How to Use a Scholarship Search

How great would it be if someone were able to tell you every scholarship that you were eligible to apply for in order to fund your studies? Seriously, imagine how much time that would save! Unfortunately, students today have to put in a little more time in order to determine which scholarships may be able to meet their unique needs. However, with a little leg work, students can likely find a number of scholarships that can help them fund their college degree.

 

One of the most natural starting places is to complete the FAFSA application. This application will tell students whether they qualify for any federal or state government funding programs or initiatives. Another logical step is to look at the financial aid office of the college you hope to attend to inquire whether there may be additional funding opportunities. Some savvy students also are well-equipped and know to ask about department scholarships and/or search their community for local scholarships. However, once all those steps are complete, where do you turn to find additional funding sources?

 
With the vast number of scholarships that exist, it is no wonder that students have trouble locating them. One of the best tools to match students with available scholarships is an online scholarship search. Knowing how to make use of these scholarship searches can feel daunting and overwhelming when students look at them for the first time. However, if you view these as a major resource and take a little time to understand how they work, there can be a big payoff!

 
One of the first things to know about scholarship searches is that you should dedicate a large chunk of time to creating profiles and background information. While it may seem tedious in the moment, the questions the websites ask are often specifically geared towards matching you with the criteria of available scholarships. For example, it is worthwhile to take time to fill out all your hobbies and extracurricular activities. Some scholarships are specific to certain sports or activities such as 4-H involvement, which the website only will know if you select these criteria.

 

Additionally, some scholarships are matched to you based on other seemingly unimportant information (i.e., scholarships for certain counties or high schools, scholarships for students with certain grade point averages, or students with certain disabilities or abilities). Thus, tip number one is to fully complete your profile for each search engine. If you want to cut down on junk mail, consider making a separate e-mail address solely for applying to these scholarship searches. Just do not forget to check back for updates!

 
The second important tip when searching for scholarships is to avoid any website that asks you to pay. There are a number of quality scholarship searches which enable students to be matched to scholarships for free. In addition, there are a number of other free resources, such as going to the guidance counselor or financial aid officer, checking out websites of business that you have worked for or shop at in your community, and inquiring with local businesses about any scholarships they fund. Never pay to find scholarships.

 

 
A third important thing to keep in mind is that finding scholarship money requires persistence. This is because creating accounts in and of itself can be time consuming. However, students must then also read the eligibility criteria and application information of the scholarships to which they are matched. In order to save some times, students may want to scan the titles and exclude any scholarships that they are not eligible to receive. Often, there are boxes that will allowed students to save the promising scholarships to a special list or to remove scholarships that they do not intend to apply for. This helps students narrow down a long list of opportunities. Reading the eligibility criteria and determining whether you are a match is another great way to narrow down their prospective scholarship list.

 

 
Given that this process requires persistence, it can be helpful for students to carve out blocks of time that is solely dedicated to searching and applying for scholarships. The exact amount of time needed for the search depends on the students work habits and background. For example, students with high grade point averages and students from minority backgrounds may be matched with many more scholarships than students from average backgrounds. Thus, each individual student will need to determine how much time to allocate to their search, but they will have better luck if they carve out scheduled time blocks on a consistent basis. Check back frequently as minor changes (i.e., grade point average change, change in schools, additional work history, etc.) may help locate additional awards.

 

 
Another great tip to follow is not to put all your eggs in one basket. While you may be convinced that you are a great match for an award, there are likely other excellent candidates. Thus, consider applying to many scholarships in order to aid in your chances of receiving an award. In addition to searching online, also check with your intended school as well as local organizations. You can never ask too many questions about scholarships and who knows where you might find a potential award!

 
Lastly, do not hastily apply to awards online. Many scholarships receive hundred or even thousands of applications. You will want your application to stand out in order to maximize your chances of success. Students who are the most successful in receiving these awards often take time to reflect on their experience and convey this in their application materials (i.e., essay or cover letters). Applying the writing skills you learned in high school to convince the committee that you are the right fit for the award you want! This may be done through highlighting previous school, religious, or community involvement. Or perhaps it comes in the form of discussing an important project you completed. The main point is to find out what the committee looks for when choosing applicants and ensure that you overlap your application with their expectations.