How to Find the Right Scholarship Opportunities for You
This article was written based on the information and opinions presented by Alexander Oddo in a CollegeVine livestream. You can watch the full livestream for more info.
- Leverage Your Network
- Know Who You Are and What Makes You Special
- Do Specific and Thorough Research
The process of finding scholarships is elusive and may actually be more difficult than applying to the scholarships themselves. There seems to be an unlimited amount of scholarship funding in the United States,with scholarships being offered by colleges and universities, companies, non-profits, community organizations, and more. Because there are so many opportunities for you to apply for scholarships, you may feel pressured to apply to as many as possible, which can quickly become overwhelming and feel never-ending.
Here are three ways for you to refine your scholarship search process so that you apply to an optimal number of scholarships for which you are most likely to receive funding.
Leverage Your Network
Leverage your network by talking to teachers, guidance counselors, your peers, recent graduates of your high school, family members, friends, neighbors, your parents’ co-workers, and anyone else you can think of about finding scholarships. If there is one thing that most people can relate to, it is the difficult truth that college is incredibly expensive and that every dollar of scholarship money that you can obtain saves you a dollar of loans that you will have to repay with interest.
Through your network, you will learn about key opportunities that would be difficult (if not impossible) to find on Google and that you may never have heard of otherwise. For example, a conversation with your neighbor who works at a biotechnology start-up could result in you learning about the company’s annual scholarship for students pursuing STEM careers.
Know Who You Are and What Makes You Special
There are very few general scholarships for which all applicants would be eligible, and those that are available (e.g. the Coca Cola Scholars Program) tend to be highly competitive due to a large volume of candidates. Most scholarships target a specific population because the scholarship is itself a means for an individual or an organization – like a university, a company, or a non-profit – to achieve very specific goals. For example, many scholarships are established by people who donate money contingent on it being awarded to a specific type of applicant that displays certain traits or meets certain criteria.
With this in mind, you need to know who you are and what makes you unique and use this information to identify scholarships that coincide with what you have identified about yourself. Here are a few categories for you to consider about yourself for which specific scholarships are likely available:
- Gender identity
- Religious affiliation
- Career aspirations
- Academic interests
- Artistic excellence
- Athletic achievement
- Membership in formal clubs and associations (e.g. Boy Scouts)
By applying to scholarships that are targeted at one or more of these categories, you can capitalize on your unique identities, attributes, and areas of involvement to maximize your chances of receiving scholarship funding.
Do Specific and Thorough Research
When you are researching scholarships online, you need to refine your search terms to identify specific opportunities that play to your identity and strengths. You should also pay extra close attention to all eligibility criteria because there is nothing more disappointing than devoting time and energy to a scholarship application for which you are not eligible.