With all of the college scholarship search websites available, it would seem that getting a scholarship to pay for school has never been easier. Unigo’s scholarship tool offers to match students to 3.6 million college scholarships worth over $14 billion. And Chegg tells you that there are over $1 billion in awards waiting for you. How hard can it be to get a scholarship?
Actually, the truth is that the internet has made it easy to find numerous college scholarships students might qualify for. Searching is just the first step, students still need to apply for these scholarships and compete with all the other students who used the same search websites to find the same scholarships.
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Another truth is that private college scholarships (those not awarded by the school the student is attending) generally only make a dent in the cost of attending a public university. Make it a scratch for attending a private school.
According to the last Private Scholarship Count sponsored by the Scholarship America and National Scholarship Providers Association, in 2005 “Approximately 7 percent of undergraduate students received private scholarships, with an average value of $1,982.” The average cost of attendance for public flagship universities is well over $20,000 a year while the average for private colleges is well over $40,000 a year. It’s going to take a lot of $2,000 scholarships to significantly reduce a student’s out-of-pocket costs.
Of course, that doesn’t mean students shouldn’t try for private scholarships. They should just make sure they understand the ratio of effort they’ll have to put in relative to the possible payout.
Ultimately, we would argue that the effort would be better-spent targeting schools for merit scholarships. However, we realize that there are plenty of people out there with more energy and ambition than us. So if you’re going to make a serious effort for private college scholarships, you should know the following.
- Don’t pay for a scholarship search service.
There are plenty of reputable FREE scholarship websites available. It’s highly unlikely that paying someone will result in scholarship information that you wouldn’t have found yourself. If you’re willing to pay someone to search for scholarships so that you don’t have to, then you probably don’t need to be chasing outside scholarships.
- Don’t wait till senior year to start applying for scholarships.
Lay out a timeline for your student to follow. More than 90% of college scholarship seekers don’t actively pursue scholarship success until their senior year of high school. Yet preparation before senior year can make an enormous difference. In addition, there are many scholarships out there offered to students starting in 9th grade (and younger), so don’t overlook starting the search process earlier than you originally planned on.
- All the college scholarship websites will have varying degrees of reliability.
Some will do a better job of narrowing results to your qualifications while others will have fewer outdated scholarships. You’re probably going to want use a combination of websites to maximize your chances of finding scholarships. (Download our Scholarship Toolkit and included is a review, with pros and cons, of all the major scholarship search sites.)
- You will have better chances at getting local scholarships.
These are the scholarships that turn up through your high school counselor’s office, your parent’s workplace, or in the local paper’s community section. They aren’t as easy to find so not as many people will be applying for them.
These are just a few tips for applying to and receiving scholarships. To get even more information and resources about applying for scholarships, download our Scholarship Toolkit, which includes:
- Ratings of 16 major scholarship search websites
- Overview of 7 websites with lists of scholarships
- Listing of resources to organize and track scholarship applications
- 46 often overlooked state websites for scholarships
- Information on how to apply for scholarships including checklists