How to Find Scholarships

by Bethany Goldszer | Last Updated: January 5, 2021

Table of Contents

Where to Find Scholarships

Last year, American students left over $100 million in scholarships on the table. I recently took a survey and found that many of my students believed that it was impossible to find scholarships they were eligible for, they didn’t know where to start, and they didn’t have the time to apply. This year, with the COVID-19 pandemic leaving us with financial insecurities, this is the time to claim all funding you may be eligible for.

The truth is that the average student who gets financial aid secures an average of $9,000 in private scholarships. And there are scholarship awards for all types of students. Many of the scholarships awarded are not for students who are athletes or top students. I recently helped a student apply for the PBJ scholarship, an award for a student who has not performed well academically but is passionate about going to college. If you know where to look, you’ll find scholarships for special interests, intended field of study, geographic location, ethnic background, religious affiliation, and more! 

Students can find and win scholarships as early as 9th grade! The biggest barrier to overcome is getting started. This post is part of a 3-part series leading up to Scholarship Week. My goal is to provide students like you in 2021 with everything you need to seek, apply, and accelerate your scholarship search so that you find more opportunities in less time to pay for college.

In this post, I’ll focus on places where you can find scholarships.

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.

Conclusions + Download

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.