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How to Find Scholarships for College

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Find scholarships for college locally and online to help pay for expenses.

Attending college is costly and finding ways to afford it is essential. The first step to paying for college is to apply for financial aid. This will generate a financial aid package that includes loans, grants, and financial needs-based scholarships.

Eligibility for other scholarships can be based on many criteria, including academics, athletics, ethnicity, religious affiliation, and special interests.

What are College Scholarships?

Scholarships are considered gifts that don’t need to be repaid. There are thousands available and offered by schools, employers, individuals, private companies, nonprofits, communities, religious groups, and professional and social organizations.

What’s the Difference Between Scholarships and Grants?

Scholarships and grants are similar in that they are considered “gift aid.” Both don’t need to be repaid. Typically, grants are awarded based on financial needs such as the federal Pell Grant for low-income students. These grants are awarded on a needs-based by the federal, state, or college levels.

Scholarships, on the other hand, are usually awarded on the basis of merit, whether it’s for academics, artistic talent, community service, or athletic ability.

How to Find Scholarships

There are many scholarship databases available online. However, I suggest localizing and personalizing your scholarship searches first.

Start your search at your high school guidance office

Guidance counselors have lists of scholarships that are available to graduating seniors that are localized and specific.

Ask your local bank or credit union

Many local banks and credit unions offer scholarships to customers and members. They are often offered to local students or children of credit union members.

Your parent’s employer

Many employers offer scholarship opportunities to the children of employees. Ask your parents and have them speak to the Human Resources Department. Additionally, some employers offer scholarships to students who are seeking degrees with their industry. So ask your family members too.

Find a non-profit, service organization, or church group

Many associations and groups offer scholarships to students who meet service requirements. Do you belong to any groups or your parents part of any associations? Many churches also offer financial assistance to members so that’s another option to consider.

Call local colleges

Many student aid offices will have lists of available scholarships. These scholarships may have additional application requirements. They may not use information from FAFSA so it’s important to ask and get informed. Have an open dialogue with the student aid office of local colleges and to the universities you’re considering.

Find government scholarships

Check out the scholarships offered on the federal and state level by visiting StudentAid.gov. You can use the U.S. Department of Labor’s FREE scholarship search tool.

Use scholarship search engines

There are many scholarship portals. However, be alert to scams. You do not need to pay to access scholarship opportunities. However, some websites or people may charge you for the information you can easily find yourself. Check out our list of scholarship search engines.

Consider non-scholarship money

If federal aid and scholarships are not enough, it may be necessary to apply for private student loans. Private loans are offered by private lenders such as banks and credit unions.

Find a private lender using LendKey, a marketplace that connects you to community banks and credit unions for private student loans. More options: review our list of private lenders on the marketplace.

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