many other equally talented applicants. To improve your odds of winning a scholarship, apply to more scholarship competitions. Do not, however, apply for awards for which you do not qualify. It is a waste of your time.
- Seek out less competitive scholarships.
Seek out small local awards that are not listed in most of the national databases and scholarship books – your chances of winning are greater because they are less competitive. Examples include the local PTA scholarship, Dollars for Scholars scholarship, local cultural and religious organizations, local businesses, and your parent's employer.
You can also find information about local awards on bulletin boards at the local public library and outside your guidance counselor or school financial aid office. (The Fastweb scholarship database is particularly thorough about listing small local awards, and encourages all scholarship sponsors to submit information about their awards, even local awards. Fastweb can code those awards to show them only to students who qualify.)
- Beware of scholarship scams.
If a scholarship has an application fee or other required fees, it isn't worth your time and money to apply. At best such "scholarships" are recirculating the fees to the students, and at worst no money is ever awarded. Never invest more than a postage stamp to obtain information about or to apply for a scholarship.
- Ask the school about academic scholarships. Many colleges offer presidential or academic scholarships to attract talented students. This is especially true at second and third tier institutions. You might be able to get a free ride at a college that isn't as well known.
- Ask to be nominated. If a scholarship requires that you be nominated by your school or the local chapter of the organization, find out who is responsible for nominating applicants, and ask them to nominate you. Often the nominator will not have a formal process for selecting a nominee. If the nomination deadline is approaching, sometimes they will nominate you simply because you're the only one who asked. Provide the nominator with a copy of your accomplishments resume.
- Don't forget to renew your scholarship.
If you won a renewable award last year, make sure you satisfy any requirements for retaining it in subsequent years. This may involve maintaining satisfactory academic progress, maintaining a minimum GPA, continuing to study in the same major, retaining full-time enrollment, submitting an annual progress report, and providing a copy of your transcript each year.