There are lots of sites that offer scholarship searches and return hundreds of possibilities you can look at. It can be pretty overwhelming and make you wonder if it's worth the effort. In this article we discuss some possibilities that are easier to handle and can make a difference in your ability to pay for college!
Local scholarships: There's lots of competition for big national scholarships. But local chapters of service organizations like Rotary International or Lions Clubs International get fewer applicants since they draw on a smaller population.
The awards may be smaller (ranging from $500 to $1,000) but easier to win — and they add up! Watch for announcements in the community pages of your town paper; read the newsletters and bulletin board posters of your local library; do a web search for local scholarships in your home area.
School Guidance Counselors are a great resource for local scholarships. Check out our section on Creative Scholarship Resources – including some based on luck rather than your grade point average. Sometimes you can win a scholarship even if you're not at the top of your class!
Check with your employer, no matter who they are. And not just your employer: also tap the employers of your parents, siblings, aunts and uncles and any other relatives you can think of. Jobs often don't even have to be full time to be eligible for scholarships. Some examples of large employers that give scholarships include McDonald's, United Technologies and CVS.
In fact, check with everyone you know and have a chance to talk to – you never know when someone might know something about an interesting scholarship you could win. Frequent your local library and check bulletin boards there and even at grocery stores and other community centers. Check with your local Chamber of Commerce to see what might be available. In other words, don't be proud – show your determination and leave no stone unturned in the quest for a scholarship and a way to reduce the debt you're carrying when you graduate!
Discover your program today!
Update March 2018 Are you into the whole Star Trek universe? Then there is actually a scholarship that could be just for you (and those like you). There is a Klingon Language Council and they offer scholarships to help and encourage others to get created with the language. They give out $500 scholarships to those who come up with creative uses for the Klingon language. And if you go to their website you can find out more and also get tickets to events where those who speak Klingon get together, become a member of the Institute, learn the language and more.
Update February 2017
Are you a member of the Association of Latino Professionals for America? If you are Hispanic you definitely should consider it! Among other benefits like networking opportunities, resume help & mock interviews, professional training seminars and more, they also have a scholarship program! Basic Membership is free and Premium Membership is just $30 per year. If you are graduating from high school your cumulative GPA must be 3.0 or more. If you’re an undergrad or grad student it must be 2.5 or over. And you have to fill out the FAFSA (which hopefully you’ve done already - or will soon!). Scholarships can be anywhere from $500 to $5,000 and depend on the student’s financial aid package.
News November 2015
The latest figures on student debt are pretty disturbing. According to a new book by Jocelyn Paonita, current total student debt is more than $1.2 trillion (yes, trillion!). The average college student graduates with about $30,000 n loan debt. More frightening, a very high percentage of those in the repayment phase are either 30 days behind ((33%) or considered in default (20%). That could spell bad news not only for those trying to repay their debts but also for the whole U.S. economy. Don’t be part of those carrying such a huge debt burden — a little time and effort can reward you big with scholarships to hep pay for school!
Don’t be afraid to think small You may need a lot of money, but you don’t need it all at once. When you are looking at the above sources, you may be tempted to ignore the ones that don’t have big payouts. But remember that smaller scholarships will probably have less competition as others will think the same thing and not bother to apply. Perhaps more importantly, they definitely add up! It’s not unusual to read a story like we did recently, about a young women who says she pretty much spent her senior year writing applications for scholarships — but she ended up with $24,000. And that came from 50 sources! Though some of them we’re sure were larger, that’s an average of less than $500 each. It took a lot of time — but she considers it worth it as she knows she won’t have to graduate with a big debt load!
Leverage Volunteer Work:
While you’re looking for scholarships, remember some basic tips about applying for them. There’s lots of the same advice out there but sometimes you find a different and useful tip. Everyone knows that it’s a good thing to have some volunteer community service on your resume. But did you know it can help if you have documented this service? We have seen instances where two people were completing closely for one scholarship. According to the committee, what made the difference for one contender was both the amount of her volunteer service and the fact that it had been very carefully documented.
If you have been active in community service you may have a better chance of winning a scholarship from a college or university. More and more of them are available each year — you can find a current list at FinAid.org.
