Tips on Finding Scholarships
By Laura DiFiore (with thanks to Jason Evans, Rebecca Stubbs, Lisa F., Pamela Tate, Debbie, and Christa)
Start Locally! You are going to have the greatest success finding scholarships by starting with your parents, your employers, and your local organizations. You also increase your odds of actually winning a scholarship by hitting your local organizations first. You may only be going up against a few other local students, versus the entire student population of the country. When you hear "pay-for-search" scholarship search firms boast about "obscure" scholarships, this is what they are talking about. When you hear things like "75 percent of all private financial aid went unclaimed last year" they are talking about financial aid offered by employers to their employees most of the time.
Employers. Have your parents ask their personnel administrator if their company offers any sort of financial aid, tuition reimbursement, or scholarships, for employee's children. Most major companies do offer this benefit. If you have a job, ask your own company if they offer this sort of benefit.
Volunteer Work. Have you done any volunteer work? Perhaps at your local hospital? Do you help out at the food bank? Are you involved with the Girl Scouts or Boy Scouts? All are excellent sources.
Organizations. What professional or social organizations are you or your parents involved with? 4H, JayCees, Lions Club? Association for Internet Addiction? You name it. If you or your parents are a member of an organization, ask them and see if they offer any kind of scholarships. If you are not a member of any organizations, the next thing to check with is associations that represent what you are planning on studying. Many such organizations offer scholarships to students who are studying what they support, even if you are not a member. For example, the American Medical Record Association offers several scholarships for those planning on making a career in Medical Record Administration, but there is no requirement you be a member. Many organizations that do permit non-members to apply for scholarships, however, do expect you to join the organization after receiving the scholarship.
Unions. Are you or your parents a member of a union? All the major labor unions offer scholarships for members and their dependent children (AFLCIO, Teamsters, etc.)
Church. Check with your church. Your local parish may or may not have any scholarships for their members, but the diocese or headquarters may have some available. And if you have been very active in your local church, they may be able to help you in other ways.
Chamber of Commerce. Check with your local Chamber of Commerce. Many offer (usually small, less than $500) grants to students in the community, especially those planning on careers in business and public service. Even if they do not offer any themselves, you can usually get a listing of members, and many of them may offer small scholarships to local students.
High School. This is really obvious, but surprisingly enough, many students don't bother to check with their high school guidance counselors, principles, teachers, and other administrators. Many high schools have scholarships specifically for their own students.