Student loans are the bane of any person’s existence. According to the Annual Survey of Colleges done by College Board, the average tuition and fees of a student for the school year 2017-2018 is $34,740 at a private college. Worse, the cost will only continue to go up year after year. Unless you’ve got uber wealthy parents who don’t mind footing the bill (or you won the lottery), you’ll most likely be up to your ears in debt just to prepare for a future that may or may not pay off. A terrifying prospect, to be sure. So, how does one get through college with as little debt as possible? Scholarships. And before you say that scholarships are only for overachievers who got a perfect SAT score (or nearly) or incredibly talented athletes, think again. As long as you’re going to college, you have a chance at getting a scholarship as much as any student.
Some scholarships are based on your willingness to enter a certain career path. Some scholarships are offered based on your ancestry. For example, Jewish graduate students may avail of a scholarship offered by the Jewish Community Center. Some scholarships are awarded to students who promote certain interests or causes. For example, you can get a scholarship from The Vegetarian Resource Group Scholarship if you promote the cause of vegetarianism in school and the community (other requirements may apply as well). In short, there are a wide variety of scholarships that will suit you and provide you with the financial means to get the education you need at a lower cost. The question now is, how does one find the right scholarships? Fortunately, certain websites have made things a lot easier for college students nowadays to do so. These allow you to input your information and they’ll do the searching for you, coming up with a list of scholarships that fit your profile. And we took the time to learn which ones are the best so you don’t have to.
Top 10 Scholarship Search Sites of 2018
Fastweb (https://www.fastweb.com/) has more than 1.5 million scholarships worth $3.4 billion in its database and it’s free to use. You only need to register an account to be able to search their website for scholarships that fit their profile. Now, when you sign up, you’ll need to input relevant information such as academic info, desired major, ethnicity, student activities, sports, SAT score, career goals, etc. This way, you can get really relevant scholarship matches. What we like about Fastweb is that it’s really easy to use and it gets updated daily. You can get notifications of scholarships that are relevant to you as soon as it appears in their search engine. You can even organize your search results into separate lists. The results show you basic information such as the requirements, award amount, and deadline. And to make sure you don’t waste time reading a scholarship with a deadline that has already passed, the results are listed according to the application deadline.
- Gets updated daily
- Easy to use
- Offers tips and guides from getting scholarships to finding a job
- You need to sign up and provide private information such as your email address, date of birth, and phone number which may result in spam
- The results are interspersed with scholarship “ads”
- Data on scholarships may be outdated or no longer relevant
Cappex (https://www.cappex.com/) has $11 billion worth of scholarships in its directory. It gives you the ability to search for certain scholarships that you are interested in. For example, you can search for scholarships based on gender, ethnicity, or a college major. You can also search for scholarships based on location such as Alaska or California. Basically, unlike Fastweb, you don’t need to create an account to search their database. However, if you wish for more personalized results, you will need to create an account. The information you provide in your profile will be the basis for the scholarship matches given to you. The matches won’t always show you the information on each scholarship that matches your search. What we do love about each scholarship listed on the website is the fact that Cappex provides you with some insight not only on the overview but also on how easy it will be to apply for the scholarship, how much competition you’ll be facing, and if the scholarship is renewable. Also, Cappex offers its own “scholarships” such as their #1 Cappex Fan Scholarship which is worth $1000 and will be awarded to students with the most well-rounded profile. It might not be much but it could mean getting decent meals everyday.
- No account required to search
- You can search according to type of scholarship (gender, location, ethnicity)
- Offers its own small scholarships
- Can’t see basic scholarship information on search results
- Some scholarships that are “featured” in your search results are “ads” (a bit like a sweepstake program than a scholarship)
3. Big Future
College Board’s Big Future (website: https://bigfuture.collegeboard.org/) features not only a scholarship finder but also a college finder. College Board is one of the premiere websites for providing SAT and ACT resources. It’s basically one big website for students who need to learn how to navigate the college world – from choosing your major to finding your internship program. The organization has partnered with 2,200 programs, totaling nearly $6 billion. While you are not required to create an account (it will prompt you to do so but you can choose to skip it), you will have to fill out a lot of details to get really accurate results. While it is the most thorough, there is no save search filters/profile function. You need to choose the filters each time you make a search which can be a pain to do. The search results are listed according to the application deadline and each scholarship is listed along with basic information such as the sponsor, type of award, amount, and closing date. We just wish that the closing date showed the year and not just the month and day because this can be confusing to some (including us).
