This article is from the Financial Aid, Scholarships, and Fellowships FAQ, by Mark Kantrowitz with numerous contributions by others.
For information about college-controlled aid, talk to the financial
aid administrators at the school. You will find out about any special
merit scholarships when you apply for financial aid at the school. A
recent trend is for many second tier schools (and even a few top rank
schools) to offer non-need merit-based aid to attract top students.
When looking for private sources of aid, use the following sources:
1. Public Library. Spend a few hours in the library looking
at scholarship books. It doesn't take much time and the
librarians are knowledgable and can help you. There may also be
a bulletin board with information about local scholarship
2. Use an online scholarship search. It takes less than 5
minutes to search an online scholarship database like FastWeb,
and you'll find scholarships you might not have found
You should also think of any organizations to which you belong that
might have aid funds available: religious organizations, fraternal
organizations, clubs, athletics, veterans groups, ethnic groups,
rotary clubs, unions, and your and your parents' employers. If you are
presenting a paper at a technical conference, many conferences have
travel funds available to enable students to attend the conference.
When considering whether to use a book, look at its copyright
date. You don't want to waste time with a book that is too old, since
the information does change.Books about federal student aid should be
no more than one year old. Books listing individual scholarships
should be no more than three years old.
Always write to the scholarship sponsor for up-to-date information,
enclosing a self-addressed stamped envelope for the application
Every high school student should consider checking the "yes" box on
the ETS Student Search Service form or the ACT Student Profile Form,
releasing your information to scholarship programs. Some scholarship
programs, such as the National Merit Scholarship Corporation (NMSC),
rely on this information for determining eligibility, and if you don't
check the box you won't be considered for the award.
Graduate students who applied for the National Science Foundation
(NSF) or Hertz Foundation graduate fellowships as undergraduate
seniors should know that they can apply a second time as first year
graduate students. If you didn't win a NSF as a senior, ask for a copy
of your evaluation forms. Often the evaluations will be rather
explicit in identifying the weaknesses in your application, and you
can address those areas the second time you apply.
Complete the FAFSA online at http://www.fafsa.ed.gov, instead of using
the paper form. You will get the results quicker, and they will be
more accurate. Don't forget, however, to print the signature sheet,
sign and mail it, or they will not process your FAFSA.
Be very careful not to miss any deadlines.
Ask the school's bursar office about the availability of installment
payment plans. Many universities will let you spread the cost of
tuition out over the full year, instead of requiring you to pay a lump
sum up front.