If there’s one thing that every college student can agree on, it’s that college is expensive. Trying to nail down enough scholarships to cover tuition, books and everything else can be overwhelming when you don’t know where to start. Lucky for you, though, we’ve got you covered.
Utilize Internet search engines, but don’t rely on them.
Don’t look for all of your scholarship money in one place. Your academic advisor and scholarship office, your university’s website and other tools are just as useful (if not more so) for compiling lists of scholarships that could be a good fit. Universities even award scholarships through individual departments, colleges and alumni foundations. “Scholarships given by colleges are the largest source, so students should check out a college’s website and financial aid materials for information on the programs it offers,” said Anne Sturtevant, The College Board’s Executive Director of Higher Education Initiatives.
Use your connections to your advantage.
If you’re from a small town, local businesses or clubs might offer scholarships. A huge number of organizations like the Rotary Club and the Kiwanis around the country offer scholarships of varying sizes to affiliated family members. Tell your parents it’s time to join a club. Local scholarships take a little more research to find, but they can be a great source of textbook money. Spend some time looking for scholarships from your town, county, religious organization or even your parents’ employers.
Don’t get in over your head.
Know exactly what you’re getting into before you start dotting “I’s” and crossing “T’s.” “Students should remember to clearly read the application directions, make sure they understand the eligibility requirements, make sure they’re organized throughout the process and pay attention to deadlines,” said Sturtevant. No matter how vast your procrastination skills, don’t miss out on scoring a $10,000 check because you missed an essay deadline.
Think quality over quantity.
Narrow down your list. You can apply for 50 scholarships and not get a single dollar if none are the right fit. If you have to write eight essays for 10 different scholarship applications, they won’t turn out as well as that one essay you worked on for weeks. There’s always a great scholarship out there, so don’t apply just to apply—that’s only wasting time. Once you land a scholarship, make sure to check the fine print before you become dependent. “Many scholarships have requirements that have to be met to continue receiving the award beyond the first year,” said Sturtevant. Keep your qualifications in mind when deciding what to apply for and what to nix.
What sets you apart from the crowd? Are you a redhead? Do you play the piano? Do you love to write? There’s probably a scholarship for that—you just have to find it. Make Google your best friend, and it’ll pay off.“[Scholarships are] available in many forms, from different sources and for all types of students,” said Sturtevant. Two minutes of searching turned up lefthanded-scholarships.com, a site that lists dozens of scholarships specifically for the left-handed minority. Lefties can finally cash in after years of suffering.
Tailor each application to show that you care…
…especially if it includes an essay, recommendations or other more personal aspects. You’re trying to convince the donor that they should help pay for your college education; you won’t receive the scholarship if your essay is generic. Do your research before you write. Don’t just write what you think a reviewer would want to hear. Show who you really are and the checkbooks will come flying out faster than you’d think.
After these tips, hopefully the millions of scholarships out there don’t seem so daunting. After all, scholarships are just a chance to not spend the next 10 years eating Ramen, right?