For students who are unfamiliar with scholarships, it can be difficult to determine which scholarships are available to them. It is easy to spend countless hours preparing an application only to realize that you do not match the exact criteria for the award. What is the best way to determine scholarships that are available to individual students? Read on to find out!
There are a number of steps that students should take to ascertain what scholarships will meet their individual needs. The first is to complete the FAFSA application. This free form will easily and quickly tell students if they are eligible for any federal or state funding. The amount of funding is determined from the student’s income, family size, and a number of other individual factors.
After completing the FAFSA, the next step is to check with the college or university that you plan to attend. Most colleges and universities maintain a financial aid website and an admissions website, which both list scholarships available. Spend some time perusing the list to see whether you are eligible for any of these awards. It is also recommended to make an appointment with a financial aid officer who can help you identify even more opportunities. As an additional step, it may be worthwhile is to check with your academic department to see whether they have scholarships for students in your particular major.
The next step is where students often have the most trouble – applying for outside scholarships. In order to reduce the amount of time you have to spend on searching for scholarships, it is recommended to use a scholarship search engine that can help you narrow down scholarships by only delivering scholarships that pertain to you. Scholarships.com and Fastweb.com are two of the major scholarship search engines that students may want to consider. After creating a free profile online, scholarships appear in your inbox base on your unique circumstances (i.e., hobbies, grade point average, need-based awards, etc.). Students should then work on applying to these scholarships that most closely mirror eligibility.
There are a couple of other ways that students can explore available scholarships, if they have free time after completing the above steps! The first is to check with their high school, if they are in their final year. Often times, high schools will have some funds available to promising students, students with unique talents, or simply a memorial scholarship to honor a student from the school who was not able to graduate with the rest of their class.
After all of those steps, students may want to explore whether there are local scholarships available to them. Local scholarships come from a number of sources, including merchants (i.e., grocery stores, community shops, local doctor’s offices, etc.), organized teams (i.e., sports teams), and other community organizations (i.e., churches). It is worth asking around to find out if any local scholarships exist to help college-bound students afford an education!