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10 tips for finding the best college scholarships

Looking for scholarships is a necessary (and yes, time consuming) part of your college decision process. While you’re busy visiting campuses, researching degree programs, and exploring college locations, it can be daunting to think about how you will pay for your time at a college or university. But taking time to search for scholarships can have a life-long impact. Scholarships are essentially “free” money for college, and they will help you to graduate with the least amount of debt possible.

So where do you start? How do you know which scholarships to apply for?

Scholarships are available through a variety of channels and a high school counselor can help you find some of the best scholarships to apply for. Another great tool for finding scholarships is the search bar on your computer screen!  No matter where you look for scholarships, there will be chances for you to earn free money for college. So to help you in your debt-free education endeavors, we’ve put together a list of a few tips and resources on finding the right scholarships for you!

Find scholarships that make sense for you

The initial search for college scholarships can feel overwhelming. There are an incredible amount of scholarships available to apply for, so where do you start? Some scholarships require an essay, while others ask about the types of volunteer work you participate in, extracurricular activities you enjoy, and more. A great place to start is by looking for scholarships that apply to your strengths and skills.

For example, if you’re an excellent writer, broadening your search to scholarships that require longer essays could be a strength for you. Perhaps you are an honor student in high school, and you’d like to search for scholarships that are specifically geared toward academic excellence. Whatever skills you have, there are likely college scholarships out there for students like you.

Start early

One of the best ways to ensure that you find the best college scholarships is by starting your search process as early as possible. Some scholarships are even available for sophomores and juniors in high school to start applying for so you can start earning scholarship money before you even begin your undergrad! Beginning your search early can ensure that you have access to an abundance of scholarships.

Know where to look

You might be wondering where the best places to look for scholarships are. Even a simple Google search can lead you to some of the best websites for scholarships. Checking in with your church and high school counselor can also be helpful for finding local or niche scholarships that might be available to you.

Here are some of the best scholarship websites to get you started

  • Fastweb – Searching for unique, targeted scholarships, career advice, and more?  Fastweb is a great resource for helpful information on scholarships as well as extra career information as well.
  • – This site recognizes the difficulty of paying for college by helping you find scholarships and grants you qualify for.
  • Federal Student Aid – Using this resource will help answer any questions you have about your scholarships. By answering questions like, “What kinds of scholarships are available?” or “How do I get my scholarship money?” this is a reliable, must-have resource when you are looking for scholarships.
  • Niche – Niche is a site with quite a bit to offer, from college and city rankings and reviews to easy, relevant scholarships. Niche can be a great resource both throughout your college search and your scholarship search.

Apply to unique scholarships

You’d be amazed at the array of scholarships that are available to very specific students. From opportunities based on your ethnicity to church grants, unique scholarship opportunities are available to you. It can really pay off to search for specific scholarships based on your connections and interests.

When applying for scholarships, keep in mind that you are often competing with many other college students. Make sure to spend more time applying for opportunities that you are most qualified to receive.

Search for scholarships often

New college scholarships can become available at any time so it is important to stay on top of your searching efforts. Checking scholarship sites often and applying quickly to any opportunities that pop up are easy ways to make sure you are staying up to date on free money opportunities for college. Especially making sure to regularly search and apply to niche scholarships, which tend to disappear quickly.

Use sites that match scholarships to you

One of the best ways to make your scholarship search simple is by spending time on sites that have a “match” tool. Utilizing a matching capability will streamline your online searching efforts and help to quickly find scholarships that you easily qualify for.

When you maximize your time applying to the scholarships that you are most qualified for, you will be able to see the most return from the time you invest in looking for scholarships.

Find scholarships from your dream school

If you are later in your college search, you might have it narrowed down to one or two schools that you are hoping to attend. Be sure to check into the different scholarships available through those schools. Many universities offer large scholarships for your academic performance and ACT/SAT scores, as well as scholarship opportunities for music and sports. Capitalizing on these scholarships first can give you a great jumpstart on getting free college tuition.

North Central University offers many opportunities for scholarships and grants for new and continuing students!

Apply to as many as you can

Apply, apply, apply. Using some of your spare time to prioritize scholarship applications can pay off when you begin to hear back from some of your applications and receive free money for college. The more scholarships you apply for, the more opportunities you have to receive the scholarship money! It’s easy math.

Look for both local and national scholarships

When  looking for scholarships, try not to limit yourself to local scholarships from your church, or even just from the school you are attending. Using websites like Niche, give you access to scholarships from around the country that can be matched to your skills and qualifications. This will give you a broader scope of scholarships to apply for!

Keep up with deadlines

It is vital to keep a running list of all the college scholarships you’ve applied for so you can follow up and keep track of deadlines. Each scholarship you apply for will have submission deadlines, so you need to have somewhere you can look to reference those from time to time.

Start scholarship planning today

By applying these tips and tricks to your scholarship searches, you are on your way to a debt-free, all inclusive education! Getting free money for college only takes a bit of time and determination but will pay off (literally) in the end when you graduate without ever having to take out a loan.

Use our cost worksheet to calculate actual college costs and learn more about your need for scholarships. Download the cost worksheet today and start your financial planning for college.