Nov. 1, 2018
One of the biggest concerns when applying to college often falls in the subject of funding, and therefore there are always a lot of questions around what options are available to make paying for college a little easier. Looking for scholarships is one of the first places prospective college students turn. There are a lot out there, but that by no means makes them easy to find.
The best place to look for scholarships is within the institutions to which you are applying. Most schools work to fund and award scholarships and grants based on a variety of criteria, and many automatically consider you for merit-based grants or scholarships when you apply for admission and submit your FAFSA.
Just because you see a scholarship that catches your eye, though, you shouldn't assume that it'll be a snap: Ask the admissions officers at the school of your choice how many scholarships are awarded each year. You can also ask approximately how many students in your shoes go for the same scholarship (or the one scholarship you have your eye on). Plus, it's always a good idea to ask if the scholarship is renewable. Some scholarships are for first-year students while others renew each year. The latter of these are often contingent on maintaining a certain GPA, pursuing a specific major or continuing to compete on the varsity basketball team (for example).
Finding a scholarship can be a difficult task, but it's definitely not impossible. Sometimes you might be faced with a situation that forces you to look outside of your chosen school's admission office. A few good places to look for scholarships outside of colleges and universities can be your city/town/municipal government. You can also scope out potential scholarships through your parents' or guardians' employers, as well as any professional or philanthropic organizations to which they might belong. Scholarships from sources outside the college or university account for less than five percent of the financial aid awarded in the United States. That is still a lot of money (a total of $181 billion in student aid was available in 2017), but overall your odds of using an outside scholarship to pay for college are low.
Obviously, finding a scholarship can be crucial in the process of searching for your best fit college, and it can be tempting to use whatever services are available to you in order to do so. But if you are considering using a scholarship search service that charges a fee, please please please vet it very carefully. While some of these services are legit and have been a boon for their users, some are simply charging for information you can find for free with a little legwork. You're searching for ways to help you save money on college, not spend even more.