18 Scholarship Opportunities You May Have Missed
Scholarship opportunities are essential to helping one defray the rising costs of college. Let’s face it. They’re not going down any time soon, and financial aid will only take you so far. The good news: there are many more scholarship opportunities out there than you probably realize. For the next few moments, we’re going to take time out to show you 18 places you should be looking. Some of these may have already occurred to you, but others? Not so much. Let’s get started, shall we?
1. Community-Based Scholarships
Okay, so there isn’t anything too awfully mysterious about the community-based scholarship opportunities that your guidance counselor probably makes sure you know all about going into senior year. The smaller your town, the more obvious these opportunities are; but if you do need help, make sure to drop by and speak to your counselor ASAP, preferably before senior year so you can get a headstand on the application process. This will differ depending on the demands of the scholarship, but many times, it involves essay writing and an in-person interview. It’s a good way to pick up anywhere form a few hundred to a few thousand dollars per semester.
2. Service Club Scholarships
Service Club Scholarships often get grouped into the community-based offerings, but it’s not quite the same thing in the sense that a service club may be national and managed at the local level. Think Rotary Club, for example. Rotary gives out a number of scholarships nationwide each year with the final amount and availability dependent on each club’s ability. Smaller chapters may not be able to do as much as large-market ones. You’ll want to head over to the Rotary website for more information.
3. Religious Scholarships
We realize that not all of you have a religion with which you are affiliated, and that’s fine. But for those who are, you’re leaving a great deal of opportunity on the table if you don’t check to see what your church or denomination has available. The Scholarships website has a lengthy sample list of religious scholarships that are available throughout the country, which you can find here. But believe us when we tell you that the list is hardly exhaustive. You can find out a lot more by asking questions around your local area.
4. Union Scholarships
Since former President Bill Clinton signed NAFTA into law in the 1990s, unions have had much less power than at any other point in American history, but you shouldn’t dismiss them as a source for college funding. They are still very much active in the lives of the people who work for them and their families. One good example of this is the AFL-CIO Scholarship program. Since 1992, AFL-CIO has made this available to a number of students throughout the U.S. According to the official website, there is one ongoing scholarship offered — the Union Plus Scholarship, which is offered in amounts ranging from $500 to $4,000 annually.
5. Employer Scholarships
Employer scholarship opportunities and employer-reimbursed education assistance will vary from one company to the next. They are more prevalent with corporations, though particularly well-to-do local businesses often get in on the action as well. Typically a company’s motivation for offering a scholarship to their employees is not altruistic. They are looking for someone, who wishes to stay and contribute to the organization over time. While most realize they can’t keep you locked down forever, it is possible you will have to jump through some extra hoops, like staying at the company x amount of months or years after successfully completing a semester.
6. Pro Sports Teams
Those living in rural areas may not be fortunate enough to have access to a major sports team, like an NFL, MLB, or NBA squad. While proximity won’t necessarily disqualify you, it is possible that living close to a sports team will allow you to take advantage of available scholarship opportunities just by being exposed to the offering. Unigo has a terrific, detailed rundown of all the scholarships that the NFL has offered recently. You can find information on other sports organizations and their offerings by googling the organization or team name and “scholarships.”
7. Extracurricular Activity Scholarships
Is there anything you have a passion for doing? Do you like to sing, play an instrument, participate in some type of off-beat athletic training that isn’t officially endorsed by your school? Perhaps you have an interest in politics or broadcast or building robots? Well, there’s good news. Whatever your extracurricular activities are, there are scholarship opportunities available. In many cases, your guidance counselor can point you to the correct sources, but a Google search will do so as well. Search general terms like “band scholarships” or mix it up with a geo-specific search to see what is available in your area.
8. College Financial Aid Scholarships
Of course, no discussion on scholarship opportunities would be complete without mentioning the fact that your college financial aid office offers many scholarships based on your school performance, test scores, and resume. You may also be able to qualify for grant money — not a scholarship, but just as good in the sense that it is income-based and you don’t have to pay it back. Beyond that, you’ll have to secure a loan.
9. Newspaper Back Issues
One little-known trick for being able to get a jump on area scholarship opportunities involves gaining access to your local newspaper and reading through some of the back issues to determine a) when scholarship announcements are made; b) who the previous winners were; and c) who is endowing the funds (i.e. who’s giving away the money). By studying past issues of the newspaper, you can get a sense of why previous winners won, so that when enrollment does open up you can tailor your submission package to whatever the scholarship board is looking for.
10. Scholarship Websites
There are many scholarship websites out there that specialize in nothing else but keeping a database on available scholarship opportunities as well as application requirements. You do have to be careful with some in the sense that not everyone does their homework and updates as they should, but for the most part, these are invaluable.
11. Major Corporations
Major corporations love to give away money for education. For starters, it is often a tax write-off, so that means less money they have to pay to the federal government. Secondly, they hope that by awarding scholarship opportunities, they are actually investing in future qualified talent. Think about some of the major employers in your area (i.e. companies that employ more than 500 people). Reach out to some of these companies’ human resources personnel to see what, if anything, is available or check their corporate websites. You’ll save time with a google search like “scholarship+site:employer.com.”
