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Scholarships are as close as you can get to free money. The funds you receive from a scholarship can be applied directly to your tuition and other college expenses. Scholarship awards don’t need to be paid back, which means you can pay for school without taking on as much student debt.
But even if you’re already sold on the value of scholarships, it can be difficult to actually find them. Here are some of the best resources to find scholarships that fit your talents and interests so you can get a leg up on funding your education.
What the Best Scholarship Websites Offer
The best scholarship search engines will list a wide range of scholarships, including niche awards, sweepstakes and large national prizes. Most sites also let you create a profile where you can save scholarship applications for later or receive notifications when a scholarship matching your skillset is posted.
Scholarship sites should also let you filter awards by specific categories and characteristics, such as your location, grade point average (GPA) or ethnicity. Narrowing down scholarships is crucial to your success because you’re more likely to win awards that pertain to your unique talents and interests.
9 Scholarship Websites to Help You Find Awards
We reviewed popular scholarship websites and compared them based on factors like the ability to filter and sort listings, save information to your profile, the sites’ ease of use and added tools such as auto-match functionality. Here are the best websites for scholarships you can use to find awards you’re eligible for:
Scholarships.com divides scholarships by a variety of unique categories, including GPA, military affiliation, ethnicity, artistic ability, ACT or SAT score and residing state. And when you select one of these categories, you’ll likely see a large list of subcategories, where you can then view all eligible scholarships. This system helps students find niche awards with smaller applicant pools that they’re more likely to win.
Fastweb aggregates awards from both large and small directories. You have to make a profile to search for scholarships, which is similar to other sites. But after the initial sign-up process, you can easily search for scholarships and filter your results based on several data points. Fastweb will also notify you when a new scholarship matching your description is posted and when you have upcoming deadlines.
3. College Board
You’re probably familiar with the College Board if you’ve taken the SAT, AP tests or other college entry exams. But the College Board can help you after you’ve been accepted into a school—its scholarship search helps you find awards to help you pay for college.
After you create an account, you can filter awards by your interests, field of study, club affiliations or specific situations, like if your parents are divorced. College Board will also automatically match you with eligible scholarships based on the information in your profile. There is also an autofill function, which allows you to reuse information from other scholarship applications, saving you time and helping you apply for more awards.
4. Going Merry
Applying to scholarships can feel repetitive; that’s why Going Merry lets students type in information once and apply for multiple scholarships at the same time. If you’re in a time crunch, look for awards on Going Merry before checking out the other major sites.
The site also prides itself on including local awards, which are less competitive and may be easier to win than big national scholarships.
ScholarshipOwl is a popular scholarship website that compiles awards and organizes them by amount, types of requirements, number of winners and length of time until the application is due.
ScholarshipOwl will automatically resubmit your application to recurring scholarships that don’t require anything beyond your basic information. This leaves you more time to focus on awards that require essays and recommendation letters.
While many scholarship sites are difficult to navigate, Bold.org has one of the cleanest interfaces. It’s easy to search and find different scholarships you may be eligible for and you can filter by your education level, award category, award amount and deadline. You can even toggle on the “no-essay” button to find scholarships that don’t require a written essay.
Cappex claims to be the biggest online scholarship database, so it could pay to check the site for possible leads. Like other sites, you have to create an account to see all the scholarships you might qualify for. Their filter system lets you sort awards by year in school, scholarship amount, gender, ethnicity and award deadline. You can also search for renewable scholarships, which offer college funding for multiple years.
When you fill out a profile on Scholly, their algorithm will comb through available scholarships and create a list of eligible awards. Each scholarship will have a Scholly score, which ranks how good of a fit it is for your background and experience. The higher the Scholly score, the stronger match you are with the scholarship’s requirements.
The U.S. Department of Labor has its own scholarship website through the CareerOneStop portal. There are more than 8,000 scholarships listed, and you can filter awards by keyword or sort them by amount, deadline, residing state and state where you’ll be studying.
There are scholarships available for students enrolled in a vocational school or working toward an associate’s degree, as well as for undergraduate and graduate students.
College Financial Aid Website
The official financial aid website from your college may have a list of internal scholarships and grants you can apply to. It may also offer suggestions on how to find more scholarships, like applying through a certain department or applying to local institutions that give out awards to students.
Don’t forget about your local network. Look for scholarship opportunities with nearby community foundations, rotary clubs, women’s clubs and more. Do a Google search for these kinds of organizations in your community and see if they have a list of scholarships on their website.
You should also search online through your state’s Department of Education or higher education agency, which may also list local awards and grants. Remember, local awards are often easier to win than national scholarships, since the applicant pool is likely smaller.
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Applying to scholarships can seem like an exercise in futility if you don’t have a 4.0 GPA or an impressive extracurricular record. But winning scholarships is more about your attitude than your accolades. If you’re persistent and apply to scholarships you qualify for, you’ll have a much better chance than if you phone it in.
Set aside time every week to look over these resources and find scholarships that you may be eligible for. Every dollar you earn in scholarships is a dollar you won’t have to borrow in student loans.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
How do I write a scholarship essay?
To write a scholarship essay, make sure to read the essay requirements and stick to answering the prompt. As you’re writing, organize your ideas using a clear essay structure with an introduction, body and conclusion. Let your personality shine through, and when appropriate, share personal stories to help you stand out.
Always proofread your essay to spot typos and grammatical errors. It’s often helpful to have a trusted family member, mentor or friend read your essay to point out areas that are unclear.
How do scholarships work?
Scholarships are a type of gift-based financial aid that’s offered to students. They’re offered by different organizations and nonprofits which set eligibility guidelines for scholarship applicants. Examples of eligibility criteria might include having a certain talent, trait, special interest, or academic or professional pursuit.
If you’re selected for a scholarship award, you’ll receive money that doesn’t need to be paid back, and can be used toward your education.
What scholarship can I get?
The type of scholarship you can get varies depending on your unique interests, talents and other factors. Some scholarships are need-based while others are merit-based. Consider the attributes and skills that make you unique, and use a scholarship search website to find awards that you’re eligible for. You can also ask your school’s financial aid office for scholarship opportunities that are a good fit for you.
How is a student loan different from a scholarship?
A student loan is financial aid that you’ll eventually need to repay in full, plus interest. Student loans are offered by the federal government, private lenders or your school.
A scholarship, on the other hand, is considered gift aid that doesn’t need to be repaid. Scholarships can be found through your school, private companies, nonprofits, community and social organizations, and professional associations.
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