A Future College Student's Guide to Finding Scholarships

Words by Anna Connole • 09/25/2017

Scholarships are a great way to help pay for college, but finding them isn't always easy.

High school students are familiar with the stress of college long before they set foot in a dorm or university classroom. Graduating college is often the furthest longterm goal many teenagers have, but it can be expensive and sometimes feel unattainable.

One way to help pay for college is through scholarships. Maybe your parents have been tossing the word around for years. And teachers and counselors will tell you scholarships are such a necessary way to help your family out with college expenses. But getting this very competitive money isn’t automatic. Even if you’re a qualified and deserving student, you still have to find the right scholarships. They can be found in some surprising places, and you have to know where to look. 

Here's a guide to not passing up the money that's waiting to help you pay for college. 

1. Talk to Your Counselors

Use your most obvious resources. Your counselors are there to help you succeed as you transition to a new level of education. They're equipped with hundreds of resources, including lists of scholarships based around your chosen university or your high school's city, state or region. If you have a special college and career counselor for upperclassmen at your school, go see them. They will be able to identify scholarships that suit your needs and profile as a student. 

2. Use Your Extracurricular Involvement

Many students are part of a variety of organizations in school, and a lot of these can have regional, state or national branches. Some such examples are Key Club, Best Buddies or Red Cross Club. One way to find scholarships is to investigate the organizations of which you're already a member. The school level of a given club may not offer anything, but look to the larger pools and see what's available. Organizations are often eager to give back to members who have been working hard for their causes and missions.

3. Get Online

Don’t leave everything up to your counselors or teachers. Although they have a lot of resources, they’re not going to have a complete list of the hundreds or thousands of scholarships that are out there. Plenty of large organizations and corporations allocate money to aiding future students. Coca Cola, for example, offers hundreds of scholarships each year.

4. Go Local

Whether you’re from a small town or a big city, there are always people wanting to give back to their communities. Local governments typically have a selection of scholarships to give to their young citizens, and local institutions like the city newspaper love to help future journalists get to college. Think about the businesses or groups who have been constantly supporting your school by sponsoring football games or dances. Those are good places to start looking for college funding! 

5. Let Your Talents Pay Off

Don’t underestimate yourself. If you are a wizard on the piano, a star on the soccer field or a class clown who's looking into your local comedy scene, then find a place that might reward you for your skills, or help you develop them at the next level. A lot of students think sports and music scholarships are only for Division One athletes or future Broadway stars. While these may be the largest or most publicized awards, there are plenty of others. Smaller sports programs or arts schools are more than willing to pay for talented students to become part of their communities. Look for places to audition or showcase your talents. 

-photo by Juan Ramos on Unsplash

About the Author

Anna Connole

A Northern Virginia native, Anna looks forward to studying communications at James Madison University. Her main interests are photography, journalism and supporting the Washington Nationals.