Consider Professional Organizations as Scholarship Resources

Associations in your field of interest can be sources of college funding.

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As tuition rises, it's more crucial than ever to discover new and innovative ways of finding scholarship money—and one opportunity you might not think of is via professional associations in your field of interest. These associations are a great way to network with professionals, and they're also wonderful places to find scholarships. Being a member also allows you to find job listings and read up on current events and issues within your career field. (Not to mention it's a great résumé builder.) If you join as a high school or undergrad student, you will most likely enjoy reduced membership dues as well.

[Read about 4 overlooked ways to pay for college.]

Here are a few of the many scholarships sponsored by professional organizations:

High School Essay Contest through the Society of Professional Journalists: If you have a passion for writing, then you'll definitely want to check out this scholarship contest. Each year the Society of Professional Journalists posts a question to be answered in 300 to 500 words, such as: "Why is free expression through independent media important?" This contest is open to students enrolled in grades 9-12 in public, private, and home schools. The first-place scholarship winner will be awarded $1,000, second place gets $500, and the third-place winner receives $300.

The American School Health Association Scholarship: Are you a junior, senior or graduate student enrolled full or part time at an institution of higher education? Are you also pursuing a degree in school health education, school nursing, pediatric or adolescent medicine, or dentistry? Then you could win one of this association's three annual $500 scholarships.

The IEEE Power and Energy Society Scholarship Plus Initiative: If you're a full-time undergraduate studying electrical or power engineering—and you have a 3.0 or higher GPA at an ABET-accredited 4-year university—check out the IEEE Power and Energy Society program. This scholarship awards $2,000 to the winner, with the possibility of an extra $5,000 if the student maintains his or her eligible status for two more years. The organization also helps the scholarship recipient find internships to help further his or her career goals. Applications will be accepted starting in spring 2012.

The Future Educators Association Scholarship: This association awards more than 30 scholarships per year to high school seniors and college undergrads intending to major in education. You must be a member of the Future Educators Association (FEA), but the annual membership fee is just $8 and will give you access to scholarships, leadership development activities, and an opportunity to participate in the FEA international conference (which features competitions and further scholarship opportunities). The applications will be available in 2012.

National FFA (Future Farmers of America) Scholarships: Future Farmers of America offers more than 1,000 scholarships to both FFA members and nonmembers, through sponsors such as Ford, Cargill, and Monsanto. Students can receive up to two scholarships: one as a high school senior and one as a college student. The 2012 scholarship application will be available online from Nov. 15, 2011 to Feb. 15, 2012.

[Learn more about college scholarships.]

These are just a few scholarships offered through professional organizations, and joining these associations offers advantages beyond much-needed scholarship money, such as the ability to network and find career-related job listings. Those opportunities are just knocking at your door! Which professional organizations will you join and for what scholarships will you apply?

Ashley Mondor interned for Scholarship America in 2011 and graduates from the University of Wisconsin—River Falls in 2012.