Often students are aware that scholarships are available to help them afford an education. However, the question many students ask is: How do I get a scholarship? In general, obtaining a scholarship takes planning. Make sure to set enough time aside to research scholarships that you are eligible for, make time to complete the applications and prepare the paperwork, and lastly, ensure that the applications are received by the deadline. For a list of ideas on how to get scholarships, check out the suggestions below.

FAFSA: Any student looking for scholarships should first complete a free FAFSA application. This application takes minimal time to complete and will quickly match students with eligible federal and state funds. The exact scholarships available depend on factors such as: GPA, minority status, veteran status, school that you will attend, income, and other important financial and personal factors. Most states have special funding mechanisms available for certain groups, such as minority students, veterans, and foster children.

School Guidance Counselors: All high school students should consider checking-in with their school guidance counselors. These counselors often have years of experience helping students find scholarships that are a good match for their career and school goals. If you are already in college, instead of a school guidance counselor, consider scheduling a meeting with a financial aid officer or someone in career services. These representatives are often skilled at helping students explore potential scholarships, work-study opportunities, and connect them with other forms of income.

School Website: This may be one of the most overlooked and easily accessible sources for free money! Once you know which school you would like to attend, take some time to explore the website of that college or university. In addition to looking at the admissions website for scholarship information, students should also look at the website for their individual undergraduate or graduate school. For example, the Graduate School of Arts and Sciences at most universities typically maintains a list of highly competitive awards that cover full-funding without the requirement that students must work as teaching or research assistants. Undergraduate schools may also have funding decided to students in certain majors, with high GPAs, or who meet certain specific requirements.

Brainstorm then Search Online: Spend some time thinking about what makes you unique. Or better yet, what qualities do you have that set you apart from the thousands of other applicants. This may be a special ability, challenge you have overcome, or a unique facet of your background that you want to show. Once you have some ideas, search Google for a list of scholarships related to that factor. In addition to Google, students should consider registering with a free online scholarship search engine, such as the one available through schoalrships.com. These search engines may help you discover more unique facets about yourself that could result in free money. Additionally, they will cut out a lot of search time by having you complete a short profile and then matching you with scholarships that you are eligible to receive.