Raising money for tuition through scholarships can be as time-consuming and taxing as a full-time job. Even applying to the suitable ones takes a lot of effort with all the essays and portfolios, to say nothing about the search. Finding the right ones among the 5 million scholarships available in the US is no easier than finding a needle in a haystack!
Luckily, various websites help to optimize the process. All you have to do is create a profile with all your data, and they match you with the scholarships you are eligible for. Moreover, they allow you to save your profile and will send automatic notifications each time a scholarship matching your qualifications is posted. This is a handy feature since you are unlikely to get one golden-ticket full-ride scholarship and be settled for the entire college. Oh no. You will need to apply and re-apply each year or even each semester if you want to fund your studies through scholarships. Having a watchful algorithm that does part of the job for you is pretty useful. Another great thing about scholarship search engines is that they don't require subscriptions or purchases. So, they are free, save you time, and help you find more opportunities to get free money – what's not to love?
A few tips on working with scholarship search engines
However, before you start creating profiles on any (or all) of the below scholarship finders, here is what you should keep in mind.
- Create a new email address
Create a separate email address for the sole purpose of scholarship applications. You don't know how many updates you will receive until they start cluttering your inbox. Believe me, it's worth a couple of extra minutes. Keep it smart and simple, like firstname.lastname@example.org or a readable variation. If an email with this name is already taken, add a number, for example, your birthday, year, or just your lucky one. Avoid dramatic nicknames – you want to look professional and be recognizable.
- Fill out your profile fully
Leave no field blank and no box unchecked. The more information you can give, the more relevant suggestions you will receive, and the higher your chances. Scholarships are awarded based on all kinds of characteristics: location, heritage, gender, orientation, athletic participation, volunteering experience, parentage (for example, there are scholarships for children of military officers), and even unique hobbies and unusual talents, such as creating outfits of duct tape.
- Update your profile regularly
Regularly update your GPA information, major (if you changed it), year of school, etc. These parameters are crucial for awarding many scholarships. Don't forget to add any new information that might be relevant: accolades, trophies, experiences, community projects, etc.
- Avoid "no essay" scholarships
With all the application hassle, it might be tempting to go for an easy option that requires no effort to apply. However, "no essay" scholarships are usually nothing more than sweepstakes. They collect your information for marketing purposes and award prizes at random. Even if you enter a legitimate competition, your chances are minimal, but you are guaranteed to receive so much junk mail that not even your dedicated email will hold the lot. The worst case: your personal data will be sold to third parties and exploited. If you cannot keep up with all the writing, better turn to a professional essay writing service occasionally, but keep applying to actual merit-based scholarships.
- Start early
Start long before the upcoming school year – these things take time. Usually, scholarships are awarded several months before the upcoming semester, and application deadlines expire a couple of months before that, so planning is everything.
- Cast your nets wide
Apply for as many scholarships as possible, and don't ignore small awards – they add up to a considerable sum. Also, if you haven't decided which major to pursue, apply for all scholarships awarded to students majoring in fields you still consider.
Now, let's look at the search engines that make scholarships come to you instead of you chasing them day and night!
Scholarships.com has a unique cataloging system that allows finding niche scholarships with a smaller pool of applicants and better chances for you. The filters are based on your GPA, artistic talents, standardized test scores, place of residence, ethnicity, military affiliation, and other unique categories. You can search for relevant opportunities without a profile, but creating one brings regular updates.
Fastweb requires an initial setup to allow search, but then it works like a charm, targeting your search based on your strengths, interests, skills, and student activities. It will also notify you about upcoming application deadlines and any new scholarship postings that match your description.
Unigo is a popular student information resource where you can learn more about choosing a college, getting student loans, and starting your first year on campus. All that is on top of an impressive database of 3.6 million scholarships and grants. To optimize the application process, Unigo allows you to save answers to essay questions, thus saving you the trouble of rewriting the same stuff repeatedly.
Probably the newest search engine on the list, Bold.org boasts one of the cleanest interfaces and intuitive search that filters results based on your education level, award amount, deadline, and category. It offers a great selection of awards, including smaller niche ones. The registration takes a bit longer than on other websites, but it is compensated by the ease of application later. Note that it only lists Bold's exclusive scholarships. Use it along with other search engines, so you won't miss out on other outside options.
If you've ever taken the SAT or AP tests, you are familiar with College Board. Still, standardized testing and school matching are only a part of the services that the company offers. After creating a profile on the website, you can search for awards based on your field of study, interests, club affiliations, or even life situation, for example, divorced parents. College Board also allows you to save and reuse application info to speed things up.
Going Merry is the best option if you are too busy and have little time. This engine takes care not only of searching but also of applying. Their built-in system allows you to save and reuse documents, auto-fill forms with personal information, and even bulk-apply to bundled scholarships with similar essays. It also has a helpful status tracker tool to monitor your submitted applications.
ScholarshipOwl has one handy feature – it automatically resubmits your application to recurring scholarships. Apart from that, it works like other search engines, organizing awards by requirements, deadline, amount, number of winners, and other usual parameters.
Peterson's is an educational service company focusing on SAT, ACT, PSAT, and CLEP test preparation. However, they also operate as a search engine for scholarships, grants, and academic awards, with nearly 2 million listings. Plus, there are personalized lists of top schools and tips for international students, so make sure you check this one out. Sign-up is free and fast. However, there are some paid features.
Scholly works just like the rest: you fill out a profile, and the algorithm matches you with the available scholarships you are eligible for. What is unique, however, is the Scholly score. It shows how well your background and qualifications match the scholarship requirements, which is a helpful assessment tool.
Cappex is a helpful resource for prospective students that helps with college applications along with scholarships. The database is impressive, with over $1 billion in reward money. The signup process is short, and membership is free. The rest works just like other systems: you create a profile, see the matches, and use filters to sort scholarships by amount, deadline, school year, gender, ethnicity, etc.
Niche is a website with information about colleges, companies, cities, and neighborhoods all over the US, including scholarship listings. The resource is free, and no signup is required to browse the curated list of scholarships, college rankings, and other information. You can even take a fun quiz that decides which college or university is right for you or plan your application based on career options and the school's location. That said, Niche's scholarship filters are limited, and information is sometimes incomplete, so you will have to do extra work while searching and applying.
Chegg is a versatile resource for students with college preparation tips, career advice, test prep, and study materials, from online flashcards to rent books. It also offers a database of scholarships and internships, helping you fund your studies and gain experience for easing future employment. Chegg's database includes 25,000 scholarship listings, intuitive filters, and other helpful features, such as adding colleges and scholarships to favorites. Although the award database is relatively modest, with the primary focus on books and revision aid, the registration is free and fast, so you don't lose anything.
A scholarship application might seem like a waste of time if you don't have stellar grades and mile-long extracurricular records. Yet, with so many options, you are bound to find something that targets students like you – with your unique talents, needs, and situation in life. It's more about persistence and regular work than your trophies, so set aside time every week to search and apply, and your award will find you. I wish you success and lots of free money! Hope to see you in grad school coming back here for some custom dissertation writing services. Love writing and stay lucky!