The rising cost of education requires many students to seek financial aid, including scholarships. As if the challenge of college expense were not enough, there is also the overwhelming experience of information overload. Every step leads you to another question, another dilemma, and another question. We want to streamline this process for you by providing some practical tools that will save you time and get you going. So get ready! Knowing where to look puts you in the driver's seat. Where you go from here in the scholarship search and how you win an award requires an investment of your time and energy, but you and your family will benefit from all your scholarship search.
Several free, online scholarship search sites are available, offering information on scholarships with an estimated total value of over $3 billion. Databases often incorporate similar search tools, so it is not uncommon to discover an overlap or repetition of information across multiple websites. Each database is, however, unique and will contain awards that are not listed on any other database. So if you're looking for information about scholarships designated specifically for students attending nursing schools in California, that information is probably out there somehwere. To increase the size and efficiency of your search, it is highly recommended that you use more than one database at a time.
One of the best, most comprehensive websites currently available, www.FinAid.org has a free scholarship search called FastWeb scholarship search. Using the scholarship search is simple and fast. All you have to do is create a profile, submit your email address, and matches to your profile will be sent directly to you. In addition to the scholarship search, you will find financial aid information, smart tools, and more at your fingertips! This database is updated frequently to provide you with the closest matches to your scholarship search.
College Board's FUND FINDER
FUND FINDER lists awards from over 3,000 scholarship sources. Updated annually.
Peterson's Award Database
Peterson's maintains approximately 2,000 scholarship sources and has an outstanding compilation of available awards.
Based on a former database called Scholarships101, this website also targets potential interests in student loans and services.
Scholarship Experts is an interesting website because it provides in-depth information on awards. As the results of your search appear, the page will list an overview of past and present awards. This can be helpful if you are interested in seeing a wider range of offerings.
College Data uses a keyword search that returns an excess of information that must be screened carefully. The service is free, but registration is required.
Other Valuable Sources to Check
The internet enables institutions of higher education to provide prospective and current students with a visual and audio information highway to, through, and beyond their institution.
Prospective Colleges and Universities
Websites of colleges and universities are designed to provide you with as much helpful information as possible. By searching the college websites of your choice, you can obtain contact information that will put you in touch with the school's financial aid office. Although the internet will put you in touch with people, most discussion and paperwork will take place in person. When you meet with a scholarship advisor, be sure to ask how outside scholarships can potentially affect you if you are receiving or plan to receive other forms of financial aid.
High School Counselors
High School Counselors are an invaluable link to your college career. Be sure to keep your counselor abreast of your plans and needs so your counselor can provide you with the resources you need when you need them. Plan to attend any college recruitment days held on your campus. These are outstanding opportunities for you to learn more about what lies ahead and how you can find the college right for you.
One of the most helpful and overlooked sources of scholarship help is your local library. Municipal libraries contain online and book materials on federal and state sources of financial aid. Be sure to plan your visit so you can take advantage of every piece of helpful information you find. Stop at the reference desk or ask any librarian for what you need. Ask for scholarship directories for your state and desired field of study. You will soon discover that the better you know what you are looking for, the easier it will be to find.
While you are at the library, search for a list of nonprofit organizations in your area. This is easy. As you read through the list of nonprofits, most of which should have a website, read their mission statements and learn what they do. Many nonprofits offer scholarship incentives for a variety of community interests.
Large, private corporations have a reputation for offering scholarships to their employees as a way of attracting and maintaining a strong and healthy workforce. Ask your parents if their employer or employers have a scholarship program. Check into companies such as Chevron, Bank of America, and Westinghouse.
Sources of College Scholarships
The number and variety of available college scholarships exceeds what most people can imagine. The purpose of this page is to introduce you to some of the major sources of scholarships and briefly describe the supportive function they serve.
Specific Award Categories
The search for "star" athletes is competitive and political, especially in larger universities. With all the media attention given to the success and glamour of high-profile athletes, the competitive nature of professional sports comes with a mixed bag of social commentary. Some of this commentary is based upon factual information, but not all. If the pursuit of an athletic scholarship is at the forefront of your dreams, it is important to weigh the opinions against facts.
The NCAA (National Collegiate Athletic Association) is the largest of three main athletic organizations. If you are interested in positioning yourself for an NCAA scholarship, check their website for eligibility rules and the types of scholarships they offer. Please note that scholarship awards are at the discretion of the schools, not the NCAA. Current NCAA rules stipulate that only Division I and Division II schools can offer athletic scholarships. To understand the athletic scholarship process in greater detail, see two free websites that contain valuable information: www.collegesportsscholarship.com and www.arkansasscholarshipconnection.org.
Academic scholarships are awarded on the basis of merit and excellence by individual colleges throughout the U.S. To obtain more information about what types of academic scholarships are available through your college or university, inquire within your school's financial aid office.
Individual college programs or departments are often unsuspected sources of unique scholarship opportunities. To learn more about these and other important scholarship information, go to your program office or schedule an appointment to meet with your advisor.