- Accurate results
- No need to sign up to search
- Lots of other tools such as SAT resources, college search, cost calculators, etc.
- No saved profile
- Includes sweepstake scholarships where you need to sign up for a service to become eligible for a scholarship
- you can’t input specific academic information such as SAT scores to filter out scholarships that you are ineligible for
Scholarships.com has more than 2.7 million scholarships worth $19 billion. That’s a lot so you’re really bound to find something that’ll fit you. Like FastWeb, you’ll need to create an account before you can search the database. And since you’ll be providing your email address in the profile, expect to receive spam and occasional mail from the website’s affiliate advertisers (unless you uncheck the box at the bottom when you create your profile). Scholarships.com is quite similar to FastWeb with loads of helpful articles and guides for college students. But what really stands out for us with this search engine is how easy it is to see at a glance what each scholarship is offering in the search results and the deadline (which includes day, month, and year). The site also offers remove/save/favorite functions so you can pare down the results to show only those that you are thinking about applying. We also love the fact that you can filter the directory to only show scholarships based on your major, athletic ability, ethnicity, age, SAT score, and even financial need.
- easy to use
- can filter the list of scholarships
- can opt-out of scholarships you do not want to apply to
- requires a profile
- can’t search according to scholarship type
- scholarship “ads” are listed at the top of search results
Chegg doesn’t have a lot of scholarships in its database compared to the others on our list. In fact, it only has over 25,000 scholarships worth more than $1 billion. The reason why this search engine is one of the best in the business is because of the simplicity of use and the ability to do a search based on your age, current grade level, and GPA, no sign up required. The scholarship matches listed will show the deadline and the amount offered. And you can easily sort through the matches by clicking on the “deadline” or “amount” column. If you wish for a more customized search, you can create a profile (which is free). With an account, you are also able to save scholarship matches that you are interested in.
- incredibly easy to use
- shows basic information in search results
- can sort search results according to deadline and amount
- shows scholarship “ads”
- smaller amount of scholarships in the directory compared to others
6. Scholarship Monkey
Scholarship Monkey (http://www.scholarshipmonkey.com/) is a great search engine for three reasons. First, you can do a customized search by creating a profile. This also means you will be getting email updates on scholarship matches that suit your profile so you may want to use a separate email address just for this to avoid getting spammed in your regular email address. Second, you can search by keywords just like you would on Google. And third, you can check the scholarships in the database according to a certain specification. For example, you can filter the list of scholarship by gender, ethnicity, and college major. The results can then be filtered according to college/university. What we don’t like about the site is the fact that the matches don’t show you the deadline of a scholarship and the amount offered. Plus, it does not have a lot of the navigational filters offered by the other sites. Also, you will need to opt-out of having your information shared to third parties manually through email. If you don’t, your information may be shared with organizations, companies, and schools that are offering scholarships which can result in spam.
- Three different ways to search
- No need to create an account
- You can save matches if you have a profile
- Requires manually opting out of having your information shared
- Lack of filters
- You don’t see the amount and deadline of a scholarship in the search results
Unigo (https://www.unigo.com/)has 3.6 million scholarships worth over $14 billion, the most you’ll find in this list. But that’s not why it’s one of our top picks. Unigo is a favorite of ours because of its search functionality. Among its competitors, it has the most categories and filters that make it possible for you to be very specific in your search. Categories include company-sponsored scholarships, scholarships by type, scholarships for graduate students, and weird scholarships. In addition to offering you this great search functionality, the website is incredibly easy to use. Each scholarship listing shows you the amount of the award, the number of awards, and the deadline for the scholarship. If you want more personalize results, you can create a profile. Also, Unigo offers a free LoanFinder that matches you with student loans as well as scholarship contests and sweepstakes. The only drawback we saw was the fact that you need to sign up to view all the information regarding a scholarship such as the application requirements.
