Tips for Researching Scholarships

By Nan Werther , last updated October 22, 2011

When it comes to affording the cost of college, many parents research scholarships and other sources of assistance to decrease the financial burden. However, applying for scholarships can be an involved process with a big time commitment on the part of the student. Increasing the effectiveness of your scholarship research can reveal the wide variety of opportunities available as well as improve your chances of receiving awards and assistance.

Don't Limit Yourself

There is an incredible array of scholarships available from corporations, foundations, both private and public colleges and universities as well as a multitude of community, national, religious, and government organizations. Not only can you receive scholarships for academic and athletic achievement, but numerous scholarships award excellence in particular fields, or are designated for specific populations and underrepresented individuals such as minorities, continuing education students, disabled persons, and women among other groups. Applying for as many scholarships as you are potentially able to receive increases your chances of winning financial support.

Do The Research

Once you've identified all the ways you are a potential candidate, it's time to research which scholarships specifically apply to your situation. Information is usually available through such resources as your guidance counselor, local library, college library, the internet, or the financial aid office of schools you're interested in. Don't pay for help in finding scholarships, as it is all freely offered online through the right searches. Be careful of scams. The Federal Trade Commission office has a list of useful tips that can help you identify potential scammers.

File a FAFSA

Whether or not you've decided on which scholarships to apply for, the first step in completing any scholarship application is to file your FAFSA, or Free Application for Federal Aid. Most scholarship providers use this form to help determine how much money to allot you whether or not you qualify for government aid or loans.

Steer Clear of Scams

As mentioned before, some organizations are only established to rip off potential scholarship applicants. Usually these promises guarantee that you'll receive a scholarship, inform you of information "not available anywhere else", need your financial information to hold an award, or other too-good-to-be-true offers. Never pay any money upfront in order to be considered as no real scholarship requires applicants to pay fees, and beware of awards you win if you don't remember entering a contest or applying.

Stay Organized to Stay on Track

If you're applying for many scholarships in the hopes of getting the cost of your education covered, it can become difficult to stay on top of your growing to-do list. Many applications require several components, and oftentimes deadlines will occur around the same time. Make sure you don't risk your chances by accidentally forgetting a component, or not following up on your scholarship application process. Make a spreadsheet in Microsoft Excel or other business application and list all scholarships you've applied for and the stages of completion for applications in process. If you're awarded any scholarships, make sure to note in your spreadsheet whether you've remembered to send a thank-you note.

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