The decision to pursue a post-secondary education is quite often accompanied by financial uncertainty, making it a virtual necessity to find the best scholarship websites.
Based on research conducted by the College Board, the average cost of one year's tuition plus the applicable fees ranged from $9,000 for in-state residents at a public college to $30,000 for private colleges.
The great news is that there are scholarship search engines available to search for merit-based scholarships, student financial loans, and federal education grants. For the most part, it's as simple as plugging your personal information into any one of a number of the best scholarship websites and seeing what the search results turn up.
To make this task a bit easier, I've reviewed some of the top contenders so that you can find the best way to get scholarships for your own education.
In This Guide
The Best Sites for Finding a Scholarship: Our Top Picks
- Covers a range of topics from applying to financial aid
- Provides college statistics
- Lists student reviews regarding colleges
- Easy to use and navigate
- User-friendly platform
- Requires extensive profile information to perform matches
- Slightly more high school and undergrad oriented
With Cappex you can search 3000+ school profiles, explore over $11 billion in merit-based scholarships, and map out a plan for your academic future. By simply filling out a profile with your personal information, you'll get matched with scholarships from across the country, offered by a wide ranging number of agencies and institutions.
But how exactly can that help you? By knowing what an organization is interested in you can better adapt your skill set to match it and increase your chances of receiving a scholarship. Also, you may just stumble onto a company in the process and find an opportunity for a career down the line.
With all the information available on this site it's pretty evident that Cappex isn't limited to purely scholarship searches. You can leverage their services to compare and contrast student loans and then find one which suits your needs. One of their handy tools is the "What Are My Chances" calculator. This tells you your likelihood of being accepted to a school before you pay any application fees. With some ranging upwards of $30, that right there could save you a significant sum. This is definitely a great site to start with when applying for college, especially when looking for financial aid and searching for scholarships.
Cappex makes it to the top of my list for scholarship searches. The only flaw with this site is that it's slanted slightly towards high school students rather than a broader demographic audience. But overall, you can find quite a few helpful links and resources on the site so it's definitely worth a visit.
- Ability to sort by relevancy
- College matching
- Site updated daily
- Multitude of resources
- Cluttered interface with small text
- May receive marketing email (uncheck when creating profile)
Scholarships.com has been serving college students since 1998. With a comprehensive database of monetary awards, student resources, and colleges looking for specific types of students, this site is a goldmine of higher education connections.
I found the interface a bit cluttered but the wealth of information is worth digging through. As with most scholarship search engines, you'll need to create a profile in order to really make the site work for you, although you can view information for various awards without signing in. Once you create your profile you will be able to search for relevant scholarships, allowing you to whittle the possibilities down to those which are appropriate for your situation.
One of the truly unique things about Scholarships.com is that they also have a College Matchmaker feature. This function offers you the ability to search colleges by tuition level, school size, major, sports offered, and minimum required SAT and ACT scores. You are then matched with colleges specifically seeking students just like you.
Another useful aspect of this scholarship finder is that they offer other resources such as advice on college prep, study tips, and campus life. There is a comprehensive FAQ in addition to a blog. Find college funds specifically for graduate students, minorities, veterans, and even view trending scholarships. While the site is rather visually busy due to the small text and abundance of information, I highly recommend Scholarships.com as an indispensable resource if you're serious about finding, and funding, the right college education for you.
- No complex applications
- Unique operational model
- Fresh, user-friendly website
- Informative yet fun articles
- Not an actual scholarship search engine
- Must complete tasks to compete for funds
ScholarshipPoints is definitely not your mother's financial aid website. The first thing I noticed was the definitive Millennial feel. The content is clearly created with the intent of making college students feel at home, and getting them excited about finding money to help pay for their education. The fun feel to this website doesn't mean it lacks serious industry expertise. The site was started in 2006 by Edvisors, an organization which has been helping students plan and pay for their education since 1998. This particular channel is just an innovative way of approaching the issue.
How ScholarshipPoints works is by offering students the opportunity to earn points and then "spend" them on entries for college money. You can earn points by taking surveys, playing games, participating on social media and more. You then decide which drawings you want to use your points on, and enter for a chance to win that money.
ScholarshipPoints claims to have given away more than $750,000 in college money to date. Drawings run throughout the day, keeping things fresh and interesting. There's also a CampusLife section, stocked with the writings of a team of college students advising you on everything from coping with anxiety to dealing with family.
This model of giving away free college money is certainly non-traditional. Still, its savvy and engaging flavor earn the website big "points" in my book, landing it on my list of the top scholarship websites.
Key Considerations for Finding a Scholarship
I've gathered the top five scholarship websites that excel in finding worthwhile scholarships and that also present pertinent information regarding college and university life. Keep these points in mind while browsing the list:
Keep these points in mind while browsing the list:
- What types of costs can this be applied towards?
- Do I need to submit any type of financial background or history?
- Can I filter the results to suit my needs?
- Have other students found success using this resource?
Not every opportunity is the right one for every single student. By choosing an appropriate website for your circumstances, you can generate a list of scholarships specifically geared toward your own strengths and needs.
Defining a Scholarship
Merriam-Webster defines scholarship as "an amount of money that is given by a school, an organization, etc., to a student to help pay for the student's education." In practical terms, it's simply money that is given to someone for the express purpose of education of some type, and does not have to be paid back.
These funds could come from a variety of sources, including private organizations, community resources such as 4-H or a religious institution, or from the college itself.
Different Ways to Get a Scholarship
There are many different ways to increase your chances of getting extra money for college. Many scholarships are merit-based, while others are awarded on a basis of financial need. Some are a combination of the two.
