So, you’re on your way to a high school diploma and the next big step is a college education. Whether you’re headed off to a university, or exploring your local community college, it’s going to cost you money - a lot of money.
Perhaps by now you’ve heard the stories about starving college students who live off of Ramen noodles and pizza. Sounds kind of fun and adventurous for a few weeks, but worrying about money gets old pretty fast. Getting a scholarship can mean the difference of thousands of saved dollars that you can put to good use for other important things in your future.
However, applying for college scholarships can feel like trying to navigate your way through a maze of annoying paperwork that doesn’t often result in your desired outcome. But with the right preparation, it doesn’t have to be that difficult!
Follow the following simple guidelines for how to find scholarships, and you can quickly apply for the right scholarships, and you can increase your chances of saving money on your education!
#1 Be Aware & Don’t Get Scammed
There are sites out there that love to prey on young people who are fresh out of high school and confused about where to start looking for scholarships. These scammers will promise to find you a scholarship if you pay a small fee and sign up for their short and (often confusing) seminar for just $2.99 a minute. Fee-based services and long-winded sales talks about your future are exactly what you want to avoid when searching for scholarships. Scam artists have developed fake search engines and seminar programs to trick young people into thinking that they are legitimate sources to find scholarships.
Fortunately, the United State Education Department keeps a Scholarship Scams list, so you can check companies out before you interact with them. The moment someone mentions a fee for finding or granting you a scholarship, ignore them and leave the website.
#2 Do Your Research
Remember that legitimate scholarships are always free to find by searching online resources like Scholarship Search. All 50 states also have different grant programs for students, so with rule #1 in mind, you only need this official Grant List to find them. The Federal Pell grant is one of them, which offers varying amounts based on financial need and a few other factors.
Scholarships and grants are NOT loans, so you do not have to pay them back after college. They are a free ticket (or, part of one, at least) to getting the education you deserve! While filling out scholarship forms can be a daunting and time-consuming task, if you actually receive one, you will save yourself thousands of dollars in the long run, and all of the initial work will be well worth it.
#3 Get to Know Your Financial Aid Offices
One of the easiest resources available to you is your school’s financial aid office. Unlike the scammers, financial aid workers come free and actually have your best interests in mind in showing you how to find scholarships that you qualify for. Visit the one on your college campus the moment you know where you’re going to school, and they can do all the footwork for you for free.
#4 Follow the Instructions
Once you’ve made your list of the best scholarships for you, print out all of the applications, so you can read through the requirements. Highlight the due date for each application and make a calendar of deadlines. The biggest problem most students face when applying for scholarships is getting the paperwork in on time, so make sure you read the instructions and stay organized!
Bonus Scholarship Tips
While requirements will vary based on the scholarship, below is a list of the typical materials required for scholarship applications:
- Test scores (SAT or ACT)
- Financial information, with tax returns
- Essays or SOP (statement of purpose)
- Letters of recommendation
- Proof of eligibility
Now you know the basics, and you’re equipped with all of the essentials on how to find scholarships! Good luck!
Photo by Alan Levine