Last year, I earned enough private scholarships to completely pay my four-year 18k/year tuition plus living expenses – but it was hard because there were barely any genuine resources to help me find them. My guidance counselor also literally told me not to apply to a scholarship I ended up winning. It really pisses me off that there are so many shitty blogs and companies trying to make a buck off of students trying to find the money for college, so here are my real tips for finding scholarships. I’ve posted this as a comment to a few posts, but hopefully, it will reach more people like this.

Finding scholarships:

  • Focus on small local scholarships that won’t have many applications – these are the scholarships people always say don’t even get claimed because nobody applies to them. If you’re in/near a major city, there is probably a specific Community Foundation that indexes and manages many of them. Check this website to find one for your neighborhood. You can also try just googling “[My City/State] Scholarships” and looking through the first 5-10 pages to see what comes up.
  • If you are religious, check with your pastor and the local/state/national governing bodies of your religion. Check with the bosses and websites of you and your parent’s workplaces. See if the local library has resources. Ask the teachers at your high school.
  • Once you begin college, check with your professors and your major’s department office. If you attend a research university, grants for independent research projects are another good way to get money for school – check with the Honors College, Office of Undergraduate Research, or similar offices.
  • Cappex was great for me because it has the most ways to sort through their thousands of scholarships (as opposed to FastWeb). It also has settings where you can sort by lack of competition and length of applications/essays.
  • If you fit the requirements, you can apply. I got a scholarship funded and named after a football tournament even though I’m a girl that’s never played sports in her life. Read the fine print before you write things off.
  • Don’t underestimate scholarships that don’t list how much they’re worth. I applied to one thinking it’d be like $500 and it turned out to be $12k renewable.
  • Apply to as many as possible, but remember that it’s not possible to apply to all of them. You only have so much time, so prioritize it wisely and focus on ones you actually have a serious shot at winning.

Application tips:

  • Fill out your FASFA as soon as it opens in january, because lots of other scholarships will ask for it.
  • Turn in scholarships early! Begin looking for spring NOW!
  • Draft your essays and get at least two people at school to look over them. Read it out loud. Make a draft that’s longer than the essay supposed to be, and find bad parts to take out after finishing the draft.
  • Be sure to include something in your essays about how the career you’re going into will help the community. If you’re undecided, just pick one to write about because they know that over 50% of kids switch majors anyway. Obviously don’t apply for scholarships specifically for a major you have no interest in, but if it you’re just deciding between a couple careers write about the one that is most in-tune with the scholarship.
  • Begin getting close to at least 3 teachers/coaches/guidance counselors at the beginning of the year for rec letters, or stay in contact with your old ones. When you ask for rec letters, give them a resume (if you don’t have a resume yet, make one!) as well as all the information about what the scholarship is for and where they need to send it. Make copies if you can.
  • This should go without saying, but make sure your applications are neat! I have terrible handwriting, so I took the printed copies of applications I found and scanned them to my computer so I could type on them. Things like bad handwriting/scratching stuff out, not following basic instructions, forgetting one of the listed items (like a transcript or even a picture), and not spending the extra $1.50 to mail a manilla envelope (folding everything into a tiny envelope) makes a more of a difference than you would think. It shows that you’re unprofessional and don’t care.

Feel free to ask me any other questions you might have and comment on other tips you have to share.