Paonita as well as Jason Butler, financial aid counselor at Georgia State University, both agree that students seem far less likely to apply for scholarships after freshman year. This may be due to laziness or a misconception that there aren’t as many opportunities for upperclassmen.
“I believe the competition is much more slim once [students] get to college so, if anything, that is the best time to apply,” Paonita said.
Carissa Uhlman, 37, is the Vice President of Student Success at Inceptia, a non-profit organization dedicated to promoting financial literacy and reducing student loan default. Uhlman recommends you start your scholarship search with your college’s financial aid office as they may be able to help connect you with institutional aid, on-campus employment opportunities or even local or national scholarships. She also encourages students to work their network by asking loved ones if any of their groups, churches or local organizations offer scholarships. Uhlman herself won a scholarship from the Army for children of military parents.
True recommends joining and networking within organizations related to your course of study. “The number one way I found scholarships was by joining professional organizations as a student member,” he said. “Nearly all different engineering organizations had a few scholarships they gave out every year. So I joined every single one I could find.”
Once you’ve exhausted those resources, you can turn to online options. Uhlman suggests BigFuture.org, Fastweb.com and Unigo – which allow you to search by school year, making it easy for upperclassmen to find relevant scholarships. She also recommends the U.S. Department of Labor sponsored site CareerOneStop, which allows you to search for scholarships, as well as grants and fellowships. You can also use the Discover Student Loans Free Scholarship Search Tool, which helps you search 3 million scholarships worth more than $18 billion. There’s no registration required.
Paonita also suggests scouring company websites in your field of interest to see if they offer scholarships.
Not to mention, some opportunities may be completely unrelated to your field of study or even a skill you thought you possessed. Uhlman points to the Duct Tape sponsored scholarship which offers up to $10,000 for making prom clothes out of duct tape.
No matter how you elect to search for scholarships, be wary of scams. Uhlman warns that you should never be paying to look for scholarships.