Finding tuition money isn’t something you want to put off until the last minute. Many college-bound teens start looking for scholarship funds before they ever reach their senior year in high school. In today’s world of internet, Wi-Fi, and mobile devices, you can start looking online — any time and from anywhere.
Before anything else, complete the Free Application for Federal Student Aid, or FAFSA (https://fafsa.ed.gov/), to see what grants you might qualify for. This can help to point you in the right direction for locating scholarships you might otherwise have missed.
Don’t get discouraged. Most students apply for many scholarships before getting approved. The best way to shorten your search is to set specific personal goals and stick to them.
Don’t join a paid service right away; it won’t necessarily find your scholarship sooner. The truth is that there are many free scholarships online, and you should focus there first.
Scholarship Search Engines
- Scholarship Experts (http://www.scholarshipexperts.com/)
This online scholarship finder was created back in 2000 by a group of students, parents, and faculty from various schools. They provide accurate information on a variety of scholarships while ensuring user privacy.
To get your tailored results, you have to go online and fill out forms to create a user profile. One submitted, all you have to do is return and check the listings. Many of these scholarships have applications that you can download and submit by email.
It may be an odd name, but it’s an excellent service. Zinch has a unique approach, but lists more than $1 billion in available scholarships. The search for a scholarship is only part of what they do.
Joining this site also makes your student profile accessible to scholarship and other funding sources that may be looking for someone like you.
You can establish useful connections with schools from around the world, and interact on-site. This “social” scholarship site was created by other college students as a free resource.
- FindTuition (http://www.findtuition.com/tp2/ft/home.do)
According to their site, they maintain a database of about 1.7 million scholarships at a total of $7 billion or more.
Like the other sites, you have to fill out a profile to start searching. But they also do more than match you to scholarships. Their services include application tracking, deadline reminders, access to lending sources, and other financial help.
- Peterson’s (http://www.petersons.com/college-search/scholarship-search.aspx)
They’ve been helping students search for a scholarship since the 1960s. Now, in addition to an online database, they offer free test prep material, college searches, career tools, and a number of books and services to advance education.
It’s a very user-friendly site that doesn’t require you to create a profile. You can search through a variety of products, tools, and over $1.5 million in grants and scholarships.
Other Online Sources
There are many more reputable sites that help students or their parents to track down and apply for scholarships. Some important scholarship resources to check out are CollegeBoard.org and FastWeb.com. The U.S. Department of Education has a number of useful resources on its own website (https://studentaid.ed.gov/sa/types/grants-scholarships/finding-scholarships). And of course, Google, Bing, Yahoo, and the rest will also turn up plenty of results that could be of help.
But be wary; scholarship searches will turn out a number of scams, as well. In today’s internet world, once you start searching, you’re liable to be bombarded with emails and advertisements related to scholarships. Before you apply for any of these, and before giving out any personal information, take steps to see whether they’re legit.
If you’ve won a scholarship you never applied for, or they ask for fees or deposits upfront, you should immediately start thinking “scam.” Look for feedback or reviews about any suspicious “scholarship.” Try to exhaust your own search efforts rather than waste time sifting through random offers that seem too good to be true.
Genuine scholarships don’t ask about repayment; they are a gift from helpful companies, organizations, schools, churches, and philanthropists. There are thousands of them made available every year. One of them could be yours.
Free Scholarship Searches
The truth is, an internet search may turn up hundreds of sites claiming that they can help with your scholarship search. Some are more effective than others. But altogether they direct you to scholarships, awards, and prizes worth billions. Look for a site with a good list of choices, but one that you feel comfortable with.
Without the right search criteria, you may be looking through dozens of listings to find even one that seems like a good match.
Be sure to check first for any conditions regarding specific types of student, such as those of a certain gender, income, or geographic area. Understand whether the scholarship applies to only traditional colleges, online schools, or both.
Here are some legitimate sources that are completely free, but have certain scholarship eligibility features you might find useful for your situation.
- Guaranteed-Scholarships (http://www.guaranteed-scholarships.com): This site lists scholarships provided by individual colleges, but they are intended for previously enrolled students who may have to meet various criteria.
- Scholarship Owl (https://scholarshipowl.com): No profiles here; a quick questionnaire and you’re matched with scholarships. The best part is this site applies to your choice of scholarships for you.
- Chegg (http://www.chegg.com/scholarships): Chegg is one of those search sites that will send you notices on scholarship deadlines, and let you download additional information relating to the scholarships you apply to.
- Career One Stop (http://www.careerinfonet.org): This is a scholarship search site like most others, but this one is provided by the U.S. Department of Labor.
- School Soup (http://www.schoolsoup.com/): This site may take the prize with $32 billion worth of scholarships to claim.
- SuperCollege (http://www.supercollege.com): This search site is sponsored by a group of Harvard alumni who also publish books on planning for college.
- Study Abroad Funding (http://www.studyabroadfunding.org/): This scholarship site specializes in overseas schools. If a foreign college sounds like an adventure, you can search by subject or by country.
- International Education Financial Aid (http://www.iefa.org/): An online resource for financial aid, grant, and scholarship information available to U.S. and international students seeking their education in schools around the globe.
- CollegeNet/Mach 25 (http://www.collegenet.com/mach25/app): This site claims that they have over 600,000 scholarship awards to search through.
- United Negro Scholarship Fund (http://www.uncf.org): Now this one you should be familiar with.
Applying for Scholarships
The wide variety of scholarship awards each have their own criteria for scholarship eligibility, and specific requirements on the applications.
Keep the following in mind as you start searching:
- Some may be particular about how the funds are used, such as specified time frames, allocation of funds, or limitations based on income.
- Many scholarship awards may require submission of an essay, project, or minimum score on a specific exam.
- Some scholarships are paid directly to the college, not to you.
- Certain conditions such as failure to meet minimum grades, or lying on an application, could lead to forfeiture of the scholarship.
Don’t wait for a response on one application before sending out the next one; having multiple options is the best possible scenario. Now that you know where to start looking, you’re on your way to a free education.