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Tips on Finding Scholarships

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Take the PSAT! While you are in high school, you will be offered the opportunity to take the PSAT test, usually in your Junior year. I strongly suggest you take this test! Not only does it help you prepare yourself for the SAT later on, many National Merit Scholarship Programs are determined by the scores you receive on the PSAT test. Some private scholarship programs require you to take the PSAT.

Your College or University's Counselor or Financial Aid Office. But don't expect them to be all that helpful. Many are staffed with students just like you, on work study programs. Many offer access to computer databases (often for a $5 or $10 fee), have a collection of books with sources, and will have a bulletin board with posted notices of scholarships. But you are in competition with every other student in the school for those same funds. While the financial aid office is a MUST to check for assistance, do not expect them to hold your hand. The burden is on YOU to find the funding.

On the other hand, once your financial aid office has offered you a "financial aid package," don't hesitate to question it. Think they overestimated your family's income? Think they are offering you too little? Ask, and negotiate with them. Remember... MOST financial aid packages are going to be VERY heavy on loans. Do what you can to get them to offer you more "free" money and less loans!

The Chairperson or Head of the Department at your School. This is an often overlooked area to find scholarship information. Once you are in school, check with the head of the department you are studying in. They may have information available on scholarships and grants, possibly even internship opportunities, that the financial aid office does not have.

The Library. Another really obvious source! Ask the librarian to help you research sources of scholarships. The librarian at my local library gave me probably the very best suggestion I ever had when I was looking for scholarships. She gave me a Directory of Associations! This book which I cannot remember the name of, listed every kind of non-profit and professional organization in America and suggested I write to all the organizations that had something to do with my field of study (which is computer programming). I mailed out requests for information to 37 organizations, received 32 responses and eventually, received a $250 grant from one of them. (I did not know it at the time, but this was the start of FreSch!)

The Web. But be prepared to spend A LOT of time! Hit the major search engines, and run searches on scholarships, financial aid, organizations, colleges, universities, grants, anything you can think of. On the keyword of "scholarships" expect to find one in thirty hits are for scholarship search services that charge you a fee.

Newspapers. Read your local newpaper every day. Especially during the summer, watch for announcements of local students receiving scholarships. Find out where you can apply for the next year for that same scholarship. Watch also for actual announcements of local firms and organizations offering scholarships. If your local newspaper has a "library" (most do) ask the librarian at the paper to help you find scholarship information posted in the newspaper in past issues. Do not expect to find much information from your local newspaper, but it is another source.

Yellow Pages. Find out if any professional or social organizations have a chapter in your city. Call them and find out if they offer any scholarships, both nationally and locally. You may even want to check with major corporations in your area.

First published on FreSch! The Free Scholarship Search Service, 2007. Reprinted with permission of the author.

See also, Financial Aid.

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