As a first year undergraduate student, the last thing on your mind is paying for college in future years. Most likely, moving into a dorm, making new friends, and choosing a major are higher priority concerns that searching for scholarships. However, some scholarships are available to students in their first year of college, as well as college sophomores, juniors, and seniors. While it may feel daunting to apply to scholarships right after choosing a school, it can often be beneficial to start your search early. How do you get started applying for scholarships for undergraduates?
First, check out your school websites. Many times, there are an abundance of scholarships available to students which require separate applications. This means that you have to take the initiative to apply to the award. If an award comes up that looks promising but is for a future year (i.e., undergraduate juniors only), file it away. It might be helpful to make a folder called “future scholarships” for scholarships you want to apply for in the future. After you have exhausted your school website, you should also ask your academic chair about any departmental funds that may be available to help fund students.
Undergraduate students may want to complete a FAFSA form. The FAFSA may help them qualify for free scholarship money. Additionally, students who are interested in work-study may be able to qualify for that program by completing a FAFSA application. This form should be filled out as early as possible after January.
In addition to these scholarships, there are a number of corporations that, as part of their missions, devote scholarship funding as a way to give back to the community and acknowledge future scholars. Think about any of your favorite major companies and check them out to see if they offer scholarships. Some of the best awards are given out by the following companies: Target, Coca-Cola, Kohl’s, Walmart, Dr. Pepper, and Toyota. These awards tend to have clear criteria and are often more competitive because they focus less on attracting only top-tier candidates. Rather, they have criteria that try to include as many members of the community as possible.
Undergraduate students should also look into scholarships available through their local community. This may include churches, civic organizations, and/or extra-curricular activities where they participated. Some community stores also give out scholarships to current college students.
Private scholarships are another way for students to obtain a scholarship. These scholarships may be more difficult to locate, so it may be worthwhile to register for a free account with an online scholarship search engine, such as schoalrships.com. Some of these awards are given out based on academic merit, while others emphasize well-rounded students, or students who have engaged in community-service projects.
Some loan providers, such as Sallie Mae, also offer scholarships to current students. Sallie Mae also offers students the opportunity to look for scholarships through their search engine. They also provide tips on how to fill out applications, write excellent essays, and how to search for awards.