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How to Find Scholarships You Qualify For

graduation cap over money

You might get financial aid, including scholarships, from the college you attend. But how do you find college scholarships on your own -- and that you have the best chance of winning?

One easy way to find scholarships to help pay for college is to use free online scholarship search tools, such as CollegeData’s Scholarship Finder. Here are some ways to get the most out of your scholarship search.

Get Personal

Your personal qualities, not necessarily stellar grades or accomplishments, can help you qualify for scholarships. For example, did you know there are scholarships for high school students who are vegan? Or who live in Sheboygan County, Wis. and make art? Or for students who like creating prom dresses out of duct tape? And don't forget your parents. Their residency, heritage, employment, club memberships, etc. can all lead to scholarship opportunities.

Below are some search factors to try in your online search for scholarships. If you get too many results, try narrowing down your search using one or more additional factors. The more qualifications you meet, the more likely you are to win the award.

Top Scholarship Search Factors

  • College major or general area of study
  • Career goals
  • Gender
  • GPA
  • State or county of residence
  • Ethnicity/heritage
  • Religion
  • Disability
  • Special condition
  • Talent
  • Occupation
  • Employer
  • College location
  • Military and veteran status
  • Sexual orientation
  • First-generation college student

Go Low-Tech

Consulting printed scholarship directories can also be helpful. These publications are updated annually, so make sure the edition you are reviewing is a recent one. Two of the best-known titles are The Ultimate Scholarship Book by Gen Tanabe and Peterson’s Scholarships, Grants, and Prizes. You can find these and other scholarship directories at bookstores, on Amazon, or at your local library. Books can sometimes contain information about the scholarship and the sponsor that you won’t always find in an online listing.

You can also try government agencies involved in education, such as state education offices. The U.S. Department of Labor offers a free scholarship search tool that includes grants, fellowships, and other financial aid awards.

Go Local

Scholarships sponsored by organizations in your local area are often the easiest to get because there is less competition and the scholarship judges may already be familiar with you or your family. You qualify simply by living in your hometown. Your high school counselor or your city’s chamber of commerce may be able to help you connect with scholarships in your community. Here are some other local sources you can try:

  • Your and your parents' employers
  • Local businesses
  • Community and service organizations
  • Clubs, foundations, and associations
  • Religious groups
  • City and county education offices
  • Your library

Start Now (If You Haven't Already)

You can begin your scholarship search—and your applications—anytime. Some scholarships are available to high school juniors, or even sophomores and freshmen. Once you start college, you should continue to pursue scholarships, especially those related to your major.

It takes time and effort to search and apply for scholarships. Sometimes it's hard to get started, especially if you think the application requires a lot of research, recommendations, or an essay. To get motivated, look upon it as a treasure hunt, and you won't be far from the truth.

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