With the average cost of tuition and fees currently averaging $10,116 and $36,801 for in-state public and private colleges respectively, it’s no wonder that families are looking for alternatives to help fund their student’s education. And while the largest sources of free money for college come from the federal and state governments and the universities themselves, private scholarships do account for a portion of what is available for students to use toward college tuition.
Private scholarships come from a variety of sources, such as corporations and non-profits, and can be a way to help close the gap between the high price of college and what a family is prepared to pay. So how does a family go about finding private scholarships? We’ve combed through the web and found three scholarship search engines that offer comprehensive results and tools to simplify the search process.
- Fastweb.com – Fastweb has a database of over 1.5 million scholarships worth over $3 billion dollars in total. Your student can create a profile with a number of filters such as GPA, test scores, possible majors, ethnicity, and extracurricular activities. This profile generates a customized list of matching scholarship results. The student can track deadlines and scholarships where they have already applied.
- Cappex.com – Cappex has an extensive database and allows the student to set up a customized profile in a similar fashion. A unique feature of Cappex is that its scholarship list indicates the effort involved and the level of competition.
- Unigo.com – Unigo operates in much the same way as Fastweb and Cappex, but also offers a list of merit-only scholarships where financial need is not a factor. This list can be a game-changer for families that do not qualify for need-based aid but are still looking to offset the high sticker price of going to college.
As your family begins the scholarship search, a search engine such as the ones listed here is a great place to start. But, don’t forget to look within your community and workplace for other opportunities. Have your student check in with their school counselor regarding local businesses or non-profits that offer scholarships to students in the area. Many workplaces provide scholarships to students of their employees, so talk to your HR department to see what’s available. You may also want to consider any affiliations your family has with non-profits or community organizations, since dollars may be found there.
So how do you get started applying for all this potential money? The key is to get organized! Set up a simple spreadsheet with fields for the scholarship name, amount, the items required to complete the application, and the due date. As you uncover each opportunity, add it into the spreadsheet, and then get busy. Work through the list in order of deadline, reusing essays and letters of recommendation wherever possible. Don’t be afraid to apply for the smaller amounts! Most often, a student’s chance of winning a $1,000 scholarship offered by their local Lions Club chapter is much higher than winning a $25,000 award given by a national corporation. It may be more realistic to “stack” multiple smaller awards.
And here are a couple of final bits of advice: don’t pay to apply for a scholarship, and don’t provide confidential information such as bank account numbers or social security numbers. As with the rest of life, the world of scholarships has its share of scams.
With some tenacity and a bit of luck, you may be the recipient of some additional funding for your college education. Happy hunting!