What’s the most stressful part of college? Your first thought might be “homework” or “finals week.” While both are stressful, many college students stress even more about one thing in particular—money.
As you’ve probably heard, every year, tuition gets even pricier. And with a national freshmen undergraduate dropout rate of 24.1%, it’s no surprise that financial strain is a top reason for quitting school. The cost of housing, food, textbooks, and other college essentials adds up, and you’re left with quite the bill on your hands.
But the situation isn’t entirely hopeless. You found this article, which will direct you to where you can find free money to help pay for college. By the end, you’ll know exactly how to get a scholarship for college.
Types of Scholarships
There are hundreds of opportunities to win scholarships for college freshmen and other college students. One scholarship guide lists FAFSA (Free Application for Federal Student Aid), the CSS profile, and scholarship search engines as tools to find scholarships you may be eligible for.
While you might think of FAFSA as a source for loans, you may also qualify for grants AKA free money. Similarly, the CSS profile is a tool to access nonfederal student aid, though you have to pay to create it.
As far as scholarship search engines go, sites like ScholarshipOwl, fastweb, scholarships.com and Nitro are the classics. They allow you to search through hundreds of scholarships at a time using filters that cater to your profile.
Each of these filters can guide other parts of your scholarship search:
Just like a scholarship search engine, you can find scholarships for college freshmen by narrowing your search down to your neighborhood. By doing a simple online search, you can see what scholarships are specific to your city, county, or state.
Sometimes, going local is your best bet. If a company in your neighborhood is offering scholarships for business majors, you’re more likely to actually win that scholarship rather than a national scholarship for business majors.
The first step is knowing what to look for, so make sure to use your town or city before “scholarship” as keywords in your search.
As we mentioned, there are plenty of scholarships that are specific to your major. If you search, “scholarships for biology majors,” for example, you’ll get tons of results.
Similarly, there are scholarships for different types of majors. For example, biology, physics, mathematics, and chemical engineering majors may all be eligible to apply for a “STEM scholarship.” Those who major in the performing arts and liberal arts also have unique opportunities.
Major-specific scholarships are worth looking into because they weed out the applicant pool. Instead of hundreds of applicants from across the nation, you might have a few dozen that are qualified to apply.
There are scholarships out there for everyone if you look hard enough. Many are based on different aspects of your identity, whether it is your race, ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation, or religion.
Again, filtering your scholarship search with keywords based on your identity narrows down the applicant pool. You could find a scholarship that you are uniquely qualified for.
While you’re going through the college application process, you’ll also be figuring out what kind of financial aid you qualify for. Based on your application and additional financial information, colleges will let you know what loans, grants, and scholarships you qualify for that are specific to their school.
This could play a huge role in where you decide to go to college and how much tuition will cost once you get there. You might just find a school where you’re qualified for a full-ride scholarship!
Strategies for Applying to Scholarships
Now that you have an idea of what kind of scholarships are out there, it’s time to figure out how to apply strategically. You want to apply to as many as possible while still getting around to specialized scholarship applications that you’re more likely to win.
So how do you get started? As one scholarship blog suggests, it’s time to prioritize the low-effort scholarship applications.
At this point, you’ve filtered through as many scholarships as possible. You know which ones require essays, which ones require transcripts, and which ones only require you to fill out a form.
In this strategy, you apply to as many “easy” scholarships as possible. These are the applications with similar writing prompts or single forms to fill out. By applying to a ton of scholarships right off the bat, you increase your chances of winning something.
Maybe you’re looking for a different strategy, something that revolves around the calendar. Lucky for you, there’s another effective method of getting college scholarships: prioritizing by the deadline.
For example, there are dozens of scholarships for July alone. If you have all your scholarship application information in one spreadsheet, you can easily compare deadlines.
From there, you can apply to whichever scholarship application is due first. If multiple scholarships are due in the same week or the same few days, you can decide which you’re more likely to win or which you can really gather all the application materials for.
Even though we discussed a lot about how to get a scholarship for college, there’s even more opportunity out there! Other scholarship filters include scholarships based on sport and grade level.
That means you can be a freshman in college or high school when you start to apply for scholarships. It’s never too early or too late! What matters is that you know that there’s scholarship money waiting to be won, and it’s up to you to go find it.