Although most financial aid comes in the form of federal loans and grants from colleges, scholarships are the true prize because they are often worth a significant amount and do not need to be repaid.  Scholarships are based on a variety of subjects, including merit, financial need, ethnicity, major, special skills or family circumstances. Many scholarships come from private sources, such as colleges or businesses, and may not be advertised so finding them may require some work on your part. It’s worth the effort and we highly recommending taking the time to develop a plan to find, apply and win scholarship money.

1.  Gain General Information  

  • Your high school guidance office and public library should have a wealth of information on the subject, including scholarship guides, to get you started.   
  • Try searching the internet using scholarships as the key word or check out any of the free college aid information sites available.  For a list of these, go to:  FINANCIAL AID RELATED WEB SITES 

2.  Research Local Scholarships  

  • Your high school guidance office counselor will know of any scholarships for residents of your town, county, and state.   
  • Ask around—you would be surprised at how many private businesses, such as banks, or community groups offer scholarships to deserving students in the area. 

3.  Expand your Boundaries

  • Almost every state has a scholarship program for residents—keep in mind, however, that awards are usually limited to students who attend college in-state. If your counselor doesn’t know of any state-sponsored scholarships, contact Your State Department of Higher Education.

4.  Check Membership Organizations

  • Organizations of all types and sizes sponsor scholarships so explore categories you might not have considered, such as religious, community service, fraternal, military, union, and professional organizations you or your family may belong to.

5.  Ask Employers

  • Many large companies offer scholarships or tuition programs for children of employees so be sure to ask your parent to check with his or her human resources department.
  • And don't overlook your own job. Many employers like fast food chains, department stores, and supermarkets give scholarships to employees.

6.  Research Institutional Scholarships

  • Most scholarship money comes from colleges so be sure to research what scholarships are available at the schools that interest you. Check out college websites, catalogs, and especially the financial aid offices for this information.
  • Many colleges offer scholarships that require unique characteristics (athletic skill, ethnic makeup, musical talent...) so search out schools where there is a shortage of students like you and it could pay off.  

7.  Use a Search Service

  • A scholarship search company performs the free service of collecting information on all types of awards and matching it with your given characteristics to provide a list of possible scholarships you can apply for.  Note: You should not be asked to pay for leads so avoid any service that requires a fee.

8.  Think Big

  • Depending on your circumstances, consider large national scholarships from sources such as National Merit, Gates Millennium, Intel Science and Coca-Cola. Your search service or guidance counselor should be able to tell you which ones you should apply for and focus on the private scholarships for which you have a good chance.

Lastly, do a reality check. Unless you’re the valedictorian or a star athlete, your chances of a full-ride scholarship are slim. So concentrate on getting good grades, strong test scores and your leadership skills as they are much more likely to attract scholarship-granting organizations.