If you run a search on the web, searching for information on college scholarships, you are often directed to paid sites or services offering to help you fill out applications or act as a scholarship “concierge” — doing the work for you. As frugal people, however, the last thing we want to do is spend MORE money getting ready for or trying to pay for college. The whole point of applying for scholarships is to find ways to pay less out of pocket for our college educations. Right? I think so, anyway. So, in the interest of tracking down money for college, without paying more money to do so, I’ve tracked down a few sources of scholarship information that will get you to the right places without charging you for the privilege.
Your College Financial Aid Office
For those of us who have already chosen and enrolled in a school, the financial aid office can be a valuable resource, both on- and offline. Many schools will list scholarship opportunities on the financial aid page of their websites. Mine does; along with a universal application for scholarships that are available only to its students. A physical visit to the office can also yield a bunch of additional resources and information. The small office at my community college not only has knowledgeable staff, but they also have books, paper applications and other materials that are not available on the website. New and returning students who need financial aid should not hesitate in visiting their school’s financial aid office and speaking with a staff member.
Your State’s Higher Education Office
If you are attending, or plan to attend, college in your home state, a visit to the website hosted by your state education office is definitely in order. If you’re not sure where to find the site, simply Google the name of your state along with the words “student financial aid” or “state scholarships”. The correct government site should be among the top few hits. The office itself, and frequently its website, is a clearinghouse of financial aid information, including scholarships. In some instances, a universal application will be available for you to apply for any state aid, or even scholarships specific to your home state, that may be out there.
The College Board’s Big Future Program
The College Board also has a scholarship search tool on its site called Big Future. The site is easy to use and offers searchable access to more than 2,200 (so it says) programs that total around $6 billion in student aid. It is certainly one of the most comprehensive free resources out there and is actually more user friendly than the scholarship guidebook that The College Board publishes.
Another large online clearinghouse for scholarship and financial aid information is Fastweb. Unlike Big Future, Fastweb is much more commercialized. You can use it as a free resource, to be sure, but if you’re not careful, you can easily find yourself hurtling down a rabbit hole that seems promising but will ultimately ask you for credit card information. Use the information, but click wisely. If you keep your Internet wits about you, Fastweb is a good resource for all in one scholarship information on the web.
Another search tool that claims free, broad access to scholarship info is Fresch! It has a less user-friendly look and feel than the other sites, but claims at database of more than 5,000 organizations which represent almost half a million discrete awards. Unfortunately, when I used the search tool, a lot of the “matches” I was given for the information that I entered were disconnects. It may be a decent way of seeing what’s out there, but it is not very streamlined and has a lot of paid links on its site.