Charitable Organizations: These can be an excellent source especially if there is some link between the organization and your background or field of study. Check out the web sites of relevant agencies and check with the reference desk at your local library.
Community organizations: Check with your local Chamber of Commerce and your library to see if local civic groups offer scholarships in your area. Sometimes the Chamber itself may offer a scholarship. At a minimum they can probably provide some good leads in your area.
Don’t ignore contests: Many competitions are aimed atoutstanding students in writing and the arts, but others are based more on luck than on talent. According to a recent article in Good Housekeeping Magazine, “The American Fire Sprinkler Association holds a drawing for ten $2,000 scholarships for students who ace a 10-question, open-book, multiple-choice test. Several companies and banks — such as Tylenol, Calgon, and Wells Fargo — give from $1,000 to $5,000 to lucky winners. So do a number of college-related companies: Next Step magazine (up to $20,000) and ECampusTours.com ($1,000).” For samples of and links to some current contests, check out Scholarship Contests.
Go for targeted scholarships The LGBTQ community has not been left out of eligibility for targeted scholarships. There are a number of them ranging from the $1,000-2,000 to $10,000 that we are aware of. Here are two that feature $5,000-$10,000 awards:
- The Live Out Loud Educational Scholarship is available to students who live in Connecticut, New Jersey or New York. This nonprofit is interested in supporting high school seniors who have been very involved in community service. The application does require that you submit two essays and also provide two letters of recommendation. If you get to the final stage of the selection process you will also need to have an in person interview.
- The Association of LgBt Journalists offer the Leroy F. Aarons Scholarship Award to LGBT students to graduate or undergraduate level and are seeking a career in journalism. The application requires journalism work samples (articles, audio/visual projects or photography that have been published) as well as a multimedia package described in the application information package.
Update June 2017
You may have heard of the Chegg website because it’s a place where you can buy or rent textbooks for very little money. It has another benefit though, and one you shouldn’t ignore. It also allows you to search for both colleges and scholarships. You just set up a personal profile and look for matches according to the specifications you set up. They also provide a useful highlight section for each week’s “top picks” —- and some of them might be newscholarship opportunities you weren’t aware of. And places like Scholarship Monkey make it easy for you to search for scholarships according to specified categories and keywords as well as to find matches that closely match the information you set up in your personal profile.
Unions: If one of your parents belong to a union, check with them to see if scholarships are available for members' children.
Religious Organizations: Your church, synagogue or other house of worship may offer scholarships. While these may not be large, there will be less competition than for many other kinds of scholarship. Sometimes the field of study is restricted, e.g. to theology or music, but not always.
Schools and Universities: Of course you should check out any scholarships offered by the institution you wish to attend.
Seek out co-op programs: Some universities partner with local employers to offer programs in which students earn money in an off-campus job related to their major. You can work part-time while in school or alternate periods of work with periods of full time study. The Directory of College Cooperative Education Programs lists 460 schools with co-op programs. It may take you a bit longer to graduate, but you can graduate with little or no debt plus have the benefit of lots of resume-enhancing experience. You may even have a job waiting for you at your co-op employer. Check out the National Commission for Cooperative Education Guide about these programs.
Professional Associations often offer scholarships to students planning to major in their field. You can find a list of scholarships from various professional associations at Fastweb.com. You will have a better chance of winning one of these scholarships if you wait to apply after you have declared a major related to a particular association.
Ask These People About Scholarships! Here are some ideas about people you might not think to ask about scholarships they might now about! U.S.News and World Report suggests that your school is of course a great place to get information — check out the guidance counselor’s bulletin board frequently — and be sure to attend all information meetings. Those might seem obvious — but have you also thought of asking your coach? Even if you’re not a start athlete your coach could be a good resource. Sometimes they’re aware of awards you don’t know about that don’t require you to have a particular skill level or to play a sport in college. If you have a part time job ask your boss if he or she knows about any scholarships for which you might be eligible. And even though your parents know all about your college search, have you told other family members about it? Aunts and uncles, grandparents, cousins and others could be a great source of information about where you might get financial aid for college.