After going through the process of filling out all of your college applications, the last thing you will want to do is more paperwork. Unfortunately, looking for scholarships can be equally time consuming, and requires a lot of patience from those who are willing to put in the effort a successful hunt for college funding requires.

But don’t be discouraged. There are as many scholarship foundations and scholarship funds that are looking for you as hard as you are looking for them. The amount of money that is available will make your efforts worthwhile.

Here are tips that can help as you begin to search for college scholarship money.

1. Have a Plan

The earlier you start your search, the greater chance you will have of being awarded scholarship money. Every year there are more opportunities to choose from, and each will have their own application process and deadline. You can stay ahead of the game by talking to your high school guidance counselor as early as your junior year about attending local seminars on scholarships and financial aid. Begin to identify scholarship foundations and college funding opportunities that match your possible career goals. Having some specific scholarships in mind will help you focus on developing the kinds of skills and qualities during high school that scholarship committees are looking for. Many scholarship providers are looking for a very particular sort of person, and by starting early enough you can make sure you stand out among the crowd.

students preparing their plan

2. Play the odds

A rule of thumb is the more scholarships you apply for, the greater the chance you will have of being awarded money. Sometimes scholarship foundations and committees will be evaluating a number of scholarships at once, and award your persistence with one of their options. Many students are daunted by the idea of applying for scholarships because the full scholarships, which pay for full tuition and room and board, can be very competitive. In reality, there are a vast number of smaller scholarships that are far less competitive and easier to get. These smaller scholarships can add up very quickly and pay for far more of your education than you think. Every little bit counts.

3. Market Yourself

Spend some time learning the differences between need and merit based scholarships, and how you can best market yourself for each category. Need-based scholarships are available to students from lower income families, or adults that are seeking further education and training. Merit-based scholarships are those that are awarded to students that have demonstrated excellence in a particular area, such as sports, drama, or academics. If you think you qualify for a need-based scholarship, spend more time looking for these funding opportunities.

If you want to qualify for a merit-based scholarship, then start looking very early for scholarships that award your skills and abilities.

4. Check Your Work

You want your scholarship application to stand out from the crowd. The best way to do this is to study each scholarship application carefully and make sure you meet their guidelines as effectively as possible. If an essay is required, ask others to help you proofread and edit it. If references are required, spend some time thinking about who will be the best people to speak on your behalf. Double check any application material before sending it in. One typo could cost you thousands of dollars.

high education

5. Use Your Resources

Your high school guidance counselor or a financial aid advisor at your college should be able to show you all the different ways that you can apply for scholarship money. Your first step will be filling out the FAFSA as soon as you can every year, so you can begin applying for other scholarship opportunities on time. Next, talk to friends and family about any scholarship opportunities available at their places of work or any other organization they may belong to. You will be surprised at how much money organizations from Starbucks to the Jaycees give away every year to college students. You can also consult a wide range of scholarship web sites, books and guides listing scholarships that are awarded based on race, interests, and activities. The key to getting scholarship money is finding and exhausting all the opportunities available to you.

6. Don’t Fall for Scams

While looking for scholarship money and applying to scholarship foundations, you will likely run across organizations asking you for processing fees, offering scholarship seminars, or guaranteeing you a scholarship if you pay them a certain amount of money. Most of these offers are scams and will not get you any more scholarship money than if you did the search yourself. Be wary on people or websites that ask you to pay for their services as many are not reputable and can cost you a lot of time and money in the long run. Also, there is no reason for a scholarship application process to require your bank account information or up front processing fees.

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