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Financial Aid: Finding Scholarships

What Are the Best Scholarships?

There are thousands of scholarships available. It is easy to get overwhelmed by the sheer number that are out there. However, most people are not eligible or would make an optimal applicant for most scholarships. They key is to find the most optimal scholarships that you are eligible for. Some factors that can help applicants be successful in this search are below.

  • Look for the ones you are most likely to get.
  • Seek out scholarships that can help you when you are job hunting.
    • Career-related scholarships look good on resumes.
    • Practice when promoting yourself in the application process will help out immensely when looking for work. You will appear more confident and sure of your skills and talents.
  • Do not skip over scholarships that don't have high dollar amounts.
    • Apply for as many as you can, as you will not be awarded in every application. If you apply for 25 scholarships, you may realistically receive three.
    • There may be fewer applicants, so there may be higher chance of an award.
  • Look for scholarships with unique or specific requirements.
    • These tend to have smaller applicant pools.
    • Anything unique about you can be used to your advantage! For example, if you play the banjo, there probably is a scholarship out there just for banjo enthusiasts.
  • Look for harder to find scholarships.
    • Not all scholarships are listed in search engines, such as smaller scholarships from smaller, local organizations.
    • Ask your instructors or your high school if there are any known scholarships.
    • These tend to have smaller applicant pools.
  • Check professional and academic associations that relate to your field of study. These often sponsor scholarships.
    • Usually these organizations have student membership discounts (or free!)
    • Professional organizations offer much more than just scholarships and are very worthwhile to join.

Avoiding Scams

Watch out for scams. Legitimate scholarships do not charge a fee to apply. Below are some "red flags" to look for.

  • Cash up front (require an application or processing fee)
  • Free seminars (sales pitch for overpriced loans, products, etc.)
  • Rewards without entries (no application, no work involved)
  • Time-sensitive scholarships (first-come,first-served basis, not to be confused with deadlines)
  • Sweeping claims (guaranteed or money back) - note: scholarships should be free.
  • Requiring credit card or bank information (never give out this information!)

Check the website carefully. Here are some tips to help when evaluating the legitimacy of a scholarship or grant awarding organization:

  • Who is responsible for this website?
  • What is the expressed purpose of this website?
  • When was this website created? Was it recently updated? 
  • Where does this information come from? Where can I find more information about its sponsors? 
  • Be very cautious before entering a social security number on any website.

Finding Scholarships

It is important to use multiple resources to find scholarships. Believe it or not, many scholarships go unclaimed for lack of applicants. Apply for as many scholarships as you can, and don't ignore scholarships of small amounts!

  • Professional Organizations
    • Many offer scholarships to students who are interested in professions in the field they represent.
    • Most offer student membership discounts, and joining up is a great way to learn about your chosen profession and get eligible for any scholarships offered.
    • Professional organizations offer great opportunities to network, attain leadership positions and stay current with trends in your chosen profession.
    • Subscribe to newsletters and social network sites. There you will see any scholarship announcements and other important opportunities.
  • Local Organizations
    • Look for local organizations such as the Elks Club, Lions Club, VFW, Knights of Columbus, sororities, fraternities, American Legion, etc.
    • Check with your public library or high school, as they probably maintain a current list of societies offering scholarships.
  • Websites and Print Scholarship indexes: See "Online Scholarship Finders" and "Library Resources" below.
  • Avoid scams! They are plentiful and easy to fall prey to. See the "Avoiding Scams" box below.

SlugBook's Ultimate Guide to Finding a Scholarship