Compare 5 Top Scholarship Search Engines

How do the free scholarship search tools compare in their timeliness, privacy settings, and uniqueness?

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There are so many free scholarship search engines available to students online—you'll get about 7 million results by Googling "scholarship search"—that it can be difficult to know which websites to use. It's a good idea to set up profiles on multiple sites so you catch as many opportunities as possible.

Which sites you choose is up to you, but in case you need some help with your decision making, I've looked at three key elements of several free search engines: how often their data is updated, whether they keep your information private, and what's unique about each of them.

1. CollegeBoard.com: The College Board was founded in 1900 and currently helps 7 million students annually prepare for higher education. The College Board began publishing their book of scholarships in 1997 and since then has made the information available online. Their scholarship database contains more than 2,300 scholarship opportunities, totaling nearly $3 billion.

Timely? Yes. Staff perform a mass update of all scholarships annually; changes, corrections, additions, and deletions are also handled monthly.

Private? Absolutely. College Board only uses your information to help you and to improve its services. They do not rent or sell your information. Period.

Unique? Yes, for a couple reasons. College Board's database and printed handbook are broadly relevant—you won't find scholarships here that are intended for use at just one institution. And because of The College Board's role as the organization behind the SAT, AP exams, etc., they have rigorous standards for the scholarships they include in their database, including only those scholarships with a documented history from a well-established sponsor.

[Explore 7 prestigious undergrad scholarships.]

2. CollegeNet.com: CollegeNET is a technology company that builds web-based tools for event and academic scheduling, prospect and admissions management, tuition processing, and alumni development for colleges and universities. CollegeNET also operates a scholarship search engine and social network where students create topics, participate in discussions, and vote on scholarship winners.

Timely? Yes. CollegeNET.com updates its data monthly through its license agreement with data aggregator Wintergreen Orchard House.

Private? Yes. CollegeNET.com's privacy policy states, "We do not rent or sell personal information to third parties." However, if you are awarded a scholarship, you can opt in to their Scholarship Election System and share your data with the school that you designate.

Unique? Yes. In addition to the scholarship search, CollegeNET.com hosts an online community that invites students to create topics in an open forum, share their comments, and vote online to determine who is leading the most interesting conversation. By the end of the voting cycle every Wednesday, the student with the most votes wins between $3,000-$5,000 in scholarship money. This social networking scholarship is open to all students and is not based on traditional factors like GPA, age, or income level; you are not required to write essays, and the scholarship process is voted upon by your peers, rather than a panel of judges.

[Learn 5 ways you can create more scholarships.]

3. Fastweb: Fastweb, which has helped 50 million students find money since the site was founded 15 years ago, was the first online scholarship matching service and the first free national scholarship matching service. Fastweb's site indicates they currently have roughly 1.5 million scholarships worth $3.4 billion in their database.

Timely? Definitely. According to Fastweb, they update their database daily—which would make them the timeliest of the five mentioned in this post. To assist in their process, Fastweb expires scholarships from their database after 11 months, forcing them to update the information before it can be relisted.

Private? Yes, unless you expressly agree (opt in) to allow your information to be shared with third parties. Fastweb's privacy policy states that they do not share any information that can be tied to you without your permission.

Unique? Sure. Fastweb compiles their scholarship data in-house, and when new scholarships are added they send an E-mail notification to every student who matches the award.

[Read the 4 do's and 1 don't for finding scholarships.]

4. Scholarships.com: Founded in 1999, Scholarships.com now claims to be the largest free and independent scholarship search and financial aid information resource on the Internet, with more than 2.7 million scholarships worth a total of $19 billion in their database.

Timely? Yes. Vice President Kevin Ladd says their database is updated daily. "We encourage scholarship providers to not only submit their scholarship to be included in our database, but also to update them." They also have a staff to review new and edited listings, and "every few months or so" they review all scholarships for changes, errors, or inconsistencies.

Private? You bet. Users supply only the information they choose and are offered opportunities to opt out of receiving anything they don't want—even at the time of registration. (See Scholarships.com's privacy policy.)

Unique? Maybe. Ladd and the folks at Scholarships.com feel their database and user experience is superior to all others out there and that their resources and the effort they put into making sure the information they have is useful is unmatched.

[Read about 11 sexy scholarships.]

5. ScholarshipMonkey.com: ScholarshipMonkey.com claims their database provides students access to more than 1 million undergraduate, graduate, and professional scholarship awards worth in excess of $3 billion from greater than 4,000 sources. Like the other search engines in this article, they are committed to providing their service free of charge.

Timely? Perhaps. ScholarshipMonkey.com states that "the scholarship database is continuously updated by the company's Scholarship Team to ensure you are receiving the most relevant and useful information." Unlike the other search engine sites, ScholarshipMonkey.com did not provide specific timing for their updates.

Private? No, unless you opt out from receiving information from third parties via E-mail or snail mail. (See ScholarshipMonkey.com's privacy policy.)

Unique? Your scholarship search will be led by a talking monkey (er, chimp). 'Nuff said.

Janine Fugate joined Scholarship America in 2002. She is an alumna of the College of Saint Benedict, Saint Joseph, Minn., and is currently pursuing a Master of Public Affairs at the Hubert H. Humphrey Institute of Public Affairs at the University of Minnesota. Fugate is the recipient of numerous scholarships at both the undergraduate and graduate level.