There are two online search engines that I really like. Both sites work similarly in that you will want to create a profile, which will be used to potentially match you with scholarships listed in their database. *Hint: the more questions you answer in your profile setup, the more matches the computer can find for you. These sites are also free. There really is no good reason to pay for a service to find scholarships. The two scholarship search engines I like the best are:
https://www.scholarships.com - This comprehensive database has about 3.7 million scholarships worth almost $19 billion of free money to help pay for school.
https://signup.collegeboard.org/scholarship-search - this site is neat if you used Common App to apply to a college because you can sync your data to the College Board in the Financial Aid Resources section of your Common App account.
But you should understand the realities of private college scholarships.
Private scholarships are the smallest source of free money for college.
The majority of free money is given out by the Federal government. Granted this is reserved for the neediest families as determined by the FAFSA. But the next best source of free money is from the actual university itself. The breakdown of free money by resources is approximately: Federal govt (45%), universities (35%), State govt (9%), employers (7%), and private scholarships (4%).
Full-ride scholarships are very rare.
There are less than 300 private scholarships that award enough money to cover the cost of most State schools’ tuition. Less than 1% of full-time college students receive a full-ride scholarship.
Don’t ignore the smaller scholarships.
You may feel a $500 or $1,000 scholarship isn’t worth applying to. But if it only takes an hour or less to apply, that’s a pretty good return on your time invested. Also, these scholarships tend to be less competitive, so your chances could be better.
Look for local scholarships.
You might be surprised by how many local scholarships are available without you knowing it. I suggest asking your high school guidance counselor. Also check with your local civic and church organizations. Basically anything that is community based, such as the Elks or Lions club, may offer scholarships. Lastly, check with your parents’ employers.
Scholarships might reduce the financial aid award from a university.
When a university awards any amount of need-based aid (e.g. loans, work-study, or grants), the Federal govt requires them to also factor in any outside awards the student earned. Every situation is different though. Sometimes if the school did not fill the calculated need for assistance, then the private scholarship may be able to be added with no problems. But if the university did meet the calculated need, they will have to reduce their aid to fit in the private scholarship. Some schools may reduce the loans or work-study, but some schools may reduce their grant or scholarship to accommodate the outside private scholarship. Since each situation is different, and each school will have their own policies, I suggest contacting the university’s financial aid office to find out how a private scholarship may affect their financial aid award letter.
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