Places to find last-minute scholarships
Only a few weeks – or maybe even days – remain until college campuses reopen, but there may still be time to get a scholarship and reduce the amount of student loans you have to borrow.
Here are four resources to find a scholarship to help pay for college before classes begin.
1. Your college’s financial aid department
Contact your school’s financial aid department to find out if any institutional scholarships are left. There may be money left behind from a student who decided not to attend. Or a financial aid department may have inside information on available award opportunities.
At the University of San Francisco, Christopher Simpson, associate director of the school’s financial aid and veteran student services, recently heard from an administrator at the East Bay College Fund. The nonprofit couldn’t find a recipient that fit its scholarship’s profile: a student from Southern California attending a school in Northern California and not living on campus.
“By chance, I had a student who I could pass along the resource to,” Simpson says.
2. Your employer or your parents’ employer
Ask your parents if their employers have scholarships available. One in 10 companies has employer-sponsored scholarship programs for members of their employees’ families, according to the 2018 Survey of Benefits by the Society for Human Resource Management, a trade association.
If you’re working yourself, even part-time, find out if there is a scholarship program for employees.
3. Scholarship search engines and contests
Find late-deadline scholarships using search engines like the U.S. Department of Labor’s CareerOneStop scholarship finder, College Board Big Future scholarship search tool, Scholarships.com, FastWeb, FinAid and Peterson’s. You can filter by due date or find ones that accept applications year-round. You may also search for scholarships on social channels, using hashtags.
Monthly scholarship contests may pop up on search engines, too. They’re simple to enter and often don’t require an essay. Typically, awards are around $1,000.
Never enter a contest or apply for a scholarship online if you’re required to submit money or private information, like your Social Security number; that may signal a scam.
4. Local organizations
Find organizations in your hometown that award scholarships. These tend to be less competitive than national awards because recipients usually must be local. Start by inquiring with your high school’s guidance office or college career center to find community-based scholarships that have gone unclaimed.
“Local organizations often won’t have a recipient, so they’ll extend their deadline and they don’t always advertise that,” says Jennifer Horner, director of financial aid at Eastern Connecticut State University in Windham, Connecticut.
Reach out to community organizations, foundations and charities in your hometown or state to find out if they have scholarships still available. On scholarship search engines, you can usually filter awards by geographic location to find nearby awards.
You can also look for career- or major-related scholarships through professional associations and national student organizations. These may be tougher to get at the eleventh hour, but are still worth a shot.
Get your ducks in a row
To make the late-scholarship-application process easier, polish your resume and have a basic essay template on hand. The template should include information about yourself, why you’re attending school and why you need the money.
“If you can have those things on hand, in your mind or written down somewhere, then in most cases you’ve got most of your essay done and you’re just tying it back to the objective of that particular organization,” says Simpson.
What to do when you get a scholarship
Once you receive a scholarship award, contact your school’s financial aid office. Scholarship money is factored into your entire aid package. If you receive more gift aid than your determined financial need, it can impact need-based aid your receive and may even reduce institutional scholarships you’ve already been awarded.
If you have student loans, a scholarship can help you lower how much you need to borrow. Ask your financial aid office about returning loan money that could now be covered by your scholarship.
Make a scholarship plan for next year
Plan ahead to apply for scholarships to pay for the spring semester or the next academic year. Apply for renewable and large-dollar scholarships to reap the biggest benefits. Track upcoming deadlines so you won’t have to scramble for last-minute awards next year.