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Top Tips for Finding College Scholarships

Paying for college may seem like a daunting task. Tuition prices are going up nationwide. The College Board reported an average increase of $7,000 in annual tuition over the past ten years. This does not even include the increased cost of living for students who move out. College scholarships might provide some relief from this financial burden.

Many world coins in saving money jar with college label on jar, concept to financial planning for kids

There are a lot of ways for students to offset these costs. Many students take out loans. However, scholarships are the preferred way to pay for college as they do not have to be repaid after graduation. 

Scholarships are available from a variety of sources. Universities provide their own awards for prospective and current students alike. These scholarships can be found on the university website.  Considering these scholarships should be an essential part of choosing a college to attend.

A lot of third-party scholarships are also available. These scholarships come from private companies and organizations who want to support students. They have their own specific requirements. Many scholarships require an essay submission. Others forms of presentation like videos, poetry, or graphic design also exist. 

There are also a lot of types of scholarships. Merit-based scholarships look at the achievements of students while needs-based scholarships have financial requirements. 

High school students, especially seniors, should spend a substantial amount of time looking for and applying to scholarships. Here are our top tips for finding scholarships and potentially offsetting the costs of college:

1. Ask counselors and teachers

Counselors and teachers are often the first to hear about new scholarships. They are often encouraged to recommend students to particular programs as well. 

Many high schools have dedicated counselors whose role involves matching students to scholarships. Because they know the student and have access to their academic record, teachers and counselors can make informed scholarship recommendations. They often will have statistics on past winners as well and may be able to provide specific application tips. 

2. College scholarship : Use a scholarship search engine

There are a lot of dedicated search engines to help students find scholarships. Some of the most popular are Fastweb and BigFuture. Different search engines have different pros and cons, so it is beneficial to use more than one. 

These search engines will ask students to input basic information like GPA, major, and extracurriculars. This information will be used by the algorithm  to match students to scholarships that meet their interests. The search results can also be filtered to show needs or merit-based scholarships. 

Many search engines also have features to help students organize their applications. These features allow students to mark when they have applied to a scholarship and reminds them to check and see if they have won. Often, marking what scholarships a student has applied to also helps the engine recommend better scholarships. 

3. Search for local scholarships

Often, local companies or organizations will provide their own scholarships. While these scholarships may be smaller, fewer people generally apply to them. This means that students will have a greater chance of winning as compared to a national scholarship. 

To find these, try looking at the webpages of local businesses. Companies that might offer their own scholarships include law offices, medical centers, or city governments. Large organizations like the Rotary Club may also offer regional scholarships only open to local students. 

The best way to find these scholarships is to look on your high school website. Counselors and teachers may also have recommendations for students. City bulletin boards or information websites often provide scholarship information as well. Stutorialz’s article on A Student’s Guide to a Full Ride Scholarship mentions some of the sought after scholarships.

4. Find a specific niche

No matter what your student enjoys or identifies with, there is likely a scholarship for them. Interesting scholarships range from the student’s height, books they like to read, and their poetry skills. Go through all your student’s hobbies and traits and search for scholarships related to them. You may be surprised at what you find!

Focusing on your student’s specific strengths in the scholarship search will also mean they have a higher chance of winning. Knowing your student’s abilities and interests will help curate a better scholarship application list. 

5. Be aware of scholarship scams

Unfortunately, there are a lot of scams in the scholarship world. Scammers know that families rely on scholarships to be able to pay for college and exploit this necessity. Sometimes it can be hard to detect if a scholarship is a scam. However, there are some general ideas to keep in mind. 

A scholarship application should never ask for financial information. Needs-based scholarships may require income information, but ensure that personal information like social security numbers are not required. 

An application fee for a scholarship should also be a red flag. Scholarships are, by definition, free money for college. An application fee negates the purpose and is a large indicator of a scam. 

You should also be wary of any emails that say you have won a scholarship before you have actually applied. Especially when students are applying to a lot of scholarships, it is beneficial to keep a spreadsheet. This ensures that any “acceptance” emails received are actually from scholarships your student has applied to. 

If you have any doubts about the legitimacy of a scholarship, search it online. Try to find other websites or scholarship search engines that list it. Or, look for information about previous winners. If there is any reason why you think a scholarship is not legitimate, it is better to be safe than sorry. 

With these tips in mind, finding scholarships to apply to is a breeze. But, of course, that is just where the process starts. Building a strong application and applying widely and often is also important. 

Every scholarship often has many more students applying than awards available. Thus, it is highly recommended to apply to as many scholarships as possible. The more care put into choosing scholarships and the more scholarships applied to, the higher the chances of winning a few. Even a smaller award, like $500, can add up to be a big offset for tuition. 

Don’t wait, now is the time to make sure your student is ready before their exam!

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