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A Guide to Finding and Procuring Scholarships for College Students


Yes, there are thousands of scholarships out there just waiting for students to find them. Yes, there are scholarships that never get awarded because no one applies for them. And yes, many scholarships do not take financial need or academic success into account. But, no, this does not mean that all you have to do is fill out an online form and the offers will come pouring in. We have several suggestions to jump start your scholarship search.

Categorize yourself.
Most scholarships are restricted to applicants that fit into a category, or set of categories. Make a list of every category you fit into like race, ethnicity, employers of self and family, organizations you and family members belong to, interests, your major, your career aspirations, religious affiliation and the like.

Think locally.
Contact the Chamber of Commerce in your home town. Ask them if they know of any scholarships offered by companies or organizations in your local area. Get a list of the service clubs in your town and send a letter to the secretary of each one telling about yourself, your studies and your career aspirations. Ask if they offer scholarships to someone of your description and why you need one.

Fill out the FAFSA.
The Department of Education uses the information provided on your FAFSA to determine your eligibility for aid from the Federal Student Aid (FSA) programs. Many states and schools also use the FAFSA to award aid from their programs. This is always your first step, even if you are pessimistic about qualifying for need based scholarships.

Use your campus resources.
The absolute best resource for finding financial aid can be found right on your campus in your school's financial aid center. They have the expertise, experience and the commitment to help you in all phases of your search. Be proactive. Ask as many questions as is necessary of your counselor to get yourself on track.

Search at FastWeb.
FastWeb. The Internet's leading scholarship search service, helps students make the decisions that shape their lives: choosing a college, paying for college and finding jobs during and after college. And it's all free.

Once you have found a possible scholarship:

  1. Send a polite letter or e-mail stating why you feel you would be a good candidate and requesting the forms and information on the application process.
  2. Carefully read the directions and follow them to the letter. Don't give the selection committee an excuse to reject you. Read the fine print and be sure to fulfill every criteria, no matter how silly.
  3. Know the deadlines and adhere to them. Get your applications and other relevant information in early if possible.
  4. Solicit letters of recommendation from instructors, employers and personal references. Try to have them be as specific as possible to your accomplishments, not just a boiler plate recommendation.
  5. Proofread each piece of paperwork you submit for spelling, syntax and grammar. Then have someone else go over them too.
  6. Professional looking essays are more likely to be treated positively than sloppily appearing ones. Use bright clean paper. Use an easy to read font like Times New Roman, not an internet font like Arial. Number each page.
  7. Be prepared to discuss your abilities, skills and goals in an interview. Go over your strengths beforehand and use examples to illustrate your case.
  8. Dress professionally - the image you present will significantly effect the interviewer's impression of you. Plan to wear a two piece business suit.
  9. Make copies of everything. If something gets lost you don't want to start over.
  10. Be persistent
  11. Stay positive.


Recommended Reading

Sallie Mae's Wired Scholar recommends these books. We checked them out ourselves and now so do we.

Balancing detailed explanations with real-life examples and practical resources, this guide reveals a multitude of ways to finance higher education.


The secrets, tips and strategies used by actual students to win millions of dollars in scholarships and financial aid are revealed in this guide for parents and high school, college and graduate students.


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