If you believe half of the students on Twitter and Facebook, there seems to be a shortage of scholarships these days. Routinely, I get tweets from discouraged kids and adults who swear they’ve looked everywhere for them, but can't seem to find any. I’m not sure if they are waiting for the 'Scholarship Genie' to magically drop free money into their laps or they think people will simply call them up and offer them an award, but there are definitely scholarships waiting to be won. It doesn’t take a genius to locate them either; just a general understanding of where to start and a little effort is all that is needed. So, where have all the scholarships gone? Follow me and I'll tell you where to find them.
1. Use the Internet
Want to kick off your scholarship search right now? Simply type in a few random search terms, such as ‘Easy Scholarships’ or ‘Scholarships for High School Students,’ and you’ll get back a plethora of links to explore. In fact, the high school search returns over 48 million links. Wow! That’s going to take some time, but at least you have some leads.
2. Conduct a Scholarship Search
If you want to drastically cut your time researching all those links you found on Google or Bing, try using one of the many free scholarship resource tools, instead. Pick one, such as ScholarshipExperts.com, that requires you to complete a profile. Why? It’s simple. Just like the general Internet search, a service that doesn’t ask any questions will return hundreds of results, which means you’ll be wasting precious time sorting through awards you can’t use. By using a service with a profile, a few extra minutes upfront can save you a ton of time and frustration later. The results you receive will be tailored to your skills and interests, which will allow you to dive in and start applying!
3. Visit Your Guidance Counselor
If you are in high school, stop by the guidance office and check out their bulletin board. Many schools post local scholarship opportunities in their office and their website. Don’t forget to chat up your counselor too, as he/she may know of some new opportunities that haven’t been listed yet.
4. Search the College Financial Aid Website
Before you head to college (or if you are already in college), be sure to check out the financial aid website for your school. Current scholarships for all levels of study should be posted, but if you cannot locate any, don’t assume that’s all that may be available. Contact the financial aid office and inquire about potential awards, and ask about any resources they might be able to suggest for locating more money. Some college departments also provide scholarships specifically to those enrolled in their programs (for example, nursing, business, theater, etc.). Check back frequently, as awards are updated throughout the year.
5. Check Local Sources
Many local charitable and civic organizations provide scholarships to students. Other sources of college financial aid include: professional membership groups, military organizations/clubs, financial institutions, churches and local businesses. Even local media outlets have been known to sponsor scholarship programs. Be sure to check television and radio websites, as well as your local paper for potential contests. Don't forget to ask your employer, or your parents', as there may be tuition-assistance programs or other sources of funding available.
6. Utilize Social Media
Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest, Reddit and just about every other social media platform are great resources for college advice and scholarships. On Twitter, search for the hashtag #scholarship, #scholarships, #freemoney, #finaid, #collegemoney and others to locate tweets that may contain links to available awards. With Pinterest, a simple search for scholarships can generate individual pins or boards that contain links to college scholarships. There are even communities on Google+ where you can ask questions and find scholarship opportunities.
Finding and winning scholarships takes work; if you aren’t willing to put in the effort, you won't see the reward. You cannot sit around waiting for someone to tell you about a scholarship program, nor can you expect colleges to let you know about every opportunity available. If you really want to avoid taking out student loans and going into debt, start your search early and keep at it until you graduate. The few hours you invest each month will be well worth the effort.
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