12. Professional Associations
U.S. News did a piece on the value of looking to professional associations for scholarships in 2014, and it still proves relevant today. From the article: “If you’re technologically inclined, the Association of Information Technology Professionals offers student member scholarships from a couple of sources. Robert Half Technology co-sponsors a pair of $2,500 scholarships with AITP each year, and the Foundation for IT Education awards both national and regional awards to association members. Applications for the Robert Half scholarships are due March 1 each year, and you’ve got until May to apply for the FITE awards.” Transfer that to whatever interest you have. Find the professional associations that are linked to that interest. See what’s available, and start applying!
13. Scholarship Books
The print book may seem antiquated when it comes to finding out relevant and timely information, but you ignore it at your own peril. One of the best in the business is by Gen and Kelly Tanabe, and it’s called The Ultimate Scholarship Book. It’s updated yearly and offers billions of dollars in scholarships, grants, and prizes. The Amazon link for the most recent edition is here.
14. Dollars for Scholars
The Dollars for Scholars program is a great one for cash-strapped students looking to do more with their financial awards. Here’s what DFS does for communities in their own words.
Dollars for Scholars “has united volunteers across the nation for more than 60 years. With a national network of support behind them, nearly 500 volunteer-driven Dollars for Scholars affiliates work in their communities to award scholarships to local students. Affiliates help hometown students achieve their goals by:
- Raising funds
- Establishing endowments
- Providing assistance with college readiness
- Educating students and families about the financial aid process
- Distributing scholarships
“To assist Dollars For Scholars affiliates, Scholarship America provides an innovative online affiliate management tool called ChapterNet. This suite of software allows affiliates to build websites, manage scholarships, and reduce paperwork. … Scholarship America’s Collegiate Partners program involves more than 300 colleges, universities and technical schools who have agreed to help maximize the impact of financial aid from our organization. Our Dreamkeepers program helps students stay in college when faced with an unforeseen financial emergency.”
15. Race/Ethnicity-Based Scholarships
If you are a minority in the U.S., then there are a number of organizations out there that can help you based on merit and/or need. The United Negro College Fund (UNCF) is one great example. It was founded in 1944 to help more African-American students attend and graduate from college. Since then, it has helped to more than double the number of minorities attending college. There has been $4.5 billion contributed to the fund to date resulting in more than 430,000 graduates and $11 million awarded to students in the organization’s top five cities of NYC, Atlanta, Chicago, Philadelphia, and Washington, D.C. In all, 400 UNCF programs award more than 10,000 scholarships every year.
16. Disability Scholarships
As with race/ethnicity-based scholarship opportunities, there are also opps available to people with disabilities, such as these laid out by Affordable Colleges Online. It’s a good thing the help is there, too, because a large number of people with disabilities do not let it get in their way when continuing to postsecondary education. In fact, 47.3% of students with learning disabilities continue their education while 54.6% of students with speech disorders do so. Furthermore, 71.8% of the deaf and hard of hearing continue; 77.8% of the visually impaired; 57.5% of individuals diagnosed with autism; and 53.7% with some form of orthopedic disability.
17. Athletic Scholarships
It goes without saying that if you’re a really good football player, basketball player, or baseball player, you could have some or all of your education paid for. But don’t just focus on the big three. Make sure that you are also seeking out scholarships related to other athletic endeavors like wrestling, softball, swimming, and track-and-field.
18. Outside-the-Box Scholarships
We would love to say we came up with this idea all on our own, but alas, credit must go to CollegExpress. Their “60 of the Weirdest College Scholarships” is still essential reading for any student, who thinks he or she has exhausted every possibility for paying for college with money you don’t have to pay back later. The piece was most recently updated in March of this year. We recommend bookmarking it and returning to it frequently. Some of our favorites from the list include the following:
- Clowns of America, International Scholarship: Award varies. Planning on going to clown college…or at least a family-friendly entertainment educational program that runs for a minimum of 10 hours? You can apply for this scholarship from the Clowns of America, International. #Clowns
- American Board of Funeral Service Education National Scholarship Program: $2,500. You know, working with dead people really isn’t that bad. It’s quiet, it’s consistent, and practically no other job is as stable (except maybe being a tax preparer). If you’ve completed at least one semester or quarter in an accredited funeral service or mortuary science program, you’re eligible for this scholarship. #DeadPeople
- Collegiate Inventors Competition: Award varies. College students, you can turn your (or your team’s) original and brilliant invention into cash money! And it’s actual cash money too; it’s not a traditional scholarship paid to your college. As long as your idea hasn’t been made or shared commercially or patented, you’re eligible. #Inventions
- Common Knowledge Challenge Scholarships: $3,000. If you know a lot about a lot, then you may be eligible for a series of Common Knowledge scholarships just by taking a quick quiz. #Trivia
- Create-A-Greeting-Card Scholarship Contest: $10,000. Wishing you the best in creating your own creative greeting card, to be voted on and judged by a panel of experts. Sincerely, CollegeXpress. #GreetingCards
(But trust us, this barely even scratches the surface!)
So there you have it, readers. The 18 places you should be looking when it comes to getting money for college. What are some scholarship opportunities that you discovered from the methods listed above? We want to hear about it. Share your reactions in the comments section below.
[Image Nottingham Trent University]