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Updated 5/21/2024

A common misconception is that scholarships are only for seniors, top students, and those from poor families. In fact, scholarships and competitions exist for all types and ages of high school student, but finding them takes some systematic research. This is an ideal task for parents, who often have more motivation and time than their teens.

Where do you begin? Search engines, articles, websites and books on the topic abound; the challenge is navigating through them without having to give up your day job. To help you, I’ve highlighted some resources I’ve found to be useful. I’ve also outlined a step-wise approach that involves first casting a wide geographic net and then narrowing your focus.

Finding national scholarships

Start with an online search engine that contains a large national database of scholarship opportunities. If you want to start by browsing scholarships by category, go to FinAid, a website whose Scholarship page has lists of particular categories of awards, such as those for average students, students aiming for particular careers, and those from certain minority groups. Finally, Finaid is linked to FastWeb, a scholarship search engine that is also free but requires users to register. Students answer questions about themselves and their profile is used to match them to scholarships. Another scholarship search engine that requires students to register and create a profile is the College Board Scholarship Search engine. 

Investigate State Programs

Many states have scholarships for their residents. For example, Virginia has the Virginia Tuition Assistance Grant (VTAG). Broadly speaking, it provides a yearly stipend to Virginia residents who are attending a private, non-profit college in Virginia as full-time undergraduates. To read about the specifics of the program, including full eligibility requirements, award amount, and list of participating instiatuions, click here. There are also a variety of other scholarship opportunities for Virginia residents, like one for child care workers, soil scientists, civil engineers, and nurses. The Virginia edition of the Opportunities booklet, published by ECMC, lists these on pg. 31-32 and has a lot of other useful information on applying to college as well. To learn about programs in other states, ask your school counselor for information or do a Google search of “higher education your state.”

Look locally

This last category of scholarships is often the most rewarding. National competitions may offer large awards, but the competition for a $20,000 national scholarship is likely to be a lot stiffer than for the $1,000 award from a local women’s club. In addition, many local scholarships are quite specific. A subsidy from the town garden center for a local student who wants to study landscape design will not draw hordes of contenders.

To find these local opportunities, consult the guidance office of your high school. Many counselors create and distribute spreadsheets several times a year that list available scholarships along with eligibility rules and information on how and when to apply. And after you’ve looked at the list from your own high school, look for ones posted on the websites of neighboring schools.

Finally, if your child is a freshman or sophomore, capitalize on the time you spend at the end-of-year awards assembly. Rather than mentally compiling your grocery list while waiting to applaud your son’s acceptance into the Audio-Visual Honor Society, pay attention to the description of scholarships won by older students. This is a great way to scope out attainable awards.

In conclusion, there are scholarships out there for all kinds of students. If you’re willing to put in the effort, you just might find some tailor made to your left-handed tuba player.

Next Article:  Apply for Aid


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