Now that college applications are complete, it is a perfect time for HS seniors to use some of their free time for searching and applying for scholarships. There are also many scholarships for younger students, so non-seniors could benefit from dedicating some time to this too. Many students ask me where to search and how to get the most money. Unfortunately, there is no single, simple answer. There are scholarships everywhere just waiting to be found! Here are some tips for your search for the $$$.
Of course getting scholarships from your potential college is the first stop. You should have filled out the FAFSA and/or CSS Profile by now if you have applied to college. If you have not completed those financial aid applications, do it ASAP! Colleges use these forms for determining financial aid awards and much of it is awarded on a first come-first serve basis. You will see what your scholarship and aid awards are on your financial aid award letter which you will receive from your potential colleges before May 1. If you are a junior considering your options, remember to take a look at the academic scholarships and financial aid colleges offer before applying. Some of the scholarships require a separate application and may even have an earlier deadline than the regular college applications. You do not want to miss out on those.
There are so many scholarship search websites it is often overwhelming. Select just 2-3 and consistently check them for updates. Some of the to best pages are:
Fastweb - After signing up and completing a profile (yes, many pages require this), you will be able to search and get matched with their database of around 1.5 million scholarships. You are able to keep your scholarships organized by those you are not interested in, those you would like to apply for and those you have already applied for.
Scholarships.com - Scholarships.com updates their database of more than 3.5 million scholarships to be sure to only include legitimate, current scholarships. Similar to fastweb, you sign up and complete a profile to get matched with potential scholarships.
Consider the local opportunities before jumping into the small nationwide scholarships. Great scholarship resources can be local community organizations, student and parent employers, banks, churches, and companies. Most states also have their own form of scholarship or grant for residents, for example the PHEAA grant for PA residents, Florida Bright Futures, and Hope Scholarship in Georgia. Click on your state on this handy map and find out what is available. These can be very valuable resources and should not be overlooked. Some of these statewide programs such as Bright Futures require a certain GPA, test scores, and community service hours which need to be taken into consideration earlier than senior year.
Although it may seem daunting to have to write yet another essay for an application or fill out another form, it may end up being well worth your time. As someone recently pointed out to me, ‘if you spend 2 hours on an application and end up getting $1000, that is $500 an hour. Where else can you get that?’ Take some time and submit quality applications.
A final note of caution to those of you on the hunt for funds - beware of the websites which require payment for access to scholarship lists or people who guarantee they will get you scholarships. As you know by now, almost nothing in the college application world is a guarantee and you are capable of finding the scholarships on free websites.
National Association of Student Financial Aid Administrators parent and student resources: https://www.nasfaa.org/students_parents_counselors
Read more about scholarship scams here: https://www.consumer.ftc.gov/articles/0082-scholarship-and-financial-aid-scams