Each November, the National Scholarship Providers Association sponsors National Scholarship Month – a month-long campaign intended to raise awareness about the need for more scholarships to help families cover the ever-rising costs of college. November is a great time to start applying for scholarships, since many have December deadlines. And if you need some extra motivation to get started, the College Board just released an updated Trends in College Pricing report, which shows the costs of tuition, fees and room and board are rising at a faster rate than in recent years. In fact, students attending a four-year public in-state university this year paid 3.3% more on average than last year, bringing total costs up to $19,548. If that pace continues, parents are looking at total four-year costs of $82,000.
And remember, scholarships aren’t just for football players and academic geniuses. There are thousands available – for all types of students.
So if you’re a parent or student looking to fill your college savings gap without having to borrow, here are 10 places you can look to find scholarships:
1. Your high school
Some high school guidance counselors have insight on scholarships offered by their school, as well as award opportunities in the local community. Your counselor should be able to work with you to find appropriate scholarship matches based on your GPA and extracurricular activities.
2. Your college
If you know which college you’ll be attending, be sure to check the schools website and other materials for information on award opportunities. Some schools allow students to submit their name for scholarships right on their financial aid form. And before your next campus visit, be sure to schedule an appointment with someone from your school’s scholarship office. Here you’ll be able to find out about forms, deadlines, and what to do if you receive an award.
3. Your state
States offer both merit scholarships, which are based on academic achievements, and needs-based scholarships, which take the student’s ability to pay for college into consideration. Students typically have to be a resident and attend an in-state public university to qualify. Check your home state’s Department of Education website to find local opportunities.
4. The CollegeBoard
Non-profit organization the CollegeBoard has been promoting access to higher education since 1900. Most notably, they administer the SAT and the Advanced Placement Program. After you’ve reviewed their annual Trends in College Pricing report to get an idea about how much college will cost you, you can use their Scholarship Search tool to find ways to pay for it. The tool includes information on over 2,200 programs, totaling almost $6 billion, and is based on their Annual Survey of Financial Aid Programs.
Unigo is a website that matches students with colleges, internships and possible careers. In 2013 they acquired ScholarshipExperts and now offer a directory of over 3.6 million awards. The site is visually appealing, and lists scholarships by categories such as athletic, merit-based, and awards by major and by state. They also provide their own scholarships, which offer some pretty interesting ways to win money for college – such as the Zombie Apocalypse Scholarship and the Make Me Laugh Scholarship.
Fastweb is a leading scholarship matching service, which calls itself as one of the “most trusted” scholarship services on the web. To access their tools, students need to create an online profile and log in. Your personalized list of scholarships will include deadline reminders, and you will be able to select favorites and send yourself email reminders for the ones you’re interested in. If you’re pressed for time, check out their Sweeps and Promos section, where you can apply for “no essay” scholarships that generally only require filling out a form.
Scholly is an app that streamlines the normally grueling process of searching for scholarships. Scholly gained popularity earlier this year when founder Christopher Gray pitched the idea on Shark Tank. The app was a hit, and panelists Lori Greiner and Daymond John offered an investment of $40,000, which was a 15% stake. Scholly also recently launched a web platform for Macs and PCs that, in addition to scholarship matching, includes a calendar, essays, email alerts.
Raise.me offers an easy way for high school students to win money for college for things like good grades, sports or volunteering. These are smaller awards, called Micro-Scholarships, typically ranging from $400 to $1000. After you build your profile, you select the colleges you want to follow from over 100 partner schools. Provided you meet their requirements, your Micro-Scholarship will be included in your financial aid package when you enroll. Although the awards are relatively small, you have all four years of high school to accrue them so they can add up over time.
9. Sallie Mae
Sallie Mae is a financial services company that specializes in helping families save and pay for college. In addition to providing student loans, savings account and insurance, the company also offers a scholarship search service that contains 3 million scholarships totaling over $18 billion. Students can set up alerts to be notified of new opportunities, and Sallie Mae does not sell any of your personal information to advertisers or other third parties. Each month they offer an award through the Plan for College Sweepstakes. In honor of National Scholarship Month, this month’s prize is $5,000.
This site claims to be the most widely used free scholarship and financial aid services online. They match a wide variety of scholarships for high school seniors and current college students. The more information you provide in your profile, the more scholarships you’ll get matched with. The site also features “Success Stories” where students can read about past winners and their awards. Their service is also available as an app.
Of course these aren’t the only scholarship search tools out there. Comment and let us know what we missed!