Investing time and effort into the top scholarship websites can help you to avoid becoming saddled with sizeable loan payments for the next decade.
Possibilities for getting free scholarships include, but are not limited to:
- Community Involvement: Volunteering not only enhances your scholarship applications, it also demonstrates to colleges and financial aid organizations that you have a passion and commitment that will likely translate well into your college career. You impress the awarding organization, and the college to which you're applying - it's a great two-for-one.
- Playing the Odds: The more you apply for scholarships, the better your chances of winning one (or more). This is one area of life in which there's no such thing as overkill.
- Being Thorough: Don't gloss over optional sections when filling out your profile on college scholarship search websites. The more information you provide, the more likely you are to be matched with an award for which you're well qualified.
- Maintaining Your Image: Be professional - online and off. Clean up your social media profiles and create a dedicated email address to use for scholarship applications (one that isn't cutesy or questionable).
- Doing the Essays: It's tempting to bypass some of the best college scholarships if they involve writing that dreaded long, tedious essay. That's precisely why you should do them - applying for money that others are likely to forego means your chances of getting it are that much higher.
According to the Wall Street Journal, the class of 2015 graduated with an average of $35,000+ in student loan debt. Investing time and effort into the top scholarship websites can help you to avoid becoming saddled with sizeable loan payments for the next decade.
You're already well aware that pursuing higher education is not by any means a low-cost initiative. In the past ten years, the rate of increase for college tuition has surpassed the national rate of inflation because of reduced federal/state funding. Data collected by the College Board found that tuition and fees have been increased 9 percent at public colleges and 13 percent in the private sector just since the 2011-2012 school year.
What's more, since the recession in 2008, publicly subsidized funding for colleges and universities has fallen nearly 14.6 percent. While these statistics may be alarming and disheartening if you're a college-aged individual or the parent of one, it shouldn't deter you from your collegiate aspirations. Here, I've taken a look at ways to increase the effectiveness of your scholarship search.
Create a Laser Focus
One of the best tips my research about scholarships revealed is to focus your search on a few key areas in order to maximize the relevancy of your search results. These key aspects could be:
- Your career goals
- Your hobbies
- Geographic area where you reside
- Your ethnicity
- Academic and/or extracurricular strengths (such as sports)
In other words, prioritize your qualifications that are likely to earn you a scholarship. For example, if you're planning on going after a degree in the healthcare field, inquire with different organizations and nonprofits in your area as to whether or not they reserve scholarships for undergrads entering the field. That's one way to approach the scholarship hunt.
Another way is to utilize the host of websites available that are designed to readily match your qualifications to scholarships available. Not only will that open up the pool of possible scholarships but it'll save you vital time. Some scholarship search engines even feature a tool to match your qualifications with an appropriate college as well.
Start Early & Search Often
With any endeavor that requires searching it's best to get a head start. High school students should ideally start looking prior to their senior year. That approach offers an advantage over waiting until you're a senior to start your scholarship search. If you're finding that your grades or GPA aren't high enough to qualify you for many scholarships, you still have time to improve your academic record or get the experience that would set you apart from other applicants (i.e., community service, volunteering, etc.).
Search often because the best websites for scholarships update frequently - as often as every day. Award providers are continually entering their offerings on scholarship sites, which means that you might find a great match one day that wasn't there the day before. Most of the top rated sites also allow you to save your favorites in order to refer back to them later when you're ready to complete the application.
Refine Your Essay
The last tip I'll suggest is to refine your essay as much as you can. Consult your high school's college counselor or writing department to polish the essay that accompanies your application. Do your best to leave a lasting impression on the scholarship committee by emphasizing your personal story and reasons why you deserve the funding.
Be mindful to deliver an essay that addresses the prompt as well as exemplifies your financial need.
Keep the above tips in mind when searching for the perfect scholarship. Fine tune your criteria to scholarships which relate to your personal interests or history, and start searching early.
Scholarships for Sports
According to ScholarshipStats.com, American colleges gave $3.3 billion in scholarships to athletes in 2014. As most high school athletes well know, getting noticed for your prowess on the field or court can be a major challenge. Even if you do catch the eye of a college sports scout, that doesn't mean you will get a full ride. As CNBC has reported, the average athletic scholarship amounts to roughly $14,000, which doesn't go far in terms of today's educational economics.
So what can you do to increase your odds of getting that coveted college money as a result of your athletic ability?
- Initiate contact - don't wait for a scout. Email the schools you're interested in and include your high school stats, coach info, and other pertinent facts.
- Utilize technology - make a YouTube reel of your best moments on the court/field, and include that link in your emails rather than a DVD that will likely find the circular file.
- Keep your options open - of course, everyone wants to enter Division I sports in college, but you should also consider applying for other types of scholarships available through Division III schools. You'll get help with tuition and still be able to play, without having to compete against thousands of students for a little bit of money.
Just because you're an athlete doesn't mean you have to limit yourself to only athletic scholarships. Keep your grades up as much as possible, do other important activities like volunteering, and keep an open mind about where to find your college funding.
As you sift through the best college scholarship websites you'll find that there is much more you need to learn about this exciting new venture. Finding a way to pay for tuition and books is only the beginning.
Check out more helpful advice and information, including The Ultimate Guide to College Scholarships and tips on how to save money while you're in school.
As you can see, the internet offers an enormous amount of help when it comes to searching for scholarships and educational grants. When it comes down to it, you're the one responsible for your future as well as the costs associated with it.
Do yourself a favor and explore a reputable scholarship website before taking out student loans or other types of financing. You may still have to use other funding methods for your education, so arm yourself in advance by checking out the best student loan consolidation.
You'll also find more ways to keep your college finances in check by looking into the best student discounts.