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The 2016 Guide to Finding a Scholarship!

Being a student is expensive, but getting an education is clearly a worthwhile investment. Financial assistance in the form of a scholarship can really change the quality of your life while being a student. This blog post is to give you the tools needed to efficiently search for scholarships that you qualify for, and help you apply for those scholarships.

All different types of businesses, foundations, and organizations offer some type of scholarship for college students. There are thousands of scholarships out there for students to apply for, but it is difficult to navigate through the scams (there are plenty of them!), false-leads, and bogus scholarship search engines to find real scholarships. There are lots of scholarship websites that function more as a means of collecting your data and selling it to third-parties. You don’t have to worry about that though because I have waded through them all for you! I have compiled a comprehensive list of scholarship resources and legitimate search engines for you to utilize to find scholarships. All you need to do is follow this guide and you will find scholarships to apply for.

Before you begin you search for scholarships there are two documents you should download that will help you save lots of time. A key component to successfully find the right scholarship is casting a large net and staying organized, and our Individual Profile Chart and Scholarship Organizer Document will help you do that with ease.

Individual Profile Chart

The first document for you to download is our free Individual Profile Chat. Fill out this simple chart with your information. It will help you collect and organize all the details about yourself that you will need to have easy access to as you search for scholarships. A lot of scholarship search engines ask for this information, and if you fill this out before searching, it will help expedite the process. Additionally, it will also prove to be extra handy to have when drafting your personal statements or essays, which is something many scholarships require. (And another bonus, filling out this kind of chart is a useful tool if you also need to work on your resume!)

Scholarship Organizer Document

The second document I suggest you download is our free Scholarship Organizer Document. You can use this
document to help you keep track of the necessary information on scholarships you are interested in. It pays to be organized when it comes to applying for scholarships, and this is one of the most useful tools to help do you just that.  It will help you keep track of important dates, deadlines, and specific scholarship requirements.

(To download our Individual Profile Chart and Scholarships Organizer Document  You can save the document as a universal word processor document (.doc) or as a PDF (.pdf) file. Once you open the link, just go to “File” and then “Download as” and then you can save it.)

There are a few reliable and legitimate scholarship search engines, but honestly, most are not going to help you. I’ll provide you with the basic rundown on the ones that I’ve found to be the most fruitful in my own searches. You should be aware that most of them make you create an account with the website before you use it. It is best to sign up for these using your school email (most likely an .edu account), and for the sake of keeping everything uniform and organized, you should probably use the same email when you register for all of them. Before you start, a warning: DO NOT SUBMIT CREDIT CARD INFORMATION OR YOUR SSN NUMBER TO ANY SCHOLARSHIP-RELATED WEBSITE YOU FIND. Don’t do it, it is a scam.

Now that you’ve filled out your Individual Profile Chart and have downloaded the Scholarship Organizer Document you are ready to begin the hunt for free money to help you while you are a student!

Scholarship Search Engines:

This website is one of the largest scholar search engines out there, and thus has received quite a bit of scrutiny over the years. It has held up to most of it, and still remains one of the most talked about in news media. You have to create a profile on the website, but it is free to do so. You can click the unsubscribe boxes as you sign up, but you will still receive spam-like mail from the website. You will have to unsubscribe to these individually, which is a hassle, but the website has other great functions and is well organized. I filled out a profile, did a search, and got matched with numerous scholarships that were a good fit based on the information I had filled out in my own Individual Profile Chart.  The website has a general search engine you can utilize, and also has various other categorical search functions that can prove to be useful. Most of the scholarships you will find on this website are going to require you to write an essay or have a thoughtful personal statement – more on that later!

