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Researching Scholarships

Researching Scholarships

A scholarship is an award of money to a student to help pay for the cost of a college education. With the rising cost of education, scholarships can be welcome relief.

It's important to remember scholarships don't award themselves. You have to apply for them and sometimes compete for them. Most of the work will fall on the the student, but there is a lot of money out there if you give it timely effort.

This brief article provides some basic information and tips to help you learn ways to locate scholarships and how to avoid the inevitable scams.

What sources offer scholarships?

In addition to individual colleges and universities, a wide variety of corporations, community organizations, national organizations, religious organizations, government organizations, and foundations offer scholarships.

Beyond scholarships awarded for athletic and academic achievement, a great number of scholarships have been set up to award excellence in particular fields or to provide for special student populations.

For example, some scholarship programs recognize excellence in music, visual arts, theater arts, science, or entrepreneurship, just to name a few. Other scholarships may be designated for women, older adults, minorities or other groups. Some can assist students with disabilities or learning differences. Individual companies may offer scholarships for employees, local community residents, or study in a specific field.

Did you know that DCU has the DCU Memorial Scholarship Program for members?

How can you find out about potential sources of scholarships?

Scholarship information is freely available from your high school guidance or counselor's office, local library, college library, college or career school financial aid office, and particularly the Internet.

You don't need to pay for help in finding scholarship and financial aid information. Nor do you need to use a fee-based scholarship search service. Many of these so-called scholarship services or seminars are interested only in taking your money, not in helping you locate and apply for actual scholarships. The Federal Trade Commission has posted useful tips for checking out scholarship search scams.

Can you find scholarships online?

Yes. Conducting an online search is probably the best way to locate scholarships, particularly those offered by groups and institutions other than colleges and universities. An excellent and easy-to-use web site, FinAid! provides a guide to Financial Aid including links to several scholarship search sites.

Sallie Mae Inc also offers a scholarship search page with access to 3 million scholarships offering up to $18 billion.

How do you apply for scholarships?

  1. First, prospective students and their parents should always complete the scholarship and financial aid applications for each school to which the student has applied. Most college financial aid offices are eager to work with prospective students to help them qualify for scholarships, grants or loans. And, you won't know if you qualify if you don't apply.
  2. Next, complete and file the Free Application for Federal Aid (FAFSA). Although this is an application for federal aid, higher education institutions and other scholarship providers also use the form in considering their awards. You can fill in and submit the form online.

Scholarships unrelated to colleges and universities provide their own instructions for applications. You may be able to request and/or complete application forms online for some programs.

Can you apply for more than one scholarship?

Yes. In fact, you should apply for several scholarships for which you are qualified. Most scholarships usually only cover a small portion of tuition and fees. So, one scholarship is usually not enough.

How can you recognize scholarship scams?

One of the dangers of an online scholarship search is that you will inevitably run across the scam artists among the reputable sites and services. The FTC advises students and parents to be alert for too-good-to be true offers and promises. If you spot one of these tell-tale lines (or similar ones), don't use that site:

  • "The scholarship is guaranteed or your money back."
    Nobody can guarantee that you'll receive a scholarship. Sites that make this claim load the fine print with so many conditions that most people never get any money back.
  • "You can't get this information anywhere else."
    False. Groups that award scholarships make their information readily available to all. "I just need your financial account number to hold this scholarship." Never, ever give out your financial account number. This request is simply a ploy to steal money from your account.
  • "We'll do all the work."
    Nonsense. The student applying for the loan and his or her family must properly complete applications at the very least.
  • "The scholarship will cost some money."
    No real scholarship requires the recipient to pay any fees.
  • "You've been selected" by a "national foundation" to receive a scholarship — or "You're a finalist" in a contest you never entered.

Understanding your Award Letter

Should you receive a financial aid letter, go to the "Student Choice" website where you can view a recorded webinar on "Understanding Your Award Letter."