Scholarship Strategies to Build Your Professional Network

Networking is important to your future career--but it can also help your scholarship search! Develop a scholarship networking strategy with this expert advice

The obvious benefit of searching and applying for scholarships is the potential to win free money for college, but did you know there are also many networking benefits to scholarships beyond the monetary award? Private scholarships from companies, organizations, and foundations are created and awarded to students for several reasons: to make an impact on the future of a professional industry, align with a corporate or organizational mission, or promote and build brand awareness, for example. This benefits the awarding company or organization as well as the winning applicant(s), who can build relationships with the sponsor and establish new contacts for the future. More and more private scholarships are created every year, which means more opportunities for winning and networking! Here are a few strategies to employ to benefit your scholarship search and your future professional network.

Learn which organizations can support you in your chosen field

Many organizations and foundations are formed to specifically provide education, support, professional networking opportunities, and internships within a specific industry. They may also offer multiple scholarships for multiple education levels. Regardless of where you are in your educational journey, learning about the professional organizations and foundations in your industry of interest can open doors to internships, jobs, mentors, and—of course—scholarships. If you’re certain about the field(s) you want to professionally pursue, start researching related organizations now.

Scholarships from organizations and foundations

  • Joseph James Morelli Legacy Foundation: This scholarship is open to high school seniors and students attending technical school, community college, or undergraduate programs with a demonstrated learning disability. Applicants must be pursuing a STEM-related degree to win awards of up to $2,500. The deadline is March 17.
  • American Nuclear Society Scholarships: Open to graduating high school seniors as well as undergraduate, graduate, community college, and trade school students pursuing Nuclear Engineering, this scholarship has a deadline of April 1 and offers awards of up to $3,500.
  • Bill and Shireen Kirk Scholarship Fund: This scholarship is open to undergraduate juniors and seniors and graduate students pursuing programs in Business, Chemistry, Civil Engineering, Construction Management, Marketing, or Sales. Awarded through the Asphalt Institute Foundation, this scholarship’s deadline is February 15, and award amounts vary. (Note: Applicants can be from any state, but preference is given to students from Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, Maryland, New Jersey, New York, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, Tennessee, Virginia, and West Virginia.)

Related: STEM Scholarship Opportunities for Minority Students

Learn more about companies in your chosen field

Companies can be a little different from organizations when it comes to scholarship opportunities. When companies sponsor a scholarship, they generally include information about what they value. A deeper understanding of the values of any company within your future career field might give you a strategic advantage when applying for an internship, job, or scholarship. Many scholarships have interview components and can also provide a potential open door to connect with human resources and a hiring manager.

Examples of company-sponsored scholarships

  • AmericanTrucks Scholarships: This scholarship program is open to high school seniors as long as they are 18 years old and pursuing programs in traditional building trades as a full-time student at a vocational school or technical institute, including carpentry, HVAC, electrical, or related fields of study. (Certificate programs are eligible.) The award is $2,500, and the deadlines are October 15 and June 15.
  • Tourism N Travel Small Business Scholarship: This scholarship is open to high school seniors, two-year and four-year college students, and vocational students majoring in Aviation, Business, Economics, Finance, Hospitality, or Tourism who have an interest in starting their own business. Students from Australia, Canada, New Zealand, the United Kingdom, and the United States can apply. The award is $2,000, and the deadline is December 15.
  • Save a Life Scholarship: This scholarship from the American Academy of CPR and First Aid is open to high school seniors or current college students pursuing or planning to pursue careers in either health care or education. The award is $1,500, and deadlines are May 1 and October 1. 

Related: Top 10 Career Fields in America: What You Should Know

Build strategic connections with fellow scholarship seekers you’re not competing with

Private scholarships are offered for students at varying levels of education, so it would serve everyone well to collaborate and help each other find more opportunities—as long as you won’t be competing against each other for the same award. For example, a high school senior who knows they want to pursue Engineering should connect with an undergraduate Engineering student as well as a graduate Engineering student if possible. This can be easily done through referrals from the alumni and admission departments at your colleges of interest. You may find a scholarship that’s only open to graduate students, whereas your undergrad connection may find an opportunity that’s only open to high school students. By sharing information, you’ll find opportunities faster while building relationships that aid your future professional career. 

Scholarships open to students at various education levels

  • AES Engineering Scholarship: This scholarship is open to high school seniors as well as current college students pursuing any field of study. The award is $500, has a deadline of October 5, and requires an essay between 500–1,000 words.
  • Art of Protest Grant for Black Students: This scholarship is for Black students at any education level who are furthering a protest or social change through any form of visual art. Applicants must be attending a school or educational institution in the US. The deadline is September 15, and the award is $900.
  • Don’t Text & Drive Scholarship: This scholarship from the Law Offices of Matthew J. Quinlan is for high school senior, college, and graduate students who are 24 years old or younger. This is not a need-based scholarship. The award is $1,000, and deadlines fall on September 15 and March 15 each year.

Related: 3 Super Helpful Scholarship Search Strategies for the Summer

Reducing your educational expenses may be the common reason to start the scholarship pursuit, but embracing all the benefits of private scholarship opportunities could yield far more than financial rewards by helping you establish a professional network for many years to come.

Start finding scholarships for college using our Scholarship Search tool, and expand your professional network at the same time by following us on LinkedIn.

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About Jean O'Toole

Jean O’Toole is an educational consultant and author of the bestselling book Scholarship Strategies: Finding and Winning the Money You Need. Over the past 15 years, she has helped tens of thousands of students in the United States. Individuals collectively have been awarded millions of dollars by applying Jean’s scholarship strategies. In 2008, Jean co-founded Connections101, a company specializing in providing motivational tools for scholarship searching. It is her goal to empower students to design their paths to their future without college debt. Visit for more information, and follow Jean on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.


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Maria Fernanda

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