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How to Find Scholarships You Qualify For

by Bethany Goldszer | Last Updated: January 5, 2021

Billions of dollars in scholarships are available for high school and college students. But last year, American students left $100M in scholarships on the table. Why aren’t students claiming this money? I surveyed 1,000 students, and many said:

"I don't know how to get started applying for scholarships."

"I can't find scholarships I qualify for."

I don't have time to apply for scholarships with my busy schedule."

Does any of this resonate with you? If so, soon, you may not have a choice. You’ll have to learn how to find scholarships. 

College is expensive. According to Rob Lieber in the Price You Pay for College, parents of a student going to college can expect to pay $125,000 for a four-year degree from a state university if they are state residents. The price rises to $300,000 for a private college or university. What this shows: the average family cannot afford to fund their child’s college education.

While colleges award merit scholarships, the money will help a bit. Count on getting anywhere between 20% and 50% covered by merit scholarships if you are a highly valued candidate. Yet, the best way to bridge the costs between what the college offers and what you can pay is through private scholarships. 

Continue reading this post and learn the most reliable places to find scholarships you qualify for. Jumpstart your scholarship search and locate “hidden money” that stacks up fast and lowers your out-of-pocket college costs.

Key Points

Table of Contents

Ask Your High School Counselor

The first place to find scholarships is your high school counselor. Your high school counselor is likely receiving emails from legitimate scholarship granting organizations that they pass on to students they know personally or have posted onto the college guidance website or posted on Naviance. You’ll want to start with your counselor because this person will be the best source of scholarships where your chances will be the highest. Also, counselors have been working with students year after year and know which scholarships are legitimate or easier to secure than those out of reach or flat out scams. So send your counselor an email or in your next meeting, let them know you’re interested in scholarships, and ask where they store information about them. 

girl holding her scholarship application

Look in Your Local Community

The second best place to find scholarships is in your community. You should make a list of every local community organization, social group, credit union, bank, restaurant, school group (e.g., PTA, Girl Scouts, etc.), parent employer, etc., that you’re connected with. And simply ask if the organization provides scholarships. Scholarships granted by local organizations are easier to win because there is less competition since they are awarded hyper-locally. Also, the requirements may not be as stringent — in many instances, as simple as completing a basic application, personal statement, and a recommendation letter. Lucky for you, I’ll be providing you with starter materials at the end of this post to get you started working on scholarship applications.

Search the Internet

The third place to find scholarships is on Google. You can enter search terms such as “scholarships” and any word that would qualify you for a scholarship. For example, you can search for | scholarship ping pong | to find scholarships for ping pong players. The more specific you are, the more keywords you use can lead to a treasure trove of opportunities to apply. You can also use search terms in reputable scholarship search engines, which I’ll discuss in the final section.

The final place to find scholarships, which is usually the first place students look, is a scholarship search engine. But I offer two points of caution on these. One, these search engines are filled with “promotional” scholarships, meaning there are few awards, low application requirements, typically only a name and email address, and hundreds of thousands of students applying. Also, there’s no proof that anyone even wins any of these scholarships. The purpose of these postings is to collect and potentially sell your information. Second, some of the scholarships are not legitimate. They are scams. How can you spot a scam: if they ask you to pay a fee to apply, to provide online credentials for personal accounts or bank information, just don’t do it. A real scholarship will never ask you to pay a fee or collect irrelevant information. I advise you always to go back to Google and research the scholarship before applying to check that it’s legitimate.

Conclusion + Next Steps

In conclusion, after you get past the scholarship myths that keep you from finding funding for college, your next step is to find scholarships you’re eligible for. I encourage you to download my Scholarship Organizing Starter Pack, where I provide plug-and-play templates to help jumpstart your scholarship search. Find it here.

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Bethany Goldszer is top college admissions and financial aid expert. She's been featured in HuffPost, USA Today, Newsday, Queens Gazette, and Official Black Wall Street & voted Best of Long Island. Faced with the overwhelming stress of applying, getting admitted to and financing her University of Chicago education, she started Stand Out College Prep LLC in 2012 so that no student or parent would have to go through this process alone. Over the last 15 years, Bethany has worked with over 1,500 students, helping them and their parents get into their top choice colleges and secure more than $20M in financial aid and scholarships. And each year, she continues to help more students stand out in the college admissions process and their parents navigate financial aid and scholarships.