How To Find College Scholarships

I didn’t want to write a post that included advice on the college search without adding another one on college scholarships. Again, I’m no expert: I’m just a mom of two teenagers who does a lot of research and keeps her eyes open. That said, maybe you are looking for ways to make college less expensive and can use any help you can get. So there we are.

In no particular order, here are some tips on finding money for school:

Check your high school’s website.
Our high school has a really great website and part of it contains everything you would want to know about locally-based scholarships like those given by the Junior Women’s Club, the city’s police department, and other local entities. All of the prerequisites, entry dates, and other details for multiple scholarships being in one place is a huge time-saver.

Sign up for scholarship websites.
There are a few good websites out there that will find college scholarships FOR you once you register and fill out a lengthy profile which includes all kinds of things from your religion to whether there are veterans in the family to all kinds of other things. The more information you can provide, the more scholarship possibilities you can end up with. These sites will provide all of the information you need to decide if each scholarship is a fit for you, and you will be able to click the hot links to get to the scholarships’ sites directly from there. You can also keep track of which scholarships you’ve discarded and which you’ve applied for. Here are a couple of websites we’ve used, and FYI I have no affiliation with any of them: FastWeb, Big Future Scholarship Search by the College Board, and our FAVORITE due to its user-friendliness and fun design, Zinch.

Check the scholarships offered by colleges themselves.
Colleges do offer scholarships to prospective (and current, and transfer) students. Check with the financial aid office to get more information. As I mentioned in my last post, private colleges offer all kinds of scholarships that can bring the total cost of attending down to that of a public university. Look for merit scholarships, which are based on high school grades and ACT/SAT test scores as well as scholarships for students who excel that can be won by having a stellar school and extracurricular record and then interviewing with college staff. Other scholarships which can be found via a prospective college involve the kind that are won by auditioning (as in the case of music and art), trying out (sports) and testing (foreign languages and math). Beyond those, colleges sometimes also offer scholarships that are for local high school students, relatives of alumni, residents of that city, and a myriad of other categories.

Use Google.
I knew, once D was on his way to becoming an Eagle Scout, that there had to be a scholarship out there for Jewish Eagle Scouts. I Googled “Jewish Eagle Scout Scholarships” and found two! Google knows just about everything.

Take the PSAT to qualify for a National Merit Scholarship.

Hat tip to Mrs. 4444 on this one because I forgot all about it: by taking the PSAT NO LATER THAN JUNIOR YEAR, students can qualify for this scholarship program. Read more about it here. Missed the test junior year? You’re out of luck.

Check with your employer.
Sometimes large companies offer college scholarships to the children of employees. It’s worth checking!

Complete the FAFSA every year.
It’s not fun, but completing the Free Application for Federal Student Aid each and every year (starting the year of college entry) is one of the ways to let the college know how much need your family has. This can affect work-study jobs, too.

Once you’ve found scholarships, here are some strategies:

Be organized about when everything is due.
Whether you use a notebook or your online calendar, make sure to stay on top of deadlines. Late turn-ins are not accepted!

Don’t think that the “click to enter” scholarships have great odds.

As with anything else, taking the easy way out doesn’t always yield great results. EVERYONE is going to enter the “scholarships” that involve only a click or two. It’s the scholarships that require time and effort that are tedious, yes, but also less competitive because all of the lazy people will refrain from entering. Sure, it’s disappointing to put forth time and effort with no guarantees, but it’s better to try for it than not. You can’t win if you don’t enter.

Make sure to follow directions.
If you don’t do what the rules say, your scholarship entry will likely be disqualified. Why take the chance?

Treat the hunt for college scholarships as a job at which you make money.
Not all teens are industrious and excited about looking for and doing the work for college scholarships. The way we got D to do it (and I will be having the same discussion with J very soon) is to tell him to think of it like a job. In order to make money, you have to work. Winning college scholarships isn’t easy and often it’s not fun. Cashing scholarship checks (and possibly finishing college with no–or fewer–loans) is enough to make a person become very thankful that they put in the effort.

The rumor is that there are millions of dollars in scholarships that go unclaimed every year. I couldn’t find a source that could confirm that, but I do know that when we toured a local community college a couple of years ago, we were told that they were ready to give away book scholarships to five freshmen each year, and the year before not one person applied for them. Is that the school’s fault for not publicizing? Possibly. It just goes to show you that asking all kinds of questions is a pretty good idea.

I hope this was helpful to some of you. I may have missed something. If I did, please leave it in the comments. Thanks!