Scholarship Search Tips
Find free money first.
Scholarship eligibility isn't necessarily limited to traditional on-campus students, those with high academic averages or those with demonstrated financial need. Students of all ages, backgrounds and levels of ability, online or on-campus, new or returning, undergraduate or graduate, can find sources for scholarship and grant dollars - free money you don't need to repay. Don't assume you're ineligible. Investigate your options early and often.
Nine Tips for Making the Most of Your Scholarship Search
- Get started early. The time to start researching scholarships is now! There are many resources available. Check out the Internet, your local library, your school’s financial aid office, civic organizations and the places where you or your family are employed or do volunteer work.
- Scholarships are available to students of all ages, backgrounds, and abilities. They are not limited to students with high academic averages just entering college. Check the criteria for each scholarship to determine whether you are eligible.
- Involvement in community service is a plus. Scholarship and admissions committees, as well as employers, look favorably on those who participate in community organizations or do volunteer work. Group activities promote leadership qualities, communication skills, sense of purpose, and commitment.
- Solicit letters of recommendation Many scholarship applications require letters of recommendation. Be sure to ask for letters of recommendation well in advance, and discuss the kind of information needed in the letter. It's important that your letters come from reliable sources, are written on company or institutional letterhead, and are not form letters. A concrete, detailed letter from someone who knows you and your work well is usually worth more than three or four letters from people who don't. Give your letter writers a "friendly reminder" once or twice before it's due to ensure the letter is completed and sent on time.
- Your personal statement is key. Most scholarship applications require a written personal statement discussing your experience, background, accomplishments, and educational goals. This statement can set you apart from other applicants. Get started composing your personal statement early.
- Remember the cover letter. Even if the scholarship instructions don't require an essay, it's a good idea to attach a cover letter that summarizes your educational and professional goals. The cover letter is also a good place to include any personal information that you want the scholarship selection committee to consider when evaluating your application.
- Keep a copy. Just before sending your application to the scholarship review committee, make copies of all parts of the application and recommendation letters. Keep these to refer to at a later date.
- Ask your employer about financial assistance. Many companies offer financial support to employees pursuing job-related education and training and may even offer scholarships. Find out if your employer has funds available to employees in your situation.
- Federal grants may be available. Federal Pell Grants and Federal Supplemental Education Opportunity Grants (FSEOG) are available to undergraduate students with significant financial need. Applying for financial aid and scholarships requires you to manage deadlines effectively. Remember, it's first-come, first-served, so apply early. Information provided in the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) is used to determine your eligibility for these grants, which are awarded by your financial aid office.
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