Since the money does not have to be paid back, scholarships are a great way to decrease a student's out-of-pocket cost. In some cases, scholarships can even be used to finance a whole education. Since there are so many different scholarships available to all types of students, it is important to understand the best way to go about performing a basic scholarship search. Developing a strategy for how to search for scholarships will help you find those opportunities designed just for you, based on your background, heritage, financial situation, skills, interests, and program of study.
Brainstorm. Although it might sound silly, spend some time developing a list of personal characteristics and unique skills that define you as a person. Try not to overlook anything, as the more traits you can come up with, the more scholarships you might be eligible for! Believe it or not, but this list will not only narrow your scholarship search, but might also help you decide what types of courses you might like to pursue at college.
Create a Scholarship Strategy. Invest your time wisely in searching for scholarships and start early! Ask yourself basic questions to determine what kind of scholarships you're interested in. Do you want to participate in a competition? If so, what are your interests and talents? What do you plan to major in? What career do you plan to pursue? Answering these questions will help determine your eligibility for certain, more specialized scholarships.
Look Into Institutional Scholarships. Colleges and universities award a variety of scholarships every semester, so it is important to research the scholarships available at potential schools. Check out financial aid offices, college catalogs, and college websites or talk to an academic advisor to find this information. Most institutional scholarships are offered to either all students at a university or only to those in a certain department or major. Eligibility for institutional scholarships can be based on a variety of factors, including financial need, academic merit, ethnicity, major, and many other aspects.
Browse Local and State Scholarships. Visit your high school counseling office or your local library to find scholarships offered to residents of your city, county, or even state. Consider also contacting your state's department of higher education to see if any scholarships are available to students attending in-state institutions where you live.
Research National Scholarships. Once you have thoroughly researched local scholarships, move on to national options, such as the National Merit Scholarship Corporation, Robert C. Byrd Honors Scholarship, and Gates Millennium Scholars. There are a wide variety of scholarships available at the national level.
Touch Base with Employers and Membership Organizations. Many large organizations offer scholarships or tuition programs for employees and/or their children. You can also check with your human resources department to see if related programs are available. Many corporate employers, such as department stores or fast food restaurants, offer scholarships to their employees, so do not underestimate the worth of your student job. Since such a large number of organizations sponsor scholarships, it is important to consider area you may have initially overlooked, including scholarships offered by military, religious, union, community service, and fraternal organizations.
Use a Personalized Search. A variety of websites offer free search options that will compare and match up your information with relevant opportunities pulled from a large scholarship database. If you enter your email address, some websites will even notify as new scholarships matching your unique profile become available. Other websites even allow for electronic submission of many scholarship applications.
Read Descriptions of Scholarships Thoroughly. Once you find an interesting scholarship, be sure to read the fine print and understand exactly what the sponsor is looking for. It might be a good idea to make a quick list detailing the criteria, application procedure, deadlines, whether the scholarship is renewable, and what is needed to maintain the award.
View the Scholarship Search as Ongoing. Create a calendar and note the requirements and due dates of all of the scholarships you are considering. Regularly review scholarship requirements and focus on any areas in your application that you might be able to improve in. For example, if a certain scholarship requires a minimum GPA, use it as an opportunity to improve your grades. If you follow all of these steps you will find your perfect scholarship before you know it!