Looking for scholarships? 4 tips to help your search

Your child doesn’t have to be an elite athlete or class valedictorian to earn a college scholarship. There are a huge amount of opportunities available, including those for ice sculptors, fiddle players, and Star Trek fans. The most difficult part is making sure your child finds the time to search for relevant awards, complete the applications, draft essays, ask for letters of recommendation, and send them all out before the deadline passes. 

Here are four tips to help you and your child navigate the application process.

Tip 1: Start early

Your child doesn’t have to wait for his or her senior year to start searching. Many scholarships are awarded to underclassmen. With loads of opportunities to search through, the earlier your child starts, the better the chances for finding suitable prospects. Set aside a Saturday morning once a month to review the opportunities and help your child with the applications. The scholarship issuance process can also be lengthy—the time between the deadline and the announcement of winner(s) can often take months. 

Tip 2: Use free, online search engines

Be wary of any websites that charge a fee, whether it’s to apply, run a search, or submit a scholarship application. You don’t have to pay for searches; there are many online resources that offer free search engines. A few of the more popular include:

  • The U.S. Department of Labor’s CareerOneStop search tool lists more than 8,000 scholarships, fellowships, grants, and prizes.1
  • Scholarships.com has more than 3.7 million awards in its database, representing nearly $19 billion in financial aid.2
  • Fastweb.com allows users to create a profile that automatically matches potential fits among its 1.5 million opportunities based on skills and interests.3

Tip 3: Apply for many

There is no limit to how many different applications you can send out. Don’t automatically rule out smaller scholarships. A $100 award may not seem worth the effort, but combined with several other smaller scholarships, it may add up nicely. 

Tip 4: Check locally

Area businesses and organizations (such as Rotary clubs or Elks lodges) often give scholarships to local students. Your child’s high school should have a listing of awards. Ask your boss or Human Resources department if your company has any opportunities. Check out your local library, as it often has listings posted on bulletin boards. 

A sampling of scholarships

Among the myriad scholarship opportunities, here are some for children with medical conditions or disabilities:

  • Wells Fargo Scholarship Program for People with Disabilities: The financial services company has committed over $1 million to help people with disabilities obtain career-path education or training.
  • Google Lime Scholarship: The search engine giant has partnered with Lime Connect, a nonprofit that seeks opportunities for the disabled, to offer aid to students who are studying computer science.
  • Both Bristol-Meyers Squibb and Northwestern Mutual give scholarships to cancer survivors. Northwestern Mutual also has opportunities for the siblings of cancer patients.

And here are a few of the more eclectic opportunities:

  • Create-a-Greeting-Card Scholarship: A $10,000 prize is given to the student who creates a memorable greeting card.
  • Tall Clubs International Scholarship: The group hands out $1,000 scholarships for girls 5’10” and over and boys 6’2” and over.
  • Zombie Apocalypse Scholarship: $2,000 is awarded to the student who can make the judges believe his or her survival plan is worthy.
  • Starfleet Academy Scholarship: Members of StarFleet International (SFI) are eligible to vie for $1,000.

While scholarships can be a key part of the puzzle for funding a college education, they're just one important component of a comprehensive plan. Be sure to work with your financial representative who can help you implement such a plan for sending your child to school, including setting up a specific savings vehicle, such as a 529 education savings account.