There are two primary sources of scholarships. First, there are what are known as “institutional scholarships” from the college or university itself. These are often quite large and, by far and away, are the primary source of free money for families above the poverty line. They account for more than 80% of the scholarship money awarded. Many of these scholarships are automatically granted with the college admission application serving as the scholarship application. Some schools will have separate applications or require attendance at scholarship events for interviews, and a few have a nomination process. Most of these scholarships are renewable for four years provided the student meets GPA requirements which will vary by school. In addition, some colleges award institutional merit scholarships to most or even all of their students.
The other source of scholarship money is what is known as outside or private scholarships. Private scholarships come from multiple sources, including foundations, philanthropists, churches, companies, and civic organizations.
Where to Find Private Scholarships
Often the first place families look for scholarships is on the web. Below are excellent sources, and we recommend that you explore these options. Everyone is looking at these sites, and the competition can be fierce.
Students will have better outcomes by applying for local scholarships. The high school counselor can identify these opportunities commonly sponsored by local businesses, service organizations, and community foundations.
The first place to start is with your high school counselor. Benefactors often reach out to these counselors with their scholarships. Local scholarships are best for two reasons: you are not competing with a person outside of your region, and the benefactor usually wants the award to go to a local student, and this is often stipulated in the scholarship description.
Other significant sources for local scholarships are other high schools in your area that have college counseling resources (like scholarships) on their website, local libraries, local newspapers, local alumni associations, businesses you frequent, and organizations you are a member of, i.e., fraternities, sororities, and civic organizations.
Most people have heard of all of these, but another excellent source for scholarships that many need to be made aware of is your local Community Foundation.
There are currently more than 900 community foundations throughout the country. They’re located in all fifty states in both urban and rural areas. The foundations are grantmaking public charities that identify and work to solve community problems and are dedicated to supporting local causes.
The Council on Foundations provides an interactive map to help locate your local community foundation.
The scholarships are almost always targeted at local residents. This in and of itself significantly increases your chances of winning a scholarship. However, foundations honor guidelines set by the donors and creators of the endowed scholarships, so read the fine print carefully so you are applying to scholarships that match your qualifications.