For those that have been successful finding scholarships (“free money”) to assist in funding their education, the overriding theme mentioned is persistence. When searching for scholarships, use all of the resources at your disposal: the Internet, family and friends, the library, your school/potential school, as well as basing your search on different “levels.” Your search should be done at the national, state and local level, as well as by school.
There are LOTS of FREE national scholarship search tools – no need to pay the $50+ that many agencies charge. FastWeb (http://fastweb.com) is one of the most popular (it is the largest, most frequently updated database) scholarship searches – other free search sites/tools are listed at:
Your State Department of Higher Education is a great place to start (State of Missouri = http://www.dhe.mo.gov) as is your State Loan Guarantee Agency (MOHELA in Missouri - http://www.mohela.com/). There are likely others [depending on your State's educational resources], but these are two offices I’d suggest starting with to find money regardless of where you reside …
Numerous scholarship opportunities are available within the community in which you reside. Kiwanis, Elks, Church Groups, and Rotary Clubs are common examples.
The notion of conducting ‘levels of searches’ also holds true at Universities/Colleges. There will normally be school-wide options (i.e., http://sfa.missouri.edu/sch-index.php). In addition to applying at the University level, seek out money offered by your college and department of interest. For example, if you were interested in Personal Financial Planning (great idea!), talk to the PFP department about scholarship possibilities, I’d also look at scholarship opportunities within the College of Human Environmental Sciences [in that example]. I’d approach things similarly with any department/college I was applying to. Something else to consider is if you’re interested in a specific field of study. Many “special programs” (loan forgiveness, scholarships, etc.) are available for particular fields of study such as teaching, nursing, social work, etc.
- Start early!
- Pay close attention to deadlines
- Read [and follow] the directions closely
Look outside the box. Everyone knows about scholarships awarded on academic performance or financial need, but don't overlook scholarships offered by professional or trade organizations. Healthcare, engineering, education, computer science, and social work are all examples. The military offers scholarships if you’re willing to serve …
There are also plenty of “oddball” scholarships – awards for left-handed students; graduates of specific high schools. Heck, you and your prom date can enter the scholarship fray if you’re willing to wear outfits or accessories made out of duct tape to the prom! Don’t believe me? Check it out - http://www.stuckatprom.com/contests/prom.
When searching for scholarships, be cautious, NUMEROUS scams abound.
COMMON SCHOLARSHIP SCAMS.
(1) Guaranteed scholarship or your money back …
(2) This information isn’t available anywhere else …
(3) “You’re a finalist” but never entered the competition …
(4) I’ll need a card/bank information to hold the scholarship for you …
(5) A scholarship search service will do the work for you [hefty fee] …