A scholarship search can be a daunting task. There are untold scholarships, and each one has its own specific requirements and deadlines. Many require essays or other materials that can take a lot of time and effort to complete. Plus, the competition for scholarships can be fierce, so you know that your efforts may be fruitless. As I noted in a previous post, Narrow Your Scholarship Search Using 1-2-3 Prioritization, you'll want to focus your attention on scholarships that fit you and your interests. Here, I'll focus a bit more on where to find those elusive scholarships.
Your high school guidance counselor: You counselor is probably your best resource for finding scholarships. Counselors can provide information on local scholarships that may not be widely advertised - a HUGE advantage! - and they can give you advice on how to improve your chances of being awarded a scholarship.
You can ask your guidance counselor if there are any scholarship fairs, workshops, or events that you can attend to learn more about the scholarship application process.
Scholarship search engines: Scholarship search engines (e.g. Fastweb, Scholarships.com, and Cappex) allow you to create a profile and match you with scholarships that fit your criteria. You can search for scholarships based on your location, intended major, GPA, etc. NOTE: Do be careful when using these search tools. There are third parties that like to use search engines to draw students and parents to their paid programs.
Professional organizations and associations: Many professional organizations and associations offer scholarships for students pursuing careers in their field.
These scholarships can be highly competitive, but they are also a great way to network and gain experience in your chosen field. For example, if you are interested in engineering, the Society of Women Engineers offers scholarships for female engineering students.
Your college or university: Most colleges and universities offer scholarships for incoming and current students. These scholarships may be based on academic merit, financial need, or other factors. Check with the financial aid office or the department of your intended major to see what scholarships are available. Some colleges and universities may also require you to complete the FAFSA (Free Application for Federal Student Aid) in order to be considered for scholarships.
Community organizations and foundations: Look for local organizations and foundations that offer scholarships. For example, your local church or community foundation may offer scholarships to students in your area. These scholarships may have specific eligibility criteria, such as residency requirements or community service hours, so be sure to read the requirements carefully before applying.
Stay organized and keep track of deadlines, requirements, and application materials. Be sure, too, to save your essays - you may not be able to reuse full essays, but you'll be able to draw from what you've already written. And get those recommendation letters early! Good luck!