Where Should I Start My Scholarship Search?

Explore many avenues, and consider what makes you unique; there may be money in it for you.

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Building on last week's post discussing ways to have a productive junior summer, it's never too early to start putting together a "scholarship résumé." Getting a head start in finding and applying for scholarships can be the difference maker for being able to attend an expensive dream school. Aimee N. from Baltimore asks:

Q: I want to help my parents out with my tuition by landing as many scholarships as I can. Where should I start, what do they usually require, and what are some crazy scholarships you know of?

A: Spend time, not money, for financial aid information.


James Montoya, vice president of higher education, The College Board There are many scams out there charging for scholarship information that is available for free on the Internet. Avoid companies that claim they will do all the work for you, or those that guarantee scholarship money, or those who claim to have exclusive information. Instead, go to a reliable source, such as the College Board website. It offers tons of free information about scholarships, loans, and other ways to pay for college. Also, check with your parents to see if their employers offer scholarships to employee children, and check with your counselor to learn about local scholarships. This all takes some effort, but it can definitely pay off.

A: Look everywhere for scholarships—large or small!


Stacey Kostell, director of admissions, University of Illinois—Urbana-Champaign Start your search early! Finding and applying for scholarships takes time. Apply to large scholarships, but don't discount the smaller ones. Great resources for finding scholarships include Fastweb.com, your school counselor, your parents' employers, and local philanthropic organizations and banks. Many universities offer their own scholarships. Know whether a separate application is required. When you apply for scholarships, treat it like applying for admission. You need to put your best effort into the application because funds are limited and it's vital you do your best. Pay attention to the essay questions and don't submit the same essay for all awards.

[See 8 steps for building your own scholarship.]

A: What makes you unique could just earn you money.


Steve Loflin, founder and CEO, National Society of Collegiate Scholars The first place to start when applying for scholarships is the schools you are applying to. Check that they offer scholarships that fit you (academic merit, athletics, etc.). Then look at all your personal and social affiliations, including Rotary International, Kiwanis, etc., for more scholarship opportunities. You can also look to online resources such as College Board's scholarship search tool and ScholarshipAmerica.org. I've seen some scholarships out there for left-handed people, vegetarians, etc. That which makes you unique could help you land a scholarship! To be successful at getting a scholarship, put yourself in the mind of the review committee: What sets your application apart?

[Consider these 11 unusual scholarships.]

A: Apply to many "good fit" scholarships. It all adds up!


Katherine Cohen, founder and CEO, IvyWise and ApplyWise.com There's $3+ billion in scholarships. Research and apply to many "good fit" scholarships. Find scholarships aligning with your background and abilities using free online tools: FastWeb.com, CollegeBoard.com, and Scholarships.com. Speak with your guidance counselor. Tap your parents: Many employers offer scholarships. Colleges, heritage and professional organizations, corporations, community businesses, churches, and civic groups offer scholarships. There's even one for the best duck call and best duct tape prom outfit! Each has different criteria, but many consider GPA, test scores, activities, and may require an essay, recommendations, and an interview. Tailor each application accordingly. Amounts range from hundreds of dollars to full tuition.

Visit the Unigo Expert Network for scholarship tips and tricks from 30 more experts, and to have your own questions answered.