Many private, civic, and corporate organizations offer valuable and outstanding scholarship opportunities that serve a wide spectrum of interests.
Large, private corporations such as Chevron, Bank of America, and Westinghouse offer scholarship incentives to maintain an ongoing effort to attract and retain employees, as well as take a proactive stance in support of community service interests.
Churches often contribute large sums of money to the creation of scholarship funds for their members. Criteria and availability of these scholarships vary, so it's important to contact your local church to learn the details.
The AFL-CIO offers union-sponsored scholarships. Check their website for more information.
High School Districts
Many high schools have exciting scholarship opportunities for graduating seniors. What a great time to explore your options as you prepare to graduate! Contact the counseling or advising office of your school to learn more about their offerings.
Chamber of Commerce
Your local Chamber of Commerce holds a virtual treasure house of information concerning local businesses, their membership organizations, affiliations, and board of directors. This is a great way to learn more about your community and gain lots of helpful information concerning local businesses and which ones offer scholarship programs.
The U.S. Armed Forces (e.g., the Army, Navy, Air Force, and Marines) offer a wide spectrum of scholarships to individuals who are willing to return a commitment of active duty. If military service is something that matches your goals, then this could be an option to consider. Check with your local ROTC recruiter or affiliate for more specific information.
Federal Government Financial Aid Programs
The federal government provides the largest source of need-based funding for education. Eligibility for need-based federal aid requires completing the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (the FAFSA). The following websites can take you to the form and other important federal aid information: http://fafsa.ed.gov (federal grant programs) and studentaid.ed.gov (scholarship opportunities through federal agencies).
Most federal aid programs contain some or all of the following types of grants. Distributed to students who demonstrate financial need, these loans do not need to be repaid.
Federal Academic Competitiveness Grant (ACG) - eligibility requires full-time enrollment and eligibility for a Federal Pell Grant.
Federal Pell Grant - amount of grant is based upon need. FAFSA required.
Federal Supplemental Educational Opportunity Grant (SEOG) - awarded to students demonstrating exceptional financial need and who are currently Federal Pell Grant recipients. SEOG grants are limited in availability.
Federal College Work Study (FWS) - students who demonstrate financial need are employed in a variety of positions on campus (e.g., as library assistants or classroom assistants). Preference is given to students with exceptional need.
Federal Loans that Require Repayment
Federal Perkins Loan - graduate and undergraduate students with demonstrated financial need can apply for this low-interest loan.
Federal Stafford Loans (Subsidized and Unsubsidized) - graduate and undergraduate students enrolled at least part-time are eligible for this fixed-rate federal loan.
Federal Parent Loans for Undergraduate Students (PLUS) - fixed-rate loan that helps parents cover the educational costs of dependent children.
In order for you to qualify for a federal grant, your school must be participating in these federal programs. Contact the financial aid department of your school to determine eligibility.
Remember: Never pay money to get money.
The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) is the best source for straight talk on scholarship scams. The FTC (2009) warns students to be wary if they hear the following comments:
"The scholarship is guaranteed or your money back."
"You can't get this information anywhere else."
"I just need your credit card or bank account number to hold this scholarship."
"We'll do all the work."
"The scholarship will cost some money."
"You've been selected by a national foundation to receive a scholarship."
"You're a finalist in a contest you never entered."
Types of Scholarship Scams
You send them money and you never see them or your money again.
Requires a fee of anywhere from $5 to $50, but your chances of winning a game show are probably better.
Surprise, Surprise Scholarship
You receive a slick announcement in the mail that says you've just won a huge scholarship (along with a choice between a free trip to Hawaii or a new car). The only catch is that you are required to pay a modest fee for them to release the prize to you. Hello? Trash belongs in the garbage, not on your list of things to do.
The 100%, Sure-Fire, Real Deal Scholarship
Any promise of a scholarship or a full refund is a full-blown scam. Your money will disappear and so will the real deal.
If you believe that any scholarship offer is a scam, report it to the FTC immediately.
Federal Trade Commission
Washington, DC 20580
National Fraud Information Center
Scholarship and financial aid services abound today. What you need to know is that this information does NOT require a fee. This is free information.
Everybody wants to earn a living, including scammers who see the uninformed as a potential meal ticket. It is not against the law to charge a fee for services provided, but the problem with scammers is that they don't provide you with anything but misery. Fraud is fraud!
Most scholarship information is on the internet. There are ways to search smart for your scholarship. Here's how:
- If any scholarship site asks you for your credit card number for payment up front, STOP! Move on.
- Know who and what you are dealing with at all times.
- If you (or your parents) are invited to attend a free seminar about paying for college, do your homework on the invitation before you go. Investigate, authenticate, and validate the legitimacy of the company. Protect yourself and your family from imposters who will dig for your knowledge of your parents' financial investment history.
If any scholarship offer sounds too good to be true, it probably is.
Last Updated: 12/18/2015