Make College Affordable: Tips for Finding College Scholarships

Most people believe that college scholarships are only available to the crème de la crème. However, there are thousands of scholarships from all kinds of organizations that are tailored to students with varying backgrounds, interests, and skill sets. There are scholarships offered by the government, schools, non-profit, athletic, professional communities, ethnicity-based organizations, private companies, and individuals.


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Identify Scholarships

Can’t win a scholarship that you don’t know about. Naturally, the first step is to identify the scholarship. Looking online is an easy accessible first option to find the most opportunities. There are scholarship finder databases that can help you find a scholarship. A good place to start is the U.S. Department of Labor’s free scholarship search tool which can be found here. The database has more than 7,500 scholarships, fellowships, grants, and other financial award opportunities. This tool allows you to search by deadline, keyword, and location. Here is a list of ten other websites to help your online scholarship search. Another resource is your school guidance counselor. Some scholarships send information to schools so your counselor will have the application information and pertinent deadlines.

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Apps to Find Scholarships

Now it’s even easier to search for scholarships online by using apps on your phone. Scholly is an app with a scholarship directory that helps the user find scholarships. For each user, Scholly compiles a list of 100-200 scholarships through a patented matching system to inform the user of options they may not have known about otherwise. For other apps that help students find scholarships, look here.

Avoid Paying for Help

It is not necessary to pay for help to find money for college. There are commercial financial aid advice services that charge over $1,000, and it’s simply an unnecessary expense with today’s internet technology available to everyone. According to the U.S. Department of Education, although it is not fraudulent to charge for information that is available for free elsewhere, it is fraudulent for a company to promise something that it does not deliver. Another red flag is if the scholarship requires a fee and/or guarantees an award, it is most likely an indicator of a scam.

Look Local

Local scholarships have less applicants and therefore will be less competitive compared to national scholarships. To find local scholarships, use your high school counselor as a resource. Local scholarships can also be found through clubs, local radio stations, organizations, and small businesses. Check out your local library and ask a librarian if they know about any local scholarship opportunities. Thinking outside the box may lead to uncovering opportunities that you did not know existed.

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Apply Early

Know the deadlines. It is better to investigate options early so you can have time to apply for more opportunities. There are some scholarships that students can start applying to as a sophomore. Here is a list of ten college scholarships catered to high school sophomores.

Pursue Your Passion

There are hundreds of non-traditional scholarships. Love Zombies? Apply for a zombie scholarship. It is easier (and more fun) to apply for scholarships that match your passions. For other scholarship opportunities check out this list of Unique, Silly, & Fun Scholarships.

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Apply Often

The more scholarships that you apply for, the better chance you have to win an award. So to have the best odds, apply to as many scholarships as possible (and early). Although some scholarships may just be a one-time award of a few hundred dollars, the small awards can add up. Plus, small scholarship awards will have less applicants making them less competitive. Applications can be time consuming. Prioritize the applications that are worth more so you don’t spend too much time on a scholarship that may not have a large award.

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It is ok if you do not win a scholarship that you applied for. Try not to take it personal and keep applying. As discussed above, the odds are in your favor the more often you apply. Can’t win them all!

Good Luck!

While you are waiting to hear back on scholarships, check out Rules for Sending Your Crew To College.



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Appellate attorney, writer, and mom with a weakness for compulsive planning, Britney Spears' comeback, and reality TV. In my 30-something pre-baby life, I thought I had life somewhat figured out. Now, I realize how much I didn't know. It's a whole new world rediscovering life through my children. In my free time, you can find me lounging with family or on the tennis court.

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