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Stretch Your Scholarship Search With Regional Opportunities

Don't overlook regional college scholarship opportunities offered by community groups and alumni associations.

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Students who have already decided on a college should research local alumni associations, which often award scholarships to regional candidates. 

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As you search for scholarships to help you pay for your college education, it can sometimes feel like you’ve looked everywhere. You've checked your hometown, talked with your current or prospective colleges, learned about scholarships in your major and searched online for awards in your state.

If you’re struggling to figure out where to turn next, research scholarships available in your region. It’s a little more work, but regional programs can provide a number of avenues for kick-starting a stalled scholarship search.

[Consider these alternative college scholarship search engines.]

The most basic way to start is by performing a search with the name of your region and the word "scholarships." Regions, of course, are less defined than states, cities or schools, but that variation means there are more options for searching.

Here in Minnesota, scholarship seekers can look for scholarships geared toward the northern Plains, the Upper Midwest and the Great Lakes regions. A student in Washington, D.C., could find awards geared toward the mid-Atlantic, the Washington metro area or even the southeast. 

Wherever you live, chances are good that this simple but overlooked search will reveal award opportunities you didn’t know about. It’s also likely to uncover some regional reciprocity programs.

While these aren't exactly scholarships, programs like the New England Board of Higher Education’s Tuition Break reduce college costs by discounting out-of-state tuition for students who live in the region. To learn more about these kinds of programs, search for tuition reciprocity or ask your financial aid adviser about reciprocity options.

Your search may also turn up awards from regional community foundations. Community foundations are a specific kind of nonprofit organization. Typically, they collect donations from supporters in a metropolitan area, region or state and then distribute the money through a variety of programs ranging from food shelves to arts organizations to park cleanup.

[Get tips on finding scholarships in your own backyard.]

Just about all regional organizations fund scholarships for students in their region. Check out the Community Foundation for the Greater Capital Region in New York, and the Community Foundation of the Rappahannock River Region in Virginia to see how these single organizations give out dozens of scholarships with a wide array of criteria.

If you've already decided on a college or are weighing a few options, you should know that many school alumni associations award scholarships on a regional basis across the nation. Regional alumni associations generally offer scholarships to students who live in the region and plan to attend their alma mater.

You can see lists of dozens of regional alumni association awards from Princeton University and Indiana University. These are by no means unique, as just about every sizable college in the country should have a similar list. 

For students planning to move far from home for college and possibly pay out-of-state tuition, these awards can be especially valuable. They can also be more accessible than most.

Depending on where you live, you might be one of only a handful of people heading to your school. So if you’re in the Puget Sound region and looking at studying at the University of Michigan, or you live in Atlanta but dream of going to the University of Southern California, connect with your regional alumni association as early as possible.

Finally, your major and extracurricular activities can pay off if you connect with the regional offices of professional and student organizations. Like alumni associations, many of these groups operate on a regional basis, and most offer scholarships with highly specific criteria. 

[Learn how to find college scholarships on campus.]

If your dream is to become a music teacher, an organization like the Texas Music Educators Association offers renewable, single-year and graduate scholarships. Even more focused, the Hispanic National Bar Association offers scholarships to Latino law students in each of its 19 regions across the country. 

Even if you don’t have a declared major, you can still find some regional scholarships. The Northeast Regional Honors Council, one of the regional offices of the National Collegiate Honors Council, provides scholarship awards for its own enrichment opportunities and honors semester courses of study.

And those involved in student leadership should check out the regional scholarships offered by the National Association for Campus Activities, which awards active campus leaders in the association’s seven regions.

Your region may not be the first area that comes to mind when you start your scholarship search. But don’t forget to search for these opportunities – you’re likely to find some overlooked and potentially lucrative awards.