5 Tips to Find College Scholarships

College expenses can add up fast, but scholarships can offer supplemental funding that allows you to attend the school of your dreams even if it’s currently beyond your budget. These five tips can make your scholarship search easier and open doors to possibilities you didn’t know were available.

1. Scour the Internet

Free scholarship search services such as Fastweb, CollegeBoard, CollegeNet and Scholarships.com have extensive databases that offer access to millions of scholarships all in one place. Through search functions and profile matching, these services pair students up with relevant scholarships, including those that can be applied to tuition at any school. On CollegeNet, you can participate in topic-based discussions that end with a voting process for the most interesting comment and net the winner extra scholarship money. Other sites award their own mini-scholarships to eligible site users at regular intervals.

2. See What Schools Offer

If you’ve narrowed your college choices down to a handful of institutions, you might be able to apply for scholarships specific to those schools. Check their websites or get in touch with financial aid offices for more information. School-specific scholarships can only be used at the institution that awards them, and competition can be stiff if you’re looking into popular schools. However, it never hurts to apply for anything that you’re eligible for. Ask the financial aid office about the application process and what you can do to improve your chances of being awarded funding.

3. Go Local

Some scholarship opportunities could be as close as a local business, community organization or religious group. Businesses in particular are interested in helping students who have the potential to become talented future employees. Concentrate on companies that operate within the field that you want to study. Even if you don’t find a scholarship at a particular business, any contacts that you make will grow your personal network. Since networking is part of a good college experience and can subsequently improve your chances of success when you start a career, this process provides a twofold benefit.

4. Look Beyond Academics

You don’t need to have a 4.0 GPA to get a scholarship. No matter what your grades are like, there are still many opportunities available for funding. Think about what else you do at school, including the extracurricular activities you’re involved in, any clubs or groups that you lead or sports that you participate in. Hobbies can also land you scholarships, especially if they’re creative in some way. Volunteering at local organizations can open even more doors. If you take the time to look, you’ll find that there really is a scholarship for just about everything.

5. Check for New Opportunities

As you go through college and gain experience, you may become eligible for more scholarships, especially if you decide to change your major. Repeat your search annually to discover new sources of funding, making note of any opportunities that you may be able to apply for in future semesters. Getting involved with activities beyond academics at your school is a good way to keep expanding your qualifications. Don’t forget to go back to the financial aid office now and then to find out if there are any school scholarships that you can now access.

Resource: 50 Best Deals on Competitive Small Schools

Finding and applying for scholarships is a labor-intensive task that requires time and dedication, but don’t give up. Set aside time to devote to your search, and don’t leave any possibility unexplored. With patience and diligence, you can find a multitude of scholarships to help you cover the costs of attending your chosen university.