A great place to start is through online search platforms such as Fastweb, Cappex, College Board and scholarships.com. These are just a few of the search tools available where students can create a profile and filter through millions of dollars of available scholarships to find those that match the student’s background, interests and achievements.
Look for local scholarship opportunities as well, which may not be in the database used by national search engines. The high school counseling office may have a list of scholarships available through local businesses and community organizations. Faith-based organizations and student and parent employers are also great places to look.
Stay organized. Create a spreadsheet or use a calendar to track application requirements and deadlines. Similar to college admissions and financial aid, it’s critical to meet deadlines when applying for scholarships. Submit all required materials before the deadline if possible.
Make sure you meet the scholarship criteria. Scholarships often have specific eligibility criteria based on the preferences of the organization. Awards may be offered based on where you live, what you plan to study, community involvement, academic achievement, or any other criteria important to the scholarship provider. Ensure you meet the criteria before you apply and focus your efforts on scholarships you’re well qualified for.
Look for renewable scholarships. These are awards the student can receive for multiple years as long as they meet the requirements, such as submitting a re-application or maintaining a minimum GPA. Make sure you know and meet the requirements so you can receive the scholarship in future years.
Don’t pass on scholarships with smaller dollar amounts. They often have smaller applicant pools in turn increasing your chances for an award. Remember, five $2000 scholarships are just as good as one $10,000 scholarship.
Continue the search beyond high school. Unfortunately, many believe the scholarship search ends with high school. There are scholarship opportunities for students who are currently enrolled in college, and the financial aid office can be a great resource to find them.
Be aware of potential scams. The majority of scholarship providers are legitimate, but scams do exist. Keep an eye out for companies that “guarantee” a scholarship as long as the student pays a processing fee or those that require a fee to apply. Also, be wary of applications that require sensitive personal information such as your social security number. While not a scam, some scholarship search providers share information they collect on their site with third parties. Purposes can range from providing additional student services and benefits to selling marketing leads. Carefully research each organization, review their privacy policies, and contact them directly if you have questions about why they collect certain information and how they plan to use it.
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