Finding and Applying for Private Scholarships

Finding and Applying for Private Scholarships

Pam Andrews is a College Admissions Coach and Scholarship Strategist.

I recently spoke with her about the process of finding and applying for private scholarships.

Pam is known for helping her son win over $700,000 in scholarship money that pays for his undergraduate and graduate school. More importantly, she has helped her clients win over $1,000,000 in scholarships.


College Scholarships vs. Private Scholarships

I don’t often promote professionals who help students with private scholarships because I usually don’t agree with their philosophies of pursuing private scholarships above all else.

This message just feeds into the mystique that winning private scholarships will solve a family’s paying for college woes.

The reality is that applying for private scholarships is just a piece of the paying for college process.

The numbers clearly show that the amount of free money offered by colleges themselves in the form of grants and merit scholarships is four times larger than the free money in private scholarships.

So, finding and applying for private scholarships should only be focused on AFTER students have maximized their pursuit of institutional money (merit and need based) with a solid college search, selection and application strategy.

This is exactly the philosophy Pam espouses to her private clients. She calls it her layering technique.

The first layer is to pursue money from colleges themselves by applying strategically to colleges that can offer the most in merit and need based aid. The second layer is to pursue private scholarships. But “How do you do it?”


How to Apply for Scholarships

Here is the second reason I connect so much with Pam’s philosophies. How she guides her clients to win private scholarships is with a combination of efficiency and accountability.

There’s no doubt that applying for private scholarships is an arduous task that requires students to be persistent or as Pam tells them they need to be in it for “the long run”.

There are many, many websites to search for scholarships (Pam shared a great list in her presentation, see video above). So it’s not the information that is a barrier, it’s the way students approach the process.

The example of her own son applying to 147 scholarships and winning 6 is evidence enough that to some extent applying to private scholarships is a numbers game.

Students need to create a toolkit of essays and experiences they can pull from to be efficient in the process of applying.

Here are some of Pam’s tips to help students get through the process:

First, apply to a college that has money to give and is likely to be generous based on the student’s academic profile.

  • Go to school guidance office REGULARLY to find local scholarship applications.
  • Check other local high school websites for local scholarships.
  • Think of areas where students excel (i.e., Leadership. Volunteering, Civic minded, etc.) and write a general essay about that topic or topic(s).  Then search and apply for scholarships related to that topic.  All you need to do is change the essay a little to answer the prompt.
  • Make sure that you research the organization’s mission statement and tailor your essay around their mission.
  • Look up past winners of the award and try to figure why they stood out.  Model their example.
  • Parents should provide Admin support.  This is a family effort.
  • Set up a “SCHOLARSHIP EMAIL” that everyone can check.
  • Have a set time and place for scholarship applications (i.e., Saturday mornings at the Kitchen table).
  • Use GOOGLE DOCS so all can access the documents.

To hear more about Pam’s approach to private scholarships and her philosophies, watch her talk in the video below.







Debbie Schwartz is former financial services executive and founder of Road2College and the Paying For College 101 Facebook group. She's dedicated to providing families with trustworthy information about college admissions and paying for college. With data, tools and access to experts she's helping families become educated consumers of higher ed.