Tips for a Successful Scholarship Search

By Leanne Soulard

December 21, 2020

Here is a true story for all the parents out there…I once worked with a student who informed me that his parents kept a running list of all the scholarships available to him and that, if he chose not to apply for them, he was responsible for contributing each award’s dollar amount toward his tuition bill. He didn’t have to receive the scholarship but he did need to commit to investigating every opportunity for lowering his college costs. He accumulated thousands of dollars in scholarships during the spring of his senior year! It remains one of the most impressive acts of parenting I’ve ever witnessed.

With the bulk of college applications now behind them, this is the perfect time for students to turn their attention to searching for scholarships that will keep more money in your pocket (and possibly in theirs) when they head to college next fall. Searching for scholarships is time-consuming and a little inconvenient, but these awards are the best source of free money to help families pay for college. Still, many students choose not to apply for smaller, local scholarships that can add up to significant savings. The good news is that, in most cases, the high school guidance department has already done a lot of the work for students by compiling a list of local scholarships available to graduating seniors. While a $500 award may seem too small to make a difference and, hence, not worthy of the time it takes to complete the application, students need to consider the impact that four $500 awards could make on their bottom line. In most cases, these applications take less than 30 minutes to complete and require supporting materials that students already have available to them, such as letters of recommendation and a transcript. Would your child turn down a job that offered to pay more than $500 per hour? We think not!

Here are some tips for helping students streamline their search:


  1. Ask the guidance office where it keeps an updated list of local scholarships.
  2. Schedule time on your child’s calendar for working on scholarships. Consistency is key when researching opportunities for reducing college costs.
  3. Encourage students to use a scholarship organization tool to keep track of deadlines and required materials.
  4. Students can search for non-local scholarships using a trusted database. We like FastWeb! and CollegeBoard’s Big Future Scholarship Search Tool.
  5. Beware of scams. There are some companies that offer to match eligible students with other scholarship organizations for a small fee. Students should never pay a company or organization to help them apply for free money!

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