- easy to use
- awesome search functionality
- no need to sign up to search
- requires you to sign up to view all the information regarding a scholarship (i.e. application requirements)
Peterson’s (https://www.petersons.com/college-search/scholarship-search.aspx)has 1.5 million scholarships, grants, fellowships, prizes, and forgivable loans listed in its directory. The awards total $10 billion. Like a lot of other scholarship search engines we’ve covered, Peterson’s also offers a college search tool, test preparation resources, and resources on essay writing as well as financial aid. To search the website, you only need to choose the filters that apply to you such as student type, type of school, current grade level, type of award, area of study, and location. You can also easily uncheck filters that you feel no longer apply to your search. Navigating a search engine like this has never been so easy. Each scholarship is listed with a short description, the name of the organization providing the scholarship, the award amount, the deadline, the number of awards available, and if the scholarship is renewable. Yes, all of that information in one glance. When you check out a scholarship, you will even see a list of similar scholarships on the side which makes your search a whole lot easier. The drawback to Peterson’s is that you can’t find out how to apply for the scholarship on their site unless you create an account.
- easy to use
- lots of filters
- basic information at a glance
- requires you to sign up to see application process
- Setting up a profile is time-consuming
CollegeNET (https://www.collegenet.com/elect/app/app) is quite different from others on our list. First off, it definitely has an unusual interface that is a bit difficult to navigate. The main page shows the current amount of CollegeNET’s own scholarship and a list of the hottest topics in the forums. You’ll need to look at the tiny print at the bottom of the screen to see the link where you can search for college scholarships. Second, members can vote on scholarships they want to promote or get featured. They can also participate in the forums to earn points. The students with the most points gets awarded the CollegeNET scholarship which they can choose to pay for tuition or their current student loan. To search for scholarships, you can type a keyword or create a profile for more accurate matches. With a profile, you are also able to save scholarships you are interested in applying for. The matches are listed according to the award amounts, from highest to lowest. Aside from the lack of navigational ease, the search engine could use more filters to narrow your search.
- allows college students to form connections with other students
- No need to create a profile to search
- Lists your matches with the highest payout on top
- Hard to navigate
- Lack of filters
SallieMae (https://www.salliemae.com/) was primarily a website for student loans. Today, it has also become a resource for students who are seeking scholarships. It has more than 5 million scholarships, offering over $24 billion to students seeking financial aid. You can search for scholarships based on the field of study you plan on focusing on or the college you plan on attending. To utilize this search engine, you’ll need to sign up and complete your profile which will be used to match scholarships to you. The directory is updated daily and you’ll even get notifications if there’s anything new in the database that matches your profile. All listings of scholarships have been verified as legitimate and you’ll never have to worry about your private information getting shared to third parties. As an added bonus, SallieMae members are automatically entered into the site’s monthly sweepstakes that has a monetary award of more than $1000. To help you out even more, there are tools on the website that will allow you to calculate college costs, student loan payments, and future savings.
- Directory is updated daily
- All listed scholarships have been verified as legitimate
- Requires you to sign up to search the site
- a few of the unique scholarship categories are not applicable to most people
How to Find and Apply for a Scholarship
Heading off to college should be an exciting time in your life. But with the current costs of higher education (not to mention living expenses), it’s bound to be more terrifying than exhilarating for most students. After all, you may find yourself deep in debt. And that’s just to get started on the life you want to build. Naturally, one answer to this dilemma is to get a part-time job but that’s often not enough. You’ll need financial aid of some sort and we’re not talking about your parents. We’re talking about scholarships.
Despite what you may think, scholarships aren’t just for the top students or athletes. There are so many different types of scholarships offered to a wide range of people. The problem is finding the right scholarship for you and applying for it. And this is just what we’re going to do. We decided that the next generation could use the leg up in this endeavor so we’re giving them (you) a guide on where to go and what to do.
The very first piece of advice anyone will tell you about finding scholarships is to do it early. Because if you know what a scholarships committee requires of their applicants ahead of time, you can prepare and get the necessary skills and experience necessary to win it. More importantly, it gives you enough time to finish and submit your application before the deadline. Committees are very strict and will not give you any leeway if you are late in submitting your application and requirements.
While we already mentioned the best scholarship databases that you can utilize in your search. But those are not your only option. Remember, the goal is to get as many scholarships that are relevant to you because it gives you more chances to win. Plus, it never hurts to have a lot of financial aid which you don’t have to monetarily pay back. Other than scholarship websites, your best bet is to check with the college you are going to. You can inquire with the college’s financial aid office regarding the available scholarships they offer. They may also have a good idea of other scholarships you may be eligible to apply for.
