Outside Scholarship Search Tips
Scholarships or “free money” are the best way to help pay for college because they don’t need to be paid back. Awards can range from small amounts up to covering the cost of tuition. Any scholarship amount can help create a financial aid package that makes college costs more affordable.
Scholarships are offered by many organizations including federal and state governments and private organizations. You may want to begin your search in your own backyard, exploring opportunities at organizations to which you or your family may belong:
- Professional Associations
- Civic Groups
Applying for Scholarships
Different scholarships will have different requirements and use their own criteria to select recipients. You will want to gather as much information about the award and the criteria during your search.
Consider the following when you begin your scholarship investigation:
- You may be required to write an essay, pass an exam, send transcripts, or complete a project demonstrating your potential
- Programs may specify how the scholarship funds may be used, set time restrictions for the award, or set a ceiling on the qualifying family income
- Scholarship funds may be paid directly to the college
- Failure to meet requirements could jeopardize your ability to keep the scholarship
Here are some very basic guidelines that may help give you the best potential for a successful search:
- Be organized. Stay on top of deadlines, gather pertinent documents, and make copies of everything you submit. Send your application materials by certified mail to ensure receipt or send in plenty of time prior to the deadline.
- Be honest. Don’t exaggerate grades, skills, or qualifications. Focus on scholarships for which you are eligible.
- Follow instructions carefully. Some scholarships require you to write an essay, while others may want a letter of recommendation. Send what is requested, within the time designated and proofread absolutely everything!
Many applications will require an essay. The personal essay is critical to winning a scholarship because it lets the selection committee get to know you beyond your grades, test scores, and activities that may be asked on the application. It is your best opportunity to make a strong and lasting impression.
A good essay is:
- States clearly why you deserve to win (or answers whatever question the application asks)
- Has a main point
- Avoids meaningless information
Get others to review your essay when you have finished. Get feedback from others to see if it answers the application question asked, is clear, free from mistakes and convinces them that you should win the award.
Beware of Scholarship Scams
Be alert for unsolicited scholarships applications by email, or services that solicit money in exchange for guaranteed scholarship or even help in doing a scholarship search for you.
Be aware of pitches that boast:
- “You’re a finalist!” or “You’ve Won!” especially for a competition you never entered. Never give out your personal information for these offers.
- “First-come, first-served.” While you do need to get your application in before the deadline, the first-come, first-served” rule does not apply to scholarships.
- “Millions of dollars go unclaimed.” Legitimate scholarship awards are predetermined. Sponsors work hard to find the most qualified applicant.
- “It’s guaranteed!” Scholarship searches can guarantee search results. They can’t guarantee you the scholarship money.
- “We’ll do the work for you… for a fee.” The fee may be nominal and the offer may look official, but searches should be free. Don’t pay anyone to do this for you.
Remember, if the offer sounds too good to be true, it probably is!