Where am I?

Getting Started with Outside Scholarships

So what do I need to know about this process?


Here are some general tips to point you in the right direction:

  • Get organized. Before you do anything, you need to get a few things in place to make your search as smooth as possible. We recommend creating the following:

    Personal Inventory. Type out a list of your academic and personal achievements, any clubs or associations you belong to, your hobbies and skills, your work experience, and anything else that sets you apart from other applicants.
     Scholarship Search Tracker. Start an Excel spreadsheet that will list all of the scholarships you are applying for. You will want to include the due dates for each scholarship, the application requirements (if it requires a letter of recommendation, etc.), where you found the scholarship, and the date that you submitted everything.
     Application Organizer. Get an expanding file or multi-pocket folder and keep hard copies of the applications and everything else you submit in one place.
     Recommendation Letter Summary. Many scholarship applications require a letter of recommendation. Get a head start on this by creating a summary of your personal inventory to give to prospective letter writers. Start thinking about who may be able to provide you with a recommendation.
  • Start early. Scholarship applications can be very lengthy and complex. Give yourself plenty of lead time and aim to submit the application at least 5 business days before the due date, to allow for any technical or delivery difficulties.

  •  Aim to conduct a broad search. You will want to search for both local and national scholarships, online and printed directories to increase your odds of winning.

  • Recycle material. Save everything you submit for applications, and try to reuse material for multiple applications. Use your personal inventory for information that is almost always asked (your demographic information, GPA, etc.). It’s much easier to submit 30 applications when you can recycle information from one application to the next.

  • Look in your own backyard first. Local organizations often have a smaller pool of applicants, so it's generally a good idea to start with them in your scholarship search.  Start with the following:

    Professional associations. If you know what you want to do after college, start with the associations that are affiliated with that industry. For example, if you know you want to work in taxation, search for tax accreditation associations. The St. Louis County Library offers the Associations Unlimited database, a listing of nonprofits, associations, and professional societies. You can search by location or industry.

    Community organizations, such as Rotary clubs, American Legions, and Lions clubs. Note that you do not have to be a member of these organizations to receive their scholarships.
    Employer and parents’ employers, as well as any employee unions that you or your parents belong to.
    Church or religious organizations.
    Local government. Local city council members and state representatives usually have scholarship funds for people who live in their districts. Don’t worry—you didn’t have to vote for them to win!
    Local businesses. Contact your region’s Chamber of Commerce, as well as the St. Louis Business Journal’s Book of Lists (available at most libraries).
    Local newspapers. Search back issues for articles about students who have received scholarships and then research the name of the scholarship(s) mentioned online.


Anything else I should know before I get started?

Keep in mind that any scholarship you win may reduce the amount of institutional financial aid you can receive. Contact your financial aid counselor for specific inquiries.

Also, be mindful of scholarship scams.Please see the Federal Trade Commissionfor more information. Never provide your credit card number on free scholarship search websites.

One more thing—don’t give up!