This is another one of the largest scholarship search engines out there, and also serves as a dependable resource on finding a variety of information on colleges and universities. You have to create a profile to use the website, and the profile here is more detailed than Fastweb’s profile. Again, using your Individual Profile Chart that you filled out before will help you make the most detailed and specific profile possible. The more detailed your profile is on Cappex, the more likely that you will be matched with scholarships that are a good fit for you.  Many of the scholarships on this site let your apply directly with your profile you create on the website, and there is no essay or personal statement required for the vast majority of scholarships you will find using this search engine. They also have an in-house Scholarship tracker, but you should stick to ours if you are are using other search engines.  The success rate is lower with this website compared to some of the others according to different blogs and independent research I’ve come across, but Cappex is still worth using.  The larger net you cast in your search for scholarships, the more your chances of receiving a scholarship increase. The main complaint I have about Cappex from my personal experience as a user is that even though I unsubscribed from all their newsletters when I signed up, I still received mail from them that had nothing to do with scholarships. You will have to unsubscribe from the e-mail lists after you get the spam.

Sallie Mae is one of the largest student loan and financing resources on the internet. They seem to have lots of customer complaints when it comes to their student loans and collection issues according to the BBB, but their scholarship search engine gave me access to lots of scholarships that I did not find elsewhere, and ones that came from national companies I had heard of before. You have to create a profile to have access to the scholarship section of the site, and make sure you unsubscribe from all of their lists, unless you are looking into loans (are you noticing a trend here?). The more detailed your profile you create on the website is, the better your results will be. I found more scholarships geared towards students studying business on this website than I did in the others. My own major is business, so this was worthy of note for me.

This is a great search engine that you can use without registering with the website itself, which makes it unique, but it often will redirect you to other scholarship database websites.  To access many of those, you need to register with them individually.  What I have found useful about Scholarships.com is that there are very specific parameters you can adjust for your searches. This allows you to narrow your scholarship search to specific things you have filled out on your Individual Profile Chart. The most useful and unique feature for searching on Scholarships.com was adjusting my search by application due date.  This was a noticeable missing search parameter on nearly all of the other websites.  The other websites would often generate results where the scholarships that would have been a good fit for me already had passed their application due date. Many of the scholarships you find via Scholarships.com require an essay or personal statement.

This scholarship resource functions differently than the websites listed above. You have to register with the website like you do with the others, but it connects you with organizations that also have registered with Scholarship America. There are several open scholarships you can apply for without registering with the site. Your success on this site will be determined by your location more than anything else, so it might not give you good search results if there are not any locally based organizations that have registered their scholarships on this website. It is worth trying though because locally-based scholarships are the ones you will have the most success with receiving after applying. They also have a scholarship blog, The Scholarship Coach, many of the posts were a good resource for me in my own search, but it has not been updated since June, 2015.

Supplementary Web Resources:

Filling out your FAFSA is the first step in getting your finances together for college. You can do that here: https://fafsa.ed.gov/

Another national resource for financial aid assistance, including scholarship information can be found here: http://www.finaid.org/

If you are a California student, and in community college there are two websites that you should check out.  They have the complete rundown on information regarding state and federal financial aid, grants, waivers, and workshops:

Additional Advice on Scholarships:

As I mentioned earlier, students have the most success with receiving scholarships that are locally-based, and you should check with your college or university’s financial aid office to see if they have a foundation set up that connects students with local organizations that have scholarships. If you are a student at Cañada College, or at another school in the The San Mateo County Community College District, we have one of those local foundations that students can easily use to apply for scholarships offered by different organizations in the community. The 2016-2017 deadline has already passed, but if you’re planning on being a student in the 2017-2018 year, you should save this link somewhere.

Being proactive about finding and applying for a scholarship is essential in receiving one. Another method of being proactive is taking the time to search the internet for specific organization’s scholarship opportunities.  A lot of larger organizations and businesses do not register with the search engine databases, and provide information on their scholarships on their websites, or even on social media in some cases. Keeping a google news alert about specific companies and scholarships they offer is another useful suggestion I have for you.

Writing a personal statement or short essay is a common component in the application process for many scholarships. The University of Maryland has a good basic guide for writing a personal statement here. Another helpful guide for writing a personal statement can be found here. It is a good idea to make sure you save all your personal statements and essays. You will probably be able to easily modify one so it applies to any specific requirements for any additional personal statements you may have to write up when applying for scholarships.

I hope you found our Guide to Finding a Scholarship helpful, if you have any suggestions, please don’t hesitate to comment or send us an e-mail!

-Jonathan Wax