Searching for scholarships takes more than a single weekend. With tens of thousands of potential scholarships that each have their own vastly different applications and requirements, the entire process can seem overwhelming. However, there are a number of ways to make finding and applying for scholarships easier. The following tips can help students jump start their scholarship research and help make college more affordable.
1. Apply for as many scholarships as you can
Applying for only a handful of scholarships can minimize your chances of being awarded financial aid. Instead, treat searching and applying for scholarships as a part-time job; set time aside each week to research scholarships, work on essays, and follow up with submitted applications. With scholarships available for different academic interests, extracurricular activities, geographic location, sports participation, and more, there are hundreds of potential opportunities for every student to receive additional aid.
2. Check the requirements for prospective schools
Many students falsely believe that their college application includes an automatic application for school-specific financial aid. In fact, many universities have different application requirements – and deadlines – for financial aid. Check with both the admissions and financial aid offices at prospective schools to ensure you are maximizing your chances at receiving scholarships.
3. Network within your groups
Local clubs, churches, clubs, and organizations may offer small scholarships to members, children of members, or students within the community. Check with churches, civic groups, unions, and other organizations to which you or family members belong to see if there are any scholarships available. These scholarships are typically smaller but may have less competition as they need to be awarded locally.
4. More work means fewer applicants
Scholarships that require more than a simple resume – such as those that ask for a long essay, video, or other project – often have significantly fewer applicants. On average, scholarships that require essays with more than 1,000 words have fewer than 500 applicants; comparable scholarships with shorter essay requirement average more than 5,000 applicants.
5. Ensure you meet all the requirements
If the application asked for a list of five strengths and you only provide four, you may be disqualified. To avoid having your application thrown out, ensure you meet all requirements such as GPA, geographic location, and group membership; likewise, staying within the word limit and removing personal identifiers from essays can keep your application from being thrown out.