You’ll also need to ask your guidance counselor. Most are aware of a lot of scholarships and probably even have an updated list that you can look over. Another resource for scholarships is your local library. There are several books that provide information on millions of scholarships, grants, and prizes which includes what you’ll need to complete an application. Some books that you might be on the lookout for are The Ultimate Scholarship Book 2017 and the Scholarship Handbook 2018 (College Board Scholarship Handbook).
Other resources include your employer (or your parents’ employers), foundations, non-profit companies, community organizations, state grant agencies, ethnic organizations, and professional organizations. Keep in mind that not all scholarships you’ll find are going to be legit. There are scams and these typically ask you for a fee in order to get the scholarship. Remember, you want to get money, not pay money to get money. Also, don’t always focus on the amount that will be awarded to you should you win. Every penny counts. More importantly, low reward amounts are usually the scholarships that are the easiest to win.
Once you find the scholarships that you feel are a good fit with you, your skills, experience, background, and/or career path, the next step is to obviously send in your application. While scholarships often have different requirements, most of them will require you to write an essay and submit letters of recommendation. Letters of recommendation are easy enough to obtain. You just have to make sure you request one from someone who knows you well but still an impartial judge (which means not in any way related to you). That individual should be able to talk about your personal growth, giving specific examples that will help you be more memorable in the eyes of the committee. In addition, you might want to inform him/her/them about what you want them to talk about as well as the specific scholarship/s that you are applying for. This way, they are able to highlight stuff that will help you stand out even more.
What about the essay? Since you already applied to college, you may already have an idea of what questions you may encounter when applying for a scholarship. But how does one answer it in such a way that your essay will stand out among hundreds, possibly thousands, of others? Don’t follow the formula because, chances are, your essay will only be thrown on top of a pile that is labeled “maybe not.” If you want to separate your essay from the crowd, then you’ll need to make sure that you follow these tips:
#1: Know the reader. You need to look closely at the organization offering the scholarship and exactly who they are looking for. Are they prioritizing grades over personal growth? Are they interested in students who have done community service? Who are the previous recipients of the scholarship? By getting to know your audience and what they want to read, you’ll be able to tailor fit your essay and get ahead of the crowd.
#2: Use concrete examples. Don’t be vague or be generic. Write specific instances that show your personal growth and character development. Being vague simply tells the committee that you’re writing what they want to hear, not necessarily te truth.
#3: Write something unique. While it is important that you write an essay focused on the key points they are looking for, you also need to make sure that it’s something they would never expect. For example, if they ask you to choose one person, living or dead, whom you want a chance to have dinner with, don’t go choosing everyone else’s answer – Nelson Mandela, the US President, Neil Armstrong, or whoever you think would impress them the most. Choose someone whom you really want to talk to, someone whom you’d have a really good conversation with regarding a topic that is relevant to the scholarship’s organization.
#4: Proofread. Yes, it’s important that you proofread your work. Use tools like Grammarly to make sure that grammar errors and spelling errors are nowhere to be found. But that’s not all. Ask at least two other people to proofread your work as well. It’s really easy to miss something when you’re looking over your work. This is the reason why really good authors have editors. Why not apply the same principle to your essay? At the same time, you can get feedback on your answer. Does it sound like a cut-and-paste kind of essay? Does it represent who you are? Does it even make sense?
So, you got your application sent in. Some scholarships will require an interview. This will be your chance to show them who you are aside from what you’ve already written. Yes, this can be incredibly nerve-racking. After all, you really need the money. Plus, it’s hard to talk about one’s self in front of strangers and not sound like an arrogant prick. This means that you’ll need to practice a lot. Not only on what answers you’ll give to their questions but also on how you answer them. You need to sound confident and be articulate. Someone who will represent their organization in the best possible way. To practice your answers, you’ll need to make sure that you do research on the organization. Their mission, vision, and/or goal; why they set up the scholarship in the first place and what they want to achieve. Showing such knowledge during the interview will let the committee know that you are serious about your application, not just making a shot in the dark and see who gets hit.
We’ll end this guide with this reminder. You won’t be getting all the scholarships you applied to, no matter how hard you worked. Chances are, some other applicants were a better fit. But that’s ok because you will get others. What really matters is that you’re taking charge of your future, making sure that you get started on the right path. Finding and applying for a scholarship isn’t just going to make things financially easier for you. It’ll be good practice for that job you’ll eventually be applying for once you graduate, hopefully not neck deep in debt.