Finding College Scholarships and Grants

College Scholarships and grants are free money!

Think you won’t qualify for a scholarship? College scholarships are not always based on academic achievement or financial need. If you are willing to take the time, you may find college scholarship applications that fit you! There are college scholarships for:

  • students actively involved in the community
  • students who play golf
  • students who play chess

College grants are free money that is given to you based on your financial need to help pay for college by:

  • the U.S. government
  • government-sponsored sources
  • your school
  • other sources

How to Get College Scholarships

Try these approaches for locating college scholarship and grant programs:

  • The internet is a great place to begin your scholarship search. Here are a few popular websites:
  • Ask your family and friends if there are college scholarships available where they work, in their communities or through organizations of which they are members
  • If you have any hobbies, interests or belong to any clubs, inquire about college scholarships through these organizations
  • Check with the college or university that you plan to attend
  • Consult your dean or the office of your college major to see if there are specific scholarships offered by alumni, corporations or your school
  • Visit your local library
  • Ask your high school guidance counselor or college financial aid office

College Scholarship Application Tips

College scholarship applications can be extremely time consuming; some require lengthy forms or multiple essay submissions. Here are some college scholarship application tips to help you make the most out of your college scholarships submissions:

  1. Always read college scholarship instructions completely. Incomplete or incorrect applications will likely not be accepted.
  2. Type or print the application neatly. Your application should be legible.
  3. Before applying for college scholarships, put together a quick “resume” of your accomplishments, including extracurricular activities, academic records and employment history. Most college scholarship applications will ask for these pieces of information.
  4. Formulate a plan for all of your college scholarship applications. You obviously can’t apply for every scholarship. You might prioritize your college scholarship applications based on a combination of the following factors:
    • Dollar amount of the scholarship
    • Number of competing applicants (i.e. national, regional, community and school scholarships)
    • Time and effort it will take to complete the scholarship application (some college scholarships require essays, drawings, etc.)
  5. Be realistic. Maximize your chances by applying to college scholarships that are the best fit for you and have the least amount of applicants. You probably have a better chance of getting a scholarship from your school for engineering majors, than winning a national essay competition.
  6. Don’t wait until the last minute. Completing college scholarship applications takes time and you want to apply to as many as possible!

Avoid College Scholarship Scams

In your excitement to locate FREE scholarship money, don’t fall for college scholarship scams! Scholarship services that promise to “do the work for you” or require a credit card may not be legitimate sources. For tips on avoiding college scholarship scams, visit the U.S. Federal Trade Commission website.

How to Get College Grants

Unlike loans, college grants are FREE money and are not paid back. Most college grants are based on financial need and come from the federal or state government. Here are some of the ways you can find and apply for college grants:

  1. To apply for college grants, you must complete the FAFSA every year. You are automatically in the running for federal and state grants based on the financial information that you entered in your FAFSA. The financial aid award letter that you get from your school will tell you if you were awarded any college grants.
  2. Check for tuition assistance programs in your state and special college grants available to certain groups such as the disabled, veterans or minorities.
  3. If you are a graduate student, check with your school to see if there are any non-need based college grants available for your field of study (usually called fellowships).

Examples of federal college grants are Pell Grants and the Federal Supplemental Educational Opportunity Grants (FSEOG) program. To qualify for a Pell Grant, a student must demonstrate financial need. Pell Grant awards are based on the Expected Family Contribution, which is calculated based on information entered into the FAFSA. The maximum Pell Grant for the 2015–16 school year is $5,775.