7 ways to strategically research college scholarships

7 ways to strategically research college scholarships


Applying to colleges can be stressful — not to mention how stressful it can be to figure out how to pay for college once you get accepted.

But here at Marymount University, we’ll help you figure out how to do just that. Here are seven tips to consider as you research scholarships!

1. Be proactive and scour search websites for scholarships.

There are so many scholarship search websites, all claiming to be number one, so it can be difficult to know where to start. We’ve put together a few pros and cons of some of the leading scholarship sites.

FastWeb.com (click here)
Pro: Email updates for scholarship matches
Con: Many advertisements

CollegeBoard.org (click here)
Pro: No advertisements
Con: Fewer results

Scholarships.com (click here)
Pro: Relevant search results
Con: Lengthy registration

When you begin looking for scholarships, diversify your options. Try your luck on three or four websites — you might find that your profile returns different scholarships or more results on one than another.

2. “Shop local” and make use of community resources for scholarships.

Go to your high school’s guidance office. Your guidance counselors will not only be able to answer your questions about the college application process, but they’ll also point you towards local scholarships. Talk to your parents, parents’ friends and friends’ parents. Many companies offer scholarships, and they might have an inside scoop on a scholarship offered by their workplace. These types of scholarships won’t show up in scholarship search engine results, so use your connections to find them. Call local banks and religious organizations. These often offer college scholarships that, again, may not always come up in your online research.

3. Be chatty and talk to the schools you’re applying to.

University admissions and financial aid professionals are there to help you! They want to make it possible for you to attend their school, so reach out and ask to talk to someone who can answer your questions! Also, keep in mind that the timeline for university-specific scholarships will often be different from other scholarships you apply to — you won’t be eligible for them until you are accepted.

4. Stay organized with calendars, spreadsheets and to-do lists.

Keep a spreadsheet of all scholarships you’re applying to, noting due dates, required documents, money offered and any other pertinent information. It’s up to you to get your applications in on time and completed correctly. Don’t take yourself out of the applicant pool by submitting an incomplete or late application. (What a disappointing reason not to receive a scholarship!)

5. Apply to scholarships large and small.

Apply to the small scholarships, too. It would be great to get one scholarship large enough to cover all of your tuition, housing and incidental college expenses, but it rarely happens that way. A $500 scholarship may seem superfluous compared to the $20,000 one that you saw, but it still helps — for example, to pay for a semester or year’s worth of textbooks. Many small scholarships add up!

Take note of the applicant pool as well. If you hear about a scholarship offered by a local organization, you can guess that it will have a smaller application pool than a broad-criteria listing on Scholarships.com. The smaller the pool, the more competitive your application will be.

6. Be strategic and competitive.

Look for scholarships based on qualities and experience. Are you a female planning to major in engineering? Look for a scholarship intended to help more women break into STEM fields. Do you volunteer in your community? Many religious organizations or charities want to reward your work with tuition dollars. Are you a transfer or international student? Look into scholarships specifically for students like you!

7. Be smart and don’t get scammed.

When it comes to money, it can be tricky to figure out who and what to trust. Don’t be afraid to be too specific in your search — there are a lot of scholarships out there. Do not pay for scholarship listings — these are likely scams! Do not give out too much personal information, such as your social security number, when filling out profiles on scholarship websites.

Here at Marymount University, we know that many college-bound students need help financing a college education and need guidance when applying to college. That’s why we want to help you figure out how to do just that. Feel free to request more information today!