Free money is every collegiate’s dream. Alas, not every dream can be a reality and money doesn’t just fall from the sky. But with a little bit of effort, you can get some money (aka scholarships) flowing your way to help with those outrageous school fees.
*Note: I’m so sorry this is late. It was already written and all of it was set up and then … I auto-scheduled it for the wrong day. So now I’ll be triple checking WordPress and again I’m sorry. But, back to getting free money:
Hopefully you already know about these types of scholarships but if you don’t, I’m about to blow your mind. In certain states – Florida, Georgia, Tennessee, New Mexico, West Virginia, and others – there might be a program that pays for part of your tuition. This money usually comes from the state lottery, but that’s neither here nor there.
These state scholarships are merit based, so you have to check if you meet the minimum requirements – usually GPA and SAT. Generally, they will cover part if not all of your tuition and some, like the West Virginia PROMISE award, may even pay for you some of the mandatory fees.
The beauty of these scholarships is that you don’t have to do anything other than be a good student and fill out a few applications. The only caveat is that, in certain states, you can only receive these scholarships as graduating high school seniors. You’ll have to do a little research to see whether or not your state has these available to you and what the requirements are.
Alright, that’s a pretty strong claim but I absolutely love this site. Unigo has been the saving grace of my life in finding scholarships.
You don’t have to pay to join or fill out random surveys to be eligible for access to certain scholarships. They’ll match you with scholarships that you are more likely eligible to receive and they let you know relative competitiveness of any specific scholarship. I don’t think It could get any better honestly.
Every month they’ll send you an email with a big list of scholarships that have deadlines within the month. They’re not catered directly to you but the emails seem to have at least one scholarship for everyone. And it reminds you to get back on the site once a month and take a look around.
I have personally yet to find a conglomerate-type site of scholarships quite as good as this one. So you should definitely go sign up right now. Then go get yourself some tuition money.
But in a more realist way, you need to look through more than one site so I also recommend these two:
Fastweb – similar to Unigo, interface not as great
Scholarships.com – good scholarships but requires a lot of digging
I’ve talked to a couple of people about how they’ve looked for scholarships and analyzed how I did it and I can tell you, you’re probably doing it wrong. If you’re looking for the scholarships that’ll take the least amount of time, that may or may not have a tiny 250 word essay, or that anyone and their cousin can apply to, you’re putting yourself at odds that do not benefit you.
The secret to getting good scholarship money: putting effort into the application. You need to figure out which of your qualities or circumstances are going to get you the most amount of money. For me, that means I should focus on merit-based scholarships rather than need-based ones. I don’t have a terrible childhood story or illness so scholarships that speak to that demographic aren’t for me either. However, scholarships that want to know why you want to get a specific major or how you plan on using your major are right up my alley.
So decide, what demographics do you fall under. I recommend starting by answering these questions:
- Do you have a high GPA? (3.5 or higher on a 4.0 scale)
- Are you from a low-income family?
- Do your parents have an illness that has affected your life?
- Do you have a trait that’s outside of the norm?
- Extremely tall/short?
These are generally good places to start because they’ll help you get to scholarships that play up your strengths.
*Pro Tip: Pay attention to scholarships that are renewable and put more effort into them. You could be getting more money from the same people without having to put in as much effort.
Now that you’ve gotten to more specific scholarships, you’ll find that they have more requirements to jump through. Basically, they’re going to take more time. But that’s okay because you’re just going to plan it out.
First, you want to write down the deadline for the scholarship and when they’re going to announce the winners of the free money. Then, set deadlines for when you need to crack down on working on the application process.
Realistically approximate how long it should take you to complete each of the requirements. Then add a couple of days to account for the days when you don’t want to write or other issues. Technology always seems to fail when you need it to behave the most so trust me and add 2 days to that approximation. Subtract that number from the date and you know when you should absolutely start working on the application.
By doing this, you’re more likely to apply for more scholarships because you won’t be missing important deadlines.
Another thing I highly recommend planning is when you’re going to go on a giant hunt for scholarships. Every month, I set aside a couple hours on a Saturday and I look through both Unigo and Fastweb databases to see what scholarships I can apply to. Then I plan out when I’m going to complete scholarships.
Finding scholarships in college isn’t that difficult, I promise. In fact, it’s a little easier than finding them in high school because the pool is a bit smaller. With that fact and these tips, you should be well on your way to finding money to fund your college education.
What have you done to get more scholarship money? What websites do you use to find scholarships?