How to find scholarships? + advice
January 10, 2009 11:48 PM   Subscribe

I'm looking for a way to pay for school using scholarships. I've applied to dozens of scholarships from places like fastweb to no avail. Are there any other places I should try? Tips and advice on writing and finding scholarships is welcome
posted by BoldStepDesign to Education (9 answers total) 6 users marked this as a favorite
Contact your university's financial aid office--they ought to be a much more helpful resource than random web searches.
posted by halogen at 12:14 AM on January 11, 2009

seconding finaid office. often times they'll also have school-specific grants & scholarships available as well. i lucked out and snagged some simply because of how far i was in my education and my major.
posted by mittenedsex at 3:56 AM on January 11, 2009

halogen is correct: places like FastWeb are a completely unreliable way of financing an education. Most people get nothing, and the few that do get something usually get a few hundred or thousand dollars, nowhere near enough to pay for their expenses. Something is better than nothing, obviously, but this isn't going to cut it if that's your only source of funding.

Seriously contact financial aid. They'll let you know what options are available, both merit and need-based. They'll also let you know what kind of loan options are out there. Not the most attractive option, but there are very, very few people who get full rides to university.
posted by valkyryn at 3:57 AM on January 11, 2009

As stated by all above. Unless you are a sports hero.

The odds of getting a full ride are very low. But a mix of loans and scholarships is the most probable route. The scholarships may be for very little, but it can make the difference between affording it and not.

My own daughter had excellent grades in high school, and applied for any scholarships she could find, with no results. Through the financial aid office, they helped her set up loans, and she got a small scholarship (about $1000 per semester) to help. She was still short about $1000, and after another talk with the office they "found" another $1000 scholarship to add to the mix.

The other advantage is that accepting some scholarships or loans qualifies you (and may obligate you) for work-study programs. You get first dibs on certain jobs, usually on campus, that are very flexible to work with your school schedule. My daughter has one that she absolutely loves. She can check in whenever her schedule allows, as long as she works at least 10 and no more than 19 hours per week. The money from that job gives her all the extra spending money she needs, since her loans and scholarships cover tuition, room, and board.

So... do call the office. Do what they say. Then call back. Work everything through them. Be patient, as you may be dealing with several offices to get everything done, and they may not be communicating with each other very well.

The reality is, you will probably have to carry loans, but if you dedicate your first few post-college years to living frugally and paying them off, you won't have the burden for years and years after. Also, depending on your line of work, some employers may offer a signing bonus as a lump sum to pay off some of the loan.

Good luck.
posted by Fuzzy Skinner at 7:51 AM on January 11, 2009

Are you already at college or are you in highschool? If you're still in highschool, have a chat with your guidance councillors as well, and read over their bulletin board every couple days.
posted by stray at 8:41 AM on January 11, 2009

I see from your profile that you're from Colorado, so my Canadian experience won't be specific. However, I can tell you that sites like Fastweb can work. I found (and won) a scholarship on a similar site called ScholarshipsCanada. It's government funded, and I never would've found it otherwise.

Look on your state's website. Look at your parents' workplaces. Are they/you part of any organizations like Rotary club? Ask there. Maybe try this or this. Google "yourfieldofstudy + scholarship/grant/funding".

Once you find more scholarships, apply to everything that you're even remotely qualified for. When they try to scare you by mentioning that they're looking for "community leaders" or "academic excellence" or "outstanding involvement", apply anyways.

The key to winning scholarships is to bullshit well. Obviously you have to have something going on in your life other than partying to win those kinds of scholarships, but you really need to make those accomplishments shine. Have you ever been part of a sports team? Done volunteer work? Finished a personal project that's original or impressive (notice it's OR, not AND) ? Mention those things and draw "life lessons" from them. Read the mission statement for the organization that's funding the scholarship and try to draw parallels between what their goals are and what you're doing with your life. I know this sounds forced, but it's worked for me so far.

If you still don't manage to make any money this year, there are a couple things that you can do for the rest of the semester to make it easier when you are searching for more scholarships this summer. Get good grades is an obvious first. Volunteer somewhere related to your field of study for a couple of hours a week. Get involved in an activity where people in positions of authority will have a chance to get to know and like you.

Lastly, the best scholarships require you to provide reference letters. Make sure you know someone who can reliably write an outstanding letter for you. Mine for the past two years have been philosophy teachers whose classes I participated and did well in.

I wish you luck, and feel free to MefiMail me if you want any help...
posted by snoogles at 10:36 AM on January 11, 2009 [2 favorites]

If you're still in high school, go local. My high school kept a list of local organizations offering scholarships- they were usually small and had weird requirements (had to live in a certain place, or go to a certain elementary school), but they by definition draw a smaller pool of applicants, thereby increasing your odds of getting them. Talk to your guidance counselor, or whatever your school's equivalent is. I ended up getting two thousand dollars from a local historical society because I (at the time) was planning on majoring in history. Fastweb is not the best place to go for scholarships. It might be too early for you to start talking to colleges about this- make sure you file a FAFSA or whatever your schools require to apply for aid, but wait until you get in and get an aid offer before you start looking for more money from them. I do know people who tried to play school's offers off each other- if they got a great deal from one school, they used that to try to get their first choice to give them more money. Be aware, also, that some schools might reduce your school-provided aid if you get outside scholarships (this happened to me).
posted by MadamM at 10:39 AM on January 11, 2009

Ramit Sethi wrote a fantastic guide on how to get over $100K in scholarships. It's an insane amount of work though--unless you really, REALLY have a thing about student loan debt, it might be easier to suck it up and take the loans. Also, check with any organizations (Rotary, Elks, unions) your parents, grandparents, or other relatives may belong to. You may not need to be closely related to qualify to apply for their scholarships.
posted by calistasm at 8:19 PM on January 11, 2009

Seconding MadamM. I spoke to my guidance counselor about this time of year my senior year. Deadlines were rolling in for local scholarships and many smallish ones had no applicants or very few. I spent an afternoon filling out applications and writing essays and managed to score 3 scholarships for almost $2000. Probably the highest per-hour wage I'll ever make in my life.

If you're already in college call some other schools you might be interested in transferring to even if don't want to go anywhere else. See what they'll offer you and take that to financial aid. They might be more willing to deal if they know other schools are after you.
posted by the christopher hundreds at 11:24 PM on January 11, 2009

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