Scholarship Search Tips
Where to look for scholarships
- Businesses: Some businesses offer scholarships to employees and children of employees.
- Charitable groups: Several charitable groups are looking for qualified medical and health science students to offer grants and scholarships to. Easter Seals, March of Dimes, and the National Epilepsy Foundation are good places to start if you feel you may be interested in a charitable group scholarship.
- Community organizations: If you or a parent belong to a community organization, you may qualify for a scholarship. Some community organizations also offer scholarships to students who do not belong to the organization but meet specific requirements. Look for groups such as a Rotary Club, Lions Club, Knights of Columbus, Elks Club and VFW.
- Ethnic and cultural organization: There may be an organization related to your ethnic and cultural heritage that's interested in encouraging higher education or developing leaders. Examples are the Organization of Chinese Americans and the Hispanic Heritage Awards Foundation.
- Employers: Check with the human resources staff where your parents work. If you work part-time, check with your employer to see if they offer scholarships for student workers. National employers like McDonald's, Burger King and Subway do this.
- Honors societies: Are you a member of an honor society? If you are, there is an excellent chance that they offer scholarships to their qualified members. Call your local chapter for more information.
- Private foundations and charities: Each year community foundations, throughout the state and across the U.S., award thousands of dollars in scholarships to their residents. Sometimes select scholarships are also available for residents of other counties, U.S. citizens, or certified permanent residents in Michigan. Local community foundations include:
- Professional organizations: Various professional organizations offer money to qualified applicants. Some examples are the Michigan Bankers Association, Michigan Education Association, and Michigan Association of Realtors.
- Professional or trade associations: Look at associations related to your career interests as well as any that your parent belongs to, since they may award scholarships to dependents of members. The following website offers a search of local and national trade union scholarships:
- Military: If you are interested in practicing in the military/ROTC.
- Religious organizations: Contact both local and national headquarters.
- Sports/professional sports teams: Many local booster clubs and recreation sporting groups offer college scholarships. Some examples include the National Bowling Association, Bowl.com, and the American Youth Golf Association. Also, professional sports teams often sponsor students in local areas. Some even have community foundations.
- It is 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.
- Do not use any scholarship service that charges a fee. Not all of these organizations are legitimate, and those that are legitimate provide a service that you could do yourself for free.
- It is up to you to be assertive in searching for, applying for, and following up with scholarship programs. Be persistent. Most students will find their efforts are well worth it.
- Apply for as many scholarships as you feel you are qualified for, even those that do not have a huge monetary value. Small scholarships save you big money in the long run.
- Start as early as possible. Create a separate email account just for your scholarship search.
- Focus on local and regional scholarships before you apply to national scholarships. You are more likely to be successful in securing a scholarship that is closer to where you reside.
- Do not use search terms like "college scholarships" when using internet search engines. The results will be scams. Instead use terms like "Michigan Association of XXX", or Michigan "Chemistry Scholarships".
- Keep your resources on hand so you can apply for the programs in your second year of study.
- Federal Student Aid - Finding and applying for scholarships
- College Board.Org - Scholarship search
- Fast Web.com - Scholarship search
- FinAid.Org - Other scholarship search sites
- Finaid.Org - Unusual scholarships
Eight steps to winning a scholarship
Families often hear about the millions of scholarship dollars that go unused each year, an anecdote that has been repeated so many times that it is accepted as fact. Unfortunately, this pot of scholarships at the end of the rainbow is a myth: While some scholarships go unused, much of the money included in that figure comes from employers' tuition remission programs. There are scholarships out there, however, and you can increase your odds of winning one by following these eight steps:
- Consult the financial aid office: The largest amount of financial aid comes from federal, state, and institutional grants and tuition discounts. Your financial aid office can help you find information on available scholarships, grants, and loans according to your needs and background.
- Contact your academic department: If you have already decided on a major, your academic department may be aware of awards designated for students in your area of study. The student aid office does not always have information on these highly specific programs, so be sure to check both.
- Use a free scholarship search engine: Ask the student aid office to recommend free scholarship search sites other students have found useful. Online searches let you focus on scholarships that fit your personal characteristics, helping you target your search to only those scholarships for which you are most likely to qualify. Some sites bombard users with promotional scholarships that may turn out to be advertisements in disguise. Make sure you know what you are signing up for when and if you give out your personal information.
- Never assume: Don't believe that because you don't have straight A's and can't shoot a 3 pointer, there's nothing available to you. There are scholarships available based on hobbies, interests, background, financial need, etc. According to FinAid.com, there's even a $1,000 scholarship for a left-handed student. Seek out local and national organizations and associations in your areas of interest to see whether any scholarship opportunities exist.
- Write the essay: No one likes to write essays, so use that fact to your advantage. 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.
- Stack up the small scholarships: Studies show that families often overlook scholarships that are less than $500. You may be thinking that these awards won't even make a dent in your college costs, but adding up multiple small awards can prove to be a benefit in your scholarship quest.
- Apply early: The best time to apply is NOW! Waiting too long will result in missed deadlines. Seniors should start filling out applications to meet early or mid-fall application deadlines. Don't wait to be accepted to a college to research and apply for private scholarships. If you don't receive a scholarship the first time around, don't get discouraged. Most scholarships are not limited to freshmen; you may have better luck the following year.
- Don't get scammed: The Federal Trade Commission warns consumers about scholarship scams, which promise that, for a fee, they can help the family access more student aid. Similar scams charge students high scholarship search or application fees. According to the FTC, "Most scholarship sponsors do not charge up-front fees to apply for funding, and no legitimate scholarship sponsor can guarantee that you will win an award." The financial aid office at your school can help you apply for student aid, and free scholarship searches are available online.