Tuesday, May 28, 2024

How to Find Scholarships for College: Top Tips for a Successful Search

No need to scramble around in the dark when you've got these A+ tips on finding college scholarships 😎

Getting your bachelor’s degree with little student debt may sound ambitious, but it’s absolutely possible when you know how to find scholarships for college. 

Securing a college scholarship can reduce (or, in some cases, completely remove) hefty college costs and student debts hanging over your head. And guess what, they’re not just for students with good grades! 😉

Cast a wide net in your search as we spell out all the best tips for finding college scholarships. 🏅 

Understand What Kinds of Scholarships Are Available

A smiling female incoming college freshman gives a thumbs up while holding the documentary requirements for different scholarship programs
Are you the first to attend college in your family or from another country who dreams of studying in the US? You can bet there’s a scholarship catering to those qualifications. Photo: user18526052/Freepik

Contrary to popular belief, college scholarships aren’t exclusive to students with straight As. There are many scholarships up for grabs for people from different backgrounds (where there may be less competition). 

It’s even possible to apply to more than one and stack ‘em up! Just make sure your college accepts those arrangements so your efforts in applying don’t get wasted. 💰

Both private organizations and the government offer different types of scholarships. It’s time to find your niche below: 

Scholarship TypeTarget Recipients
Athletic ScholarshipsStudent-athletes excelling in sports
Community Service ScholarshipsStudents with outstanding commitment to community service
Field-Specific ScholarshipsStudents pursuing degrees in specific fields of study (e.g., STEM, business, education, healthcare, humanities, social sciences, creative arts)
First-Generation ScholarshipsStudents who are the first in their families to attend college
International Student ScholarshipsInternational students who plan to study in the US
Legacy ScholarshipsChildren or grandchildren of alumni of a particular college or university
Merit-Based ScholarshipsStudents with exceptional academic and/or extracurricular achievements
Military and Veteran ScholarshipsCurrent and former military personnel, veterans, and their dependents
Minority or Ethnic ScholarshipsUnderrepresented minority groups (e.g., African Americans, Hispanic/Latino, Native Americans, Asian Americans, Pacific Islanders)
Need-Based ScholarshipsStudents with financial needs

READ MORE: 15 College-Ready Tips for International Students in the US

Talk With Your School Guidance Counselor

A female African-American high school student consults with their female African-American guidance counselor in finding scholarships for college
Your career counselor can identify your strengths and weaknesses to help you choose the best scholarship program. Photo: stefamerpik/Freepik

The first person to approach while you’re searching for college scholarships is your guidance counselor. It’s part of their job to guide you in your academic and personal goals, so they’ll most likely know which available scholarships match your situation. 💡

Plus, counselors can advise whether your plans can be achieved by attending college or through other practical alternatives, like enrolling in trade school

Contact Your Target School’s Financial Aid Office

A male Caucasian college student calls the financial aid office of his university for updates on scholarship programs and renewals
Maximize your scholarship search by asking all possible questions from your guidance counselor and college’s financial aid offices to get all the information you need for affordable education. Photo: cookie_studio/Freepik

The financial aid offices of colleges do exactly what their name says: they prepare scholarships, loans, and other funding options to help you afford college based on the information from your accomplished Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). 📃

Once you have been accepted at your target college, you can receive a financial aid award letter detailing your expected family contribution, estimated cost of attendance for one year, and different sources you can tap into to help you pay for higher education, including scholarships. 

In case you’re overwhelmed, the financial aid office tracks available scholarship options and recommends strategies to help minimize debt, assist you with filling out paperwork, and provide other solutions. ✅

Good to know: Students may need to visit their college’s financial aid office to annually renew existing scholarship funding options or to ask them for help in dealing with the delays in receiving disbursements. 

Check for Local and National College Scholarships

A female high school senior is typing "finding scholarship tips" in her online research
Attaining scholarships and grants for college is possible as long as you prepare early and do diligent research. Photo: yanalya/Freepik

When starting your search, you can look towards prestigious and highly competitive national scholarships from organizations and government agencies or start digging through local scholarships.

How to Find Local Scholarships

Let’s cut to the chase: local scholarships are generally less competitive with fewer eligibility requirements compared to national scholarships — making it more likely to win one. 👍

However, you have to do some sleuthing since they’re not heavily advertised nor do they accept online applications. Ask your high school guidance counselor or your dream college’s financial aid office first to cut down your search time. You can even inquire about which types of college scholarships are received by recent alumni through the counselor or the school website. 🔎

Lastly, approach local organizations (that you or someone you’re close to is part of) may have their own scholarship offering you want to know about. 🤝

How to Find National Scholarships

The US government and other private organizations have made national scholarships more accessible, but the downside is the high number of applications each year.

