With the ever-increasing problem of student debt, it’s well worth the time and effort to search for scholarships before you apply for a (or for another) student loan. According to recent research, millions of dollars of scholarship money goes unawarded in the U.S. each year — and many (if not most) of those scholarships are intended for regular students who just need (or want) some financial assistance.
Do your research
There are multiple approaches to searching, and a quick Google search of the question “How can I find a scholarship?” led to 188 million hits. But not all of those hits are going to be valuable, and even some of the ones on the first page of results — where you’re most likely to find relevant hits — could be less than helpful. Therefore, you’ll need to do a bit of research about any site that you’re considering.
For example, Smithsonian magazine recently (December 2016) published an article about a digital platform that has helped students find more than $50 million in scholarships. It’s called Scholly, and it’s an app you have to pay for (the web app is $2.99 and you pay an additional $.99 for the mobile app). I feel fairly confident about recommending this tool because I trust Smithsonian, but before writing about it here, I went online and read a lot of reviews. Most of the reviews I read were positive, and the ones I found that were negative seemed to have either bought something with a similar name or were upset about having to pay for the app.
Don't give personal information
One thing to be aware of as you search for scholarships is that you shouldn’t have to provide significant personal information (such as your social security number or income) to access scholarship search sites. If you do your research and read about sites before visiting them, you should be able to avoid the sites that inappropriately ask for personal information, but if you are asked to provide that type of information, stop and go to another site.
Ask your school
The college or university you currently (or hope to) attend, should also be able to direct you to resources for scholarships or other types of funds. For example, the Financial Aid Office at the university where I teach (North Carolina State University) provides information about scholarships, grants, loans, and opportunities for student employment on campus.