With $3 billion in private scholarships available to prospective college students each year, finding the money to pay for your dream school is easier than ever — provided you know where to look.
Scholarships are essentially free money that goes straight to paying your tuition or other charges you incur while pursuing higher education. Some go straight to a university to reduce what you owe. Others can be used for educational expenses like a more powerful laptop or a study abroad experience.
Best of all, there are thousands of scholarships out there waiting for hopeful young applicants. The trick is knowing where to find them.
Start with the government database. There are dozens of types of places that offer scholarships, including government entities, colleges, local businesses, nonprofit organizations and more. Looking at everything can be a difficult task, so start big and work your way down.
One of the biggest and most reliable places to start is CareerOneStop’s scholarship search tool. CareerOneStop is sponsored by the U.S. Department of Labor Employment and Training Administration, so everything listed is legitimate. Moreover, you can use the search tool to hone in on opportunities that apply specifically to you.
Resources on the Web. The Internet can be a powerful tool for tracking down even more scholarship opportunities.
There are several free scholarship search engines that help simplify the search process. By creating a personal profile (with as much or as little information as you choose to supply), the search engine will provide links to opportunities that cater specifically to you. Remember that many scholarships on the web may have thousands of applicants. Your local opportunities often have less competition, whereas these resources attract an audience from across the nation much of the time. Here are just a few popular and effective sites:
· College Board scholarship search
Search nearby businesses and community organizations. If you had a job during high school, don’t be afraid to ask your employer about possible scholarships. Any clubs or charitable groups you were a part of could be equally helpful.
Move to specific educational institutions. After you’ve exhausted opportunities that are widely available, it’s time to research colleges on your list. Many universities offer particular merit-based scholarships or financial assistance for prospective students that fit certain criteria. The admission or financial aid office can be a great reference for these opportunities. Some require a separate application, but many are awarded through the admission process using just your admission application.
Don’t forget to check your high school’s resources, too. School counselors and professional development officials regularly keep track of local scholarship opportunities as well as any funds distributed by school organizations.
Search carefully. Wherever your search takes you, keep in mind there are some unscrupulous companies waiting to scam you. They will make promises about results, take your money and tell you about scholarships that you can discover elsewhere for free. The Federal Trade Commission website offers tips on how to spot a scholarship scam. Also check out the Better Business Bureau to investigate possible scams. You shouldn’t have to pay money to get money. Remember, if a scholarship offer sounds too good to be true, it probably is.