4. Find scholarships

Now that you have explored your strengths, you will research types of scholarships and figure out which ones might be a good match for you. 

There are all kinds of scholarships out there with different qualifying criteria: gender, ethnic background, educational history, area of study, unique talents, hobbies, grades, clubs, past jobs, volunteer work… these are all activities or personal skills that might relate to a scholarship.

Do your research

Finding scholarships is all about searching through a lot of scholarships to find the few that are right for you. So your first step is to conduct research online. 

The key to this step is to be creative and open-minded about the possible sources of scholarships - did you work for a grocery store? That chain might offer a scholarship.  Were you in a club during high school? The club could offer a scholarship.  Are you studying to be a nurse at a hospital? Check with the hospital where you want to work - they might offer a scholarship! 

Places to look 
Scholarship search sites
Ask people you know
  • Teachers and Mentors
  • ESOL Instructors
  • Academic Advisors
Sites that relate to your school or region
Search the web for scholarships that relate to you
  • Scholarships from employers, volunteer organizations, churches
  • Scholarships that relate to your career goal, your field of study, your academic plans
  • If you get stuck, conduct your research based on the information in the self-evaluation that you completed in step 3: explore your strengths

Understanding the criteria

While you're conducting your research, you'll be asking yourself if you think the scholarship might be right for you. When you spot a scholarship that looks like it might be a good match, ask yourself the following questions: 

  • Do I meet the minimum criteria?
  • Do I meet any of the preferred criteria? 

If you answer yes to one or both, add it to your scholarship tracker! 

If you don't meet ALL of the criteria, but still feel you are a good candidate for the scholarship, then feel free to apply.  If the scholarship makes it known that you will be disqualified if you don't meet some of the criteria and you don't meet the requirements, don't waste time applying for it. 

Criteria translation

It's not always clear what the scholarship criteria is asking for. Below is a table of some common terms you might see, and examples of what it really means.

Scholarship lingoWhat it means
Academic meritThis means you have good grades and good test scores. Generally this includes a GPA ranging between 3.0 and 4.0. But don't be discouraged to apply if you don't have perfect grades.
Demonstrates financial needSome scholarships give preference to students who need more help paying for college. They will look at your FAFSA information to determine your level of financial need. If you're not sure you meet this criteria, apply for the scholarship anyway.
Enrolled in a degree-granting programThis means you have declared a degree and are taking credit classes that apply to that degree. If your major is undeclared, or you are taking classes for fun without the goal of getting a degree, you would not meet this criteria.
Preference given to applicants of minority heritage

This typically includes students of Hispanic, African-American, Asian, Native American and multi-ethnic backgrounds. The word preference indicates it is not the only determining factor for the scholarship.  If you don’t meet the preferential criteria, still apply - the scholarship committee will pick the best applicant.

Intend to enroll full-timeThis means that you plan to be enrolled full time (12 credits or more) while receiving the scholarship. You don't have to be currently enrolled or admitted to the school when you apply for the scholarship.
First generation college studentThis means that your parents did not receive a four-year college degree. 

Prioritize your list

Now it's time to prioritize: You probably don't have time to apply for all of the scholarships that you qualify for. So spend time on those that you best fit or the few where you match most all of the qualifications. Ask yourself these questions to narrow your list:

  • Is there any fine print that would disqualify me?
  • Will I be in school at the time the money is awarded?
  • Are there any restrictions that will make it so I can't use the money?
Keep track

Keep track of the scholarships so you won't have to do this research again! Go through your scholarship tracker spreadsheet and decide which scholarships you are going to apply for and which ones you'll skip this year.

Scholarship tracker template