With the price of a college education ever on the rise, more and more students are turning to scholarships and fellowships to fund their studies. There are literally thousands of scholarships out there, but how can you hope to find the one that’s right for you, not the scam one?
We’ve developed this comprehensive guide to scholarship resources on the Internet, along with some advice on other ways to get your education funded without taking out a fortune in student loans.
Check With Your School
The first thing you should do when you’re looking for scholarships is search through your school’s website.
Most universities have an entire page dedicated to scholarship opportunities based on a variety of criteria, and chances are you’ll qualify for one of them.
Do this research before you even settle on a school, because knowing what kinds of scholarship money you have available can really affect your studies and your life after the university, and make things a lot less stressful.
Once you’ve figured out how much money your school is willing to offer you, take a look at what’s available on a boarder scale.
You should also be sure to fill out your federal financial aid forms, which are free to complete and might result in quite a bit of funding from the federal government. Take a look at the FAFSA site, or visit studentaid.ed.gov to find out more about how federal financial aid works.
One of the first places you should look is to prestigious scholarship foundations, some of which give out thousands of scholarships to students of all disciplines and levels every year.
For example, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation gave out almost 3.9 million dollars in grant money in 2014, and 3.7 million in 2009, including $430,000 in college money. You could easily be one of the scholars chosen by a foundation like this, but first you have to apply.
Here are some of the big-name fellowship foundations in the United States:
- Barry M. Goldwater Scholarship and Excellence in Education Program
- Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation
- Carnegie Junior Fellows Program
- Daughters of the American Revolution National Society
- Hertz Foundation
- Jack Kent Cooke Foundation
- James Madison Memorial Fellowship Foundation
- Morris K. Udall and Stewart L. Udall Foundation
- Woodrow Wilson National Fellowship Foundation
If you don’t want to stay in the good old USA, there are also plenty of scholarship opportunities abroad (where tuition is often cheaper, too). If you want to study at Cambridge or another prestigious European school, these are the foundations you should look in to:
- Bowen Awards for International Study
- Ford Foundation
- Gates Cambridge Scholarships
- Marshall Scholarships
- Rhodes Trust
- US-Ireland Alliance
Scholarships by Field
Your field of study is going to be one of the main criteria scholarship officials look at when determining how much money to give you, if any at all. For this reason, you should look in to finding scholarships specifically designed for your field, thus increasing your chances of getting funded.
Some fields have more opportunities than others, based mostly on how much the profession is valued in larger society.
For example, science scholarships and grants are pretty easy to locate, while scholarships for those in the softer sciences or the humanities have more difficulty.
Here are some of these degree-specific scholarships to get you started:
- Engineering: Society of Women Engineers
- Environmental Science: Switzer Foundation
- Humanities: Jacob K. Javits Fellowships Program
- Political Science: Howard Penniman Scholarships for Graduate Study
- Public Service: Truman Scholarship Foundation
Search Engines & Lists
There are tons of websites dedicated to helping students find scholarships, fellowships and grant opportunities. You just have to know where to look.
Here, we’ve compiled a list of several of these sites. They all access different information, so it would be in your best interest to use more than one of them, and see which comes up with the most relevant hits for you:
- American Association of State Colleges and Universities
- College Data Scholarship Finder
- CollegeBoard Search
- Council of Graduate Schools
- Education Scholarships
- FastWeb Search
- Nationally Coveted College Scholarships
- Online Education Database
- Peterson’s College Search
- Social Science Research Council
- UCLA Graduate & Postdoctoral Extramural Support
There are tons of other financial options out there, so long as you’re willing to do the research and work it takes to find and apply to these sorts of programs.
If you play your cards right, you may be able to dramatically reduce the amount of debt you have to go into for school, or maybe even eliminate it all together.
If you don’t find a scholarship right away, don’t get discouraged. Instead, keep looking and applying for more. Eventually, something is sure to work out for you.