Top students usually find scholarships the easy way: they have them offered to them. This happens because guidance counselors have helped with the necessary paperwork, called a few connections and know the tricks of the trade.
Still, even top students sometimes endure many challenges when it comes to finding scholarship money, which means students who haven’t done quite as well are striking out left and right.
Here’s a look at some unique, non-traditional routes to finding the all-important scholarship money that can spell the difference between getting a college degree or not.
Enter Scholarship Contests
Too many prospective college students spend all their time searching for scholarships based on race, gender, age, class ranking and the like. This means they’re competing against the largest pool possible for those limited dollars.
Many scholarships, however, are of the contest variety. Many scholarship funds hold contests to allow people to vie for their scholarship dollars on equal footing. Whether it’s an essay contest, cooking competition or science diorama; competition-based scholarships are plentiful, and best of all open to all generally regardless of other factors. Attending an accredited school is really the only common thread you’ll find in the requirements for these types of scholarships.
One way to find scholarship contests is to use Twitter to search for contests. Most of the time, companies and non-profits will Tweet their scholarship notices to Twitter. To find scholarships on Twitter, go to http://search.twitter.com/. In the search box, try search phrases such as “college scholarship” or “HBCU scholarship.” You can even refine your search with your major, such as “biology scholarship.”
All things are not Equal
You’re a senior in high school, doing well in your classes, and college looks like it can really happen for you if just a few things land your direction. You’re the type of student who is likely to be having these discussions with your guidance counselor. After all, it is their job to guide students in a direction that is likely to yield the best results, including helping with scholarships.
What you might not know, however, is not every school receives information about every scholarship available. Guidance counselors at other high schools in your area may actually have information about scholarships unknown to your guidance counselor.
Fortunately, there are no rules about reaching out to guidance counselors at other schools. Scholarships, unless specified as such, are open to all applicants and not just those from a particular school. There could be any number of reasons schools don’t always receive the same scholarship information. Tapping into guidance counselors at other schools could prove to be an excellent way to find a scholarship.
Re-apply Next Year
Most scholarships operate on a yearly basis, which means students can apply and reapply roughly the same time each year. There could be any number of reasons for being turned down one year and being accepted the following year. Things like GPA, income, certifications, and even your year in school (some scholarships aren’t available to freshmen) can affect scholarship outcomes.
Save the information and plan accordingly to meet the scholarship requirements and then submit the application on time. Plenty of students get scholarships in subsequent years even though they were previously denied. Be persistent, it can really pay off.
Don’t Judge a Book by its Cover
If we’re being honest about searching for scholarships, we know it can be a time-consuming endeavor that might not yield the results we need. Staring at all those words, titles, requirements, and restrictions can drive even the most dedicated student over the brink. However, it’s in these details you might find your money.
Scholarship names frequently have nothing to do with who is eligible and who can apply. Did you know that the United Negro College Fund (UNCF) manages more than 450 scholarships that send more than 65,000 students to more than 900 colleges and universities? Unfortunately, many people immediately believe they can’t even seek these scholarship sources for race reasons.
It might surprise you to learn that a person doesn’t have to be an African-American to apply for—and receive—scholarships from these sources. In fact, UNCF scholarships are open to people of all ethnicities interested in furthering their education at one of its member schools.
Don’t let the title of a scholarship automatically make you feel disqualified. Read the requirements. More often than not you’ll be surprised to discover you’re qualified to apply.
Finding scholarships can be challenging, but it can be a very rewarding endeavor. There is a lot of scholarship money out there, and sadly much of it goes unclaimed. The keys are to be persistent, to find every available source of funding, and to take creative approaches to finding that money.
Author Bio: Dwayne Thomas, who works for cabletv.com, frequently writes about various subjects, including saving money and technology. He welcomes your feedback on Twitter @DwayneThomas15.
Photo by stevendepolo