Unleash Your Scholarship Hunt: The Ultimate Guide to Finding Scholarships

Unfortunately, the cost of a college education has tripled in one generation. Even when a student and their family have done all the right things- worked hard, earned good grades and paid their taxes, they may struggle to pay for college. Even families with savings will watch their account drain faster than ever. It’s crucial that students and families apply for every dollar they are entitled to, and scholarships can be a game-changer.

Today, I’ll delve into the best strategies for finding scholarships and highlight the best strategies for applying..

1. Stay Organized and Start Early

Organization is the key to scholarship success. Keep track of deadlines, requirements, and application materials using tools such as checklists or calendars (Download the Complete College Advising Scholarship Tracking spreadsheet). Taking a proactive approach ensures you submit applications on time and present a polished representation of yourself.

Embarking on your scholarship search early is important to success. By beginning well in advance, you’ll have plenty of time to search for scholarships which fit you, gather the necessary documents, and create compelling applications.

2. Showcase Your Accomplishments, Engagement and Talents

You should have a list of your:

  • Academic achievements and awards
  • Extracurricular involvement
  • Examples of leadership and service
  • Any unique obstacles you’ve overcome or dealt with during high school

When you begin your search, you can reference this list and search for scholarships which match your unique skills, achievements, or background. Whether you excel academically, have remarkable leadership qualities, engage in community service, or possess artistic talents, there are scholarships waiting for you.

3. Prioritize Your Scholarship Search: Start Close to Home

In my experience, students and families often fail to apply for scholarships because they are overwhelmed by all the options available. My advice is to spend your time on the applications which are most likely to pay off because it will help break the inertia. Here’s how I would do it:

  • Tier 1- Scholarships suited to you AND are not likely to have tons of applications.
    This includes scholarships specific to your school, students from your community, through your parent'(s) employer or those with essays.
  • Tier 2- Scholarships suited to you OR are not likely to have tons of applications.
  • Tier 3- All other scholarships

Here’s a list of places I would search within each tier:

  • Tier 1- Scholarships suited to you AND are not likely to have tons of applications.
    • Your HS counselor or college guidance office
    • Scholarship websites of the colleges you have applied to
    • Your local community foundation (search for “community foundation” and the name of your county/state or ask you counselor for this link)
    • Your parent(s)’ employer
    • Clubs or organizations you participate in (i.e. Key Club or church youth group)
    • Focus on the applications which require essays and/or letters of recommendation because most students will NOT apply for these.
  • Tier 2- Scholarships suited to you OR are not likely to have tons of applications.
    • Clubs or organizations your parents participate in (i.e. Rotary or Optimists)Specialized scholarships
    • Scholarships through your state government (search “college scholarships from the State of <your state>” and only visit pages which end in .gov.
  • Tier 3- All other scholarships

Congratulations! You are now equipped with the ultimate guide to finding scholarships. Remember, financial assistance is within reach if you take the initiative to explore the numerous opportunities available. Remember, I’m here to help you create a customized plan for scholarship applications and to even help you plan and review your scholarship essays. Book an advising session today and let’s get started!

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