How to Find Scholarships
Scholarships are easy to find! Tons of scholarship opportunities await applicants needing to cover college expenses. Of course, finding the best scholarships can seem tricky.
Even if you search “best scholarships” in a search engine, it is likely you’ll end up finding all the scholarships that:
a) are not related to your studies.
b) too specific for you to qualify for.
c) out of date.
An example of the top results for “best scholarships” (searched in spring 2019)
We don’t want that for you. Here, at Going Merry, we specialize in matching great scholarships with your profile. Thoroughly searching resources for scholarships became a great learning experience in how we improved our approach to finding unique, versatile, and inclusive scholarship opportunities. We learned many things, but we’ll give you the top tips!
Scholarships are easy to find once you understand the value of how and what you type while searching, compare searching tools, and are familiar with scholarship provider types. Now, these are all relatively simple ideas, but we’ll make sure to give the details. Illustrating each subject will give you a better idea of how to apply (unintentional pun alert) this knowledge to your scholarship search strategy.
How to search properly
During the introduction, we made it clear that searching “best scholarships” may not help you find the right scholarships for you. What if we type “best scholarships 2019” or “scholarships for undergraduate students”? Unfortunately, this kind of search still doesn’t help much. Searching scholarships with these phrases is too vague. Basically, the category is too wide.
Search engines provide results with relevant information or content. Determining “relevant” can be a bit foggy for a search engine. Let’s simplify this with an example:
When you type “best scholarships”, the search engine is inclined to list results that include your typed phrase and include common content related to your phrase. Then, the search engine lists the results based on popularity, or most visited results. Lastly, the engine will try to provide recent links, but popularity is usually favored over being recent.
Imagine how many sites have words like best, scholarships, student, contest, or application. Imagine if the most visited site is a scholarship list from two years ago with outdated links. See how a vague search can be misleading?
From our experience, basing the search on a specific situation allows the search engine to better understand what we are looking for.
An example of top results for “Scholarships for Hispanic Women”
An example of top results for “Architecture Scholarships”
Be careful of making the search too specific. Search engines may have a hard time matching a highly detailed search. For example, “Undergraduate Statistics Scholarship for Armenian in Boston” may bring up good links, but they might not be the results you had in mind.
In addition, never limit yourself to only scholarships related to studies. You can search scholarships related to community service, being a bookworm, being a gamer, having a fear of spoons, or anything else that makes you, YOU.
View your characteristics and traits as separate searches. Searching one or two at a time is a good medium in creating a scholarship search strategy.
Why does this approach work?
Remember what we said about a category being too wide? Not only does a wide category mean there are more options, regardless of actual relevance, but also, a wide category means more competition. A specific search lowers the competition. There will be fewer people eligible for the scholarships, and if your specific search helps you find a lesser known scholarship, there will be fewer people applying.
Next up is comparing tools used to search for scholarships.
Comparing Searching Tools
Each searching tool has benefits separating the search performance from other search tools. We’ll break down the common tools students and parents use in their scholarships search strategy.
Well-known scholarship search sites are typically the first place everyone arrives. These websites are easily accessible and host tons of scholarship information. The downside is the massive amounts of competition. Many of these websites have national scholarships, and sometimes the scholarships are based on a lottery system. Allowing more students to be eligible is wonderful, but the probability of receiving the scholarship decreases.
Scholarship websites tend to be super organized or not organized at all. Students will either spend time filling out a tedious application (which is probably prompting you to make an account) or spend time searching through numerous result tabs (most may not be what you are hoping for).
The wonderful function of scholarship websites is their ability to bring so many scholarships to you at once! Instead of the difficulty with searching for multiple scholarships individually, the sites provide a vast amount of options for you to choose from.
However, Beware of scam sites. You can check our tips for avoiding scholarships scams in our “No Essay” scholarship post.
Online apps are a convenient method for searching for scholarships. Having the ability to apply on-the-go and stay updated on scholarships is a great benefit. Most apps personalize your search options.
