Finding free money to pay for school is one of the most important things in the college search for many students. But it’s not always as easy as just doing a Google search for “scholarships.” There are going to be awards you do and don't qualify for. There will be large sums and small sums. There will be competitive and non-competitive scholarships. So you need to learn to find the ones that best fit your needs and characteristics. Here are some of my favorite and most useful scholarship search strategies to help you expand your search.
1. Make sure the scholarships actually apply to you
Don’t just apply to every scholarship ever. And don’t apply without checking the scholarship requirements. A good basic strategy when looking for scholarships is just searching for ones that really apply to you. You can narrow your scholarship search by adding your grade level, extracurricular activities, or major when searching online. There are many scholarships out there and many go unnoticed and unused. Read through the bio of each scholarship to make sure they apply to your situation—that way you are not filling them out, only to later find out that they do not apply to you.
2. Talk to people you know
Another good strategy when looking for scholarships is speaking with your high school guidance counselor and friends about awards they know of. They might end up giving you a list of scholarships to look into. Also talk to recent graduates from your about scholarships they applied to; they might be able to help you out. My high school’s guidance office keeps a list of scholarships and when they are due that students can just come up and take. Your guidance office might have a website where they keep their scholarship list and dates too. Whether it’s a piece of paper or a website, it’s a great idea to use these resources from your guidance office, so you can stay up to date on scholarships and their deadlines.
3. Check with your college or university
Not all scholarships are awarded by fancy outside organizations or companies. Tons come right from colleges and universities themselves! Basically all four-year colleges and universities have some sort of scholarships, and they usually maintain a list for their students to check into. So ask your financial aid or maybe even ask an admission counselor and search through your school’s website to see what you can find. It can be as easy as clicking on the search bar on your college’s website and typing in “scholarships.” A list of results will pop up; some will give you information on a scholarship, though others will recognize students who won them. You can also click under “Admission,” and there might be a subtitle like “Paying for College” with a scholarship list there. Or you can go really simple and Google “scholarships at [your college’s name].”
4. Stay up-to-date
Staying up-to-date on scholarships and deadlines can be difficult. That’s why you want to use this next strategy with online scholarship websites. They can email you and keep you up to date on scholarships that you may be interested in, including when their deadline is. CollegeXpress is one of many resourceful websites to use when searching for scholarships. They provide easy access to scholarships, which makes it a little simpler to weed out the ones that don’t apply to you. And you can even get your first scholarship search results without registration.
5. Be determined
The best thing you can do when searching for scholarships is be aggressive about it. Put your time into looking for scholarships and filling them out. When you are searching, be thorough and stay on it. Make sure you meet all of your deadlines and turn everything in on time. I always triple-check my scholarships when I send them in to make sure everything is there and it all looks right.
When you’re looking for scholarships, you have eventually find a strategy that fits you, whether that be searching and compiling scholarships and applying for them in on shot later or searching and applying to them one by one. Whatever way you can keep yourself organized and at minimal stress levels is the right way to be conducting your search. Good luck on your scholarship hunt!
Our Scholarship Search tool isn't the only place to find free money for college on CX. Check out our list of Some of the Weirdest College Scholarship Opportunities and The Ultimate List of Easy Scholarships!