Quick Tips for Finding Scholarships
1. Start looking early and often.
Begin your search and application process at least one year in advance of when you'd like to use the scholarship. Most deadlines are in the spring for the following academic year, although there are year-round opportunities.
2. Assess your strengths and characteristics.
Give priority to the scholarships that fit your best, and most unique, qualifications. There are scholarships out there that are talent-based or merit-based. There are others that factor in your educational background, ethnic origins, community service experience, and more.
3. Do your research.
Use scholarship online search engines, local libraries, and local neighborhood organizations such as your parent's employer, high school, and religious organizations to help you target specific scholarship programs. Check our external scholarship page for a list of scholarship finders.
4. Use Columbia's resources.
Visit Columbia's Academic Center for Tutoring for writing tips, and use our library resources to search trade magazines. Our Career Center can help review your work. You can also ask instructors, administrators, and club leaders, and check bulletin boards in your department's offices. SFS also offers scholarship workshops throughout the year.
5. Be smart.
Searching and applying for scholarships should always be free. Reputable organizations will never ask for your social security number or banking information. If they ask you for money to secure a scholarship, or tell you that you've been "pre-approved" for a scholarship, it's unlikely to be a legitimate opportunity.
6. Organize and prepare your materials.
Collect letters of recommendation, and carefully prepare a standard essay for application. Having these materials at the ready will help you to easily apply for more opportunities. Keep a calendar of your opportunities so you can stay on track. You may also want to create a new email account that you dedicate to scholarship emails, so you can keep these important messages organized.
7. Complete your FAFSA early.
Complete your FAFSA as soon as it's available in October. Many scholarship applications will require you to document financial need.
8. Apply for as many scholarships as you can.
Don't stop at just one award - you may be missing out on other scholarships for which you could be eligible. Many students apply for 10-15 scholarships before they receive one. Don't get discouraged!
9. Think small.
While large scholarships are great, the small scholarships can add up. In addition, fewer people apply for smaller scholarships, so you have more of an opportunity to stand out in your application - and a higher probability of receiving the award.
10. Always be yourself.
Scholarship committees want to see who you are. Don't just tell them what you think they want to hear.