How to approach the private (non-institutional) college scholarship search

by Grace

Although private (non-institutional) scholarships comprise only about 6% of total college financial aid, it can still be worthwhile to devote some time pursuing them.  But it’s important not to get caught up in wasting time chasing small awards, so a methodical, no-nonsense approach like this one from Lee Bierer makes sense.

Start local: Contact your guidance office and check your local high school website. If your high school doesn’t publish a list of scholarship opportunities, check other public and private schools in your area.

Don’t get caught up in the big-money dream: The big-money scholarships (Coca-Cola, Prudential, etc.) receive more than 100,000 applications each year. You’re better off looking in your own backyard for scholarship opportunities. Places to think about: civic groups, Rotary, breakfast clubs, parents’ employers, organizations, churches, local businesses, etc.

Look for “renewable” scholarships: A $500 renewable scholarship may not sound like much at first, but over four years it totals $2,000.

Invest your time wisely: Read the fine print on eligibility and deadlines. Make sure your application positions you as someone deserving of the scholarship. You are better off with a rifle approach where you select “targets” based on an appropriate match. The “shotgun” approach of blasting out applications doesn’t work; don’t waste your time.

Determine whether you are a realistic candidate: Understand the purpose of the scholarship, research who has received it in the past and be honest about how likely your chances are of winning the scholarship.


2 Comments to “How to approach the private (non-institutional) college scholarship search”

  1. Yes, always research what’s available in your local organization. One local group awards a $50,000 scholarship to a deserving student who is 50% Italian heritage, certainly one of the more generous scholarships I’ve seen.


  2. Yes, sorry, that’s “at least” 50%. This year’s winner had a 2340 SAT score.


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