There are also exclusive features included in most scholarship search apps. Using Going Merry as an example, a few features include the following:
Apps are a great option for individuals wanting a more interactive scholarship searching experience. In fact, the resources and tips provided by companies running the mobile apps can give you an extra boost in your scholarships search strategy.
It is possible you may not like the format of a scholarship app. The first application may be too detailed in your opinion, or maybe you feel the app does not do a sufficient job of matching your profile to good scholarships. If you find a scholarship app is not to your liking, you are able to uninstall the app from your device.
Large Search Engines
Major search engines, such as Google, Ask, Yahoo, or Bing, are very popular for scholarship searches, since the search engines connect you to scholarship links. The links could be to a foundation’s official scholarship page, to a list of scholarships on a blog, or to one of the scholarship search websites we mentioned earlier.
Most of the links you’ll find are dependable. The search engine is built to find the best answers for your search, but may miss the mark every now and then.
One quick tip for large engine sites: Do not ignore the further pages.
For instance, Google. Google provides millions of results. Great and relevant results still exists beyond page 5. The results beyond the first pages are a happy medium in most cases. The links are relevant enough to be useful, and slightly hidden to lessen competition. From experience, the scholarship search websites reside in the first few pages of search engines, while the official company/foundation scholarship pages are listed further back in the result pages of search engines.
Newspapers & Bulletin Boards
Old fashioned search tools should not be overlooked! Information on great local scholarships could be waiting for you in the newspaper or on a community bulletin board. Check all sources you can think of. Try looking for newspapers or bulletin boards at schools, cafes, community centers, or places of worship.
These scholarships have the benefit of being less known or having a criteria you meet that others would not. For example, the scholarship may say “Must attend North Central Engineering High School” or “Applicants living in Olivier County are eligible”. Again, we are seeing that these factors can lessen the competition and improve the likelihood of receiving a scholarship.
After comparing all search tools, you can decide which tools you would like to incorporate in your scholarship search strategy. Then, you may want to think of which providers you are applying to.
Similar to scholarship search tools, scholarship providers differ in organization, accessibility, convenience, and competition. The main scholarship providers are government, private, and school. We’ll break it down in the diagram below:
Government scholarships are provided on a national, state, or local (ex. city) level. Usually national and state government scholarships are applied for through FAFSA. National scholarships have a crowded competition, since qualifications tend to be more flexible. For example, most national scholarships are not restricted by major, school year, or locality.
State and local government scholarships have the restriction of where you live. Local scholarships become very specific in which students are considered eligible. However, the qualifications are typically related to demographic restrictions rather than academic restrictions.
Private scholarships are provided by for-profits, like Dr. Pepper, or non-profits, like the LEAP Foundation. Both options have very flexible qualifications, as the company or organization is free to set their own rules for the scholarship they are funding.
For-profit scholarships have slightly more competition as they tend to be big name companies. Other examples include, Google, Toyota, Dell, Tylenol, and Foot Locker. Non-profit scholarships can vary greatly. There are well-known organizations, like the LEAP Foundation, and also lesser known organizations you can apply to.
Both private scholarship options tend to have a certain theme attached to their scholarship. This can be a major, hobby, heritage, or a topic the organization may support.
School scholarships are generally done in partnership with the government or a private agency (for-profit, non-profit). Competition can be a bit crowded as many of your fellow schoolmates may be eligible for the same scholarship. Schools also may have scholarships related to alumni. For example, maybe an alumni funds a scholarship under the psychology department. A department scholarship’s more specific eligibility requirements decreases competition by shrinking the number eligible students.
Comparing competition and qualifications allow you to make an educated guess of the time you will dedicate in applying to scholarships you feel are a good fit. Having a better sense of time and effort allows you to make a more informed decision in creating a productive scholarship search strategy.
An Easy Scholarship Search Strategy
Overall, finding scholarships is straightforward, but these tips should help optimize your search. The most important part of finding great scholarships is tailoring your search to your profile. For more scholarship tips, you’re in the right place. Check out all the posts in this blog. We talk about scholarships A LOT.