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How to find and apply for outside college scholarships

Looking to ease your financial worries of paying for college? There are ways to make it more affordable, one of which is by applying for outside scholarships. Organizations other than the college or university you plan to attend offer outside scholarships. Scholarships can depend on different things like your grades, activities, money situation, or the subject you're studying.

More Michigan students can now attend CMU tuition-free through the CMU Tuition Advantage program. 

CMU Tuition Advantage program info

Start your search early for outside college scholarships

The best way to find outside scholarships is to start searching early. There are many different ways to find scholarships, so it's important to cast a wide net. Here are a few tips:

  • Talk to your high school counselor or college financial aid office. They will have a list of scholarships available to students at your school.
  • Use scholarship search engines. Scholarship search engines like Niche, Fastweb and the U.S. Department of Labor’s free scholarship search tool allow you to find scholarships based on your specific criteria, such as your academic major, GPA, and financial need.
  • Check with organizations and businesses. Many local and religious organizations and businesses offer scholarships to students in their community. Some also offer scholarships to students who do not belong to the organization but meet specific requirements. Look for groups such as Rotary Club, Lions Club, Knights of Columbus, Elks Club and VFW.
  • Ask private foundations and charities. Community foundations throughout the state and across the U.S. award thousands of dollars in scholarships. Sometimes, select scholarships are also available for residents of other counties, U.S. citizens, or certified permanent residents in Michigan. 
  • Look for scholarships related to your interests. Scholarships are available in everything from music and art to STEM and business. Research if there are any scholarships available for your specific interests.

Gather required materials

After finding scholarships you like, check the requirements and gather materials like:

  • Transcripts
  • Recommendation letters
  • Test scores
  • Essays for the application

Writing a strong scholarship essay

Start by brainstorming a list of topics that you're passionate about. What are your interests and goals? What unique experiences have you had? Make a list of topics and pick one that you think the scholarship committee will find interesting.

  • Be specific and personal. Don't just tell the scholarship committee about your accomplishments; show them. Share stories and examples that illustrate your strengths and qualities.
  • Proofread carefully. Make sure that your essay is free of errors in grammar and spelling.

Once you've finished your essay, be sure to proofread it carefully and have someone else read it over as well. Then, submit your application on time.

Scholarships that require essays receive fewer applicants, giving you a better chance of qualifying. Keep copies of all the application materials you submit; often essays and other application materials can be tweaked and used again for future applications. Be sure to thoroughly proofread before submitting each application.

Additional tips for applying for outside scholarships

  • It’s most effective to apply for scholarships that have specific criteria that you meet. The more focused your search, and the more specific the scholarship, the greater your chance of success.
  • Apply for all the scholarships you qualify for, even if they don’t offer a lot of money. Small scholarships save you big money in the long run.
  • Be organized. Keep a list of all of the scholarships you've applied to, along with the deadlines and requirements for each one.
  • Focus on local and regional scholarships before you apply for national scholarships. You’re more likely to be successful in securing a scholarship that’s closer to where you reside.
  • Keep your resources on hand so you can apply for the programs in your second year of study.

Securing outside scholarships to help cover the cost of tuition, food, housing and other expenses can be a challenging yet rewarding process. Remember, every application you submit is an opportunity to tell your unique story and demonstrate your potential. Stay persistent and stay positive.

Admitted Central Michigan University students in search of outside scholarships have the added benefit of free access to Scholarship Universe, a scholarship-matching tool. If you need any assistance along your journey, Central Michigan University’s Office of Scholarships and Financial Aid is here to help.

Blog: All Things Higher Ed posted | Last Modified: | Author: by University Communications | Categories: University Communications
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