Still, putting your eggs in different baskets by accessing multiple scholarship options is the way to go. Start by asking your guidance counselor, your goal college’s financial office, and your personal network for help. 🗣️

Incoming college students are encouraged to apply for federal student aid (FAFSA). Next, register with national scholarship websites like Cappex, Chegg, FastWeb, Niche, Scholarship.com, or Scholarship America to find options that fit your unique situation. 🥳

Know Your Niche: Narrow in on Your Interests and Causes

A group of four female high school soccer players thinking about how to find scholarships for college based on their athletic merits
Your time playing sports likely honed your appreciation of teamwork and discipline, which says positive things about your character that can bag you a scholarship. Photo: pch.vector/Freepik

Are you the star of your high school swimming team? Did you spend your summer breaks doing volunteer work? Are you the first person in your family to attend college? 👀

Narrow down your scholarship search by using your unique experiences or skills as a guide. The more distinctive, the better. 😄

For a small taste of what’s on offer, check these out: 

  • The musically inclined can turn to the American Society of Composers, Authors, and Publishers for scholarships. If you’re a student who writes music and lyrics, you might be eligible for their Cole Porter Award. 🎶
  • Budding fashionistas can join the Fashion Institute of Design and Merchandising’s National Scholarship Competition to win a full year’s worth of scholarship money. 👗
  • Avid gaming enthusiasts can now take advantage of esports scholarships, like at the University of California at Irvine which offers $1,000 to $6,000 in scholarship funding to students in their League of Legends and Overwatch varsity teams. 🎮
  • Tech geeks can apply to the Lockheed Martin STEM Scholarship Program or to the Generation Google Scholarship (North America). 🧑‍💻

TIP: Use a search engine to find websites of dedicated organizations or leading companies within your particular interest, and add the keyword phrase “college scholarship” in your search query. ℹ️

Check In With Your Employer

A female college student working as a part-time cashier ensures giving great customer service to strengthen her case in asking her employer for tuition assistance or a scholarship
Showing a consistently positive work ethic can boost the chances of acquiring a scholarship application from your employer. Photo: tonodiaz/Freepik

Many high school and college students juggle their academic life with part-time jobs to make ends meet. But did you know that some companies also offer scholarships for their employees? 

Large corporations like McDonald’s or Walmart offer tuition assistance programs that can cover your tuition and books in part or in full. Discuss this with your manager or the human resources department and highlight how their assistance will benefit the company come application time. 👍 

Another option is to call up your parents and ask if their employer offers scholarships for their employees’ dependents, like PepsiCo Foundation Family Scholars. 🏅

Stay Up-to-Date With Social Media

Two incoming college freshmen happily browse scholarship programs and tips on social media sites through their phone
Use different social media platforms to crowdsource tips on finding scholarships online. Photo: katemangostar/Freepik

Social media is a fantastic way to find scholarship ads and even crowdsource opinions about your desired financial aid. Use the search bar on search engines like Google or Safari so the algorithm can work its magic. 🔎

For example, you can find tips and tricks on how to find scholarships for college that best fit you on subreddits like r/scholarships and r/ApplyingToCollege

Follow the Latest College Scholarship News

Two Asian college students search for scholarship news online on their laptop
Make your scholarship search more efficient with the help of RSS Feeds or email subscriptions for the latest news. Photo: mindandi/Freepik

Looking for the ultimate way to get all the latest scholarship scoop? Create an account in news curation websites like FeedSpot or subscribe to the email list of scholarship websites to get all the relevant information in one place. 👍

For RSS feeds, you simply input keywords like “New York Scholarships” or “Academic Scholarships in the US,” and the platform sources what you’d like to see. 📱 

A daughter asks her mother for help in finding scholarship tips
If you don’t want to ask your parents for help in paying off your college education, at least ask them to point you in the right direction for scholarships. Photo: teksomolika/Freepik

Lastly, don’t forget to ask for help on how to find scholarships for college from your family and friends. You never know what connections and discoveries this might bring that can help you in finding the best scholarships to ease your college costs. 🫂

TIP: Some colleges and universities, like Michigan Tech’s Alumni Legacy, offer scholarships for the children and grandchildren of their alumni. 

Getting into college with little debt (or even for free) is possible by intimately knowing your background and skills and maximizing connections to match you with the right scholarships. 

Now that you know how to find scholarships for college, it’s time to get to work on your applications! 💪

How to Find Scholarships for College: Frequently Asked Questions 

How do I apply for scholarships? 

First, review your background and research for scholarships that match your situation. Then, comply with the typical requirements, such as your FAFSA, a letter of recommendation, and evidence of your financial background and/or merits. 

How can I get a full scholarship for college? 

When should I start to apply for scholarships?

What’s the difference between grants and scholarships?

Can I apply for scholarships if I’m already enrolled as a student?

What scholarships do I have the best chance of winning?

Do all scholarships require an essay?

Do I need a letter of recommendation to apply for a scholarship?

How hard is it to get scholarships?

Where can I find scholarships? 

What happens if I get scholarship money that’s more than needed? 

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