Paying for college? 10 tips for finding scholarships


Paying for college tops any student’s list of priorities. But applying for scholarships can be a daunting and time-consuming task — so students often skip it and miss out on the opportunity to maximize their earning potential for school.

“Taking the time to apply for scholarships will save you time in the end. Scholarship support can help you work less hours and have more time to dedicate to your studies,” said Laura Castillo, director of FIU’s Office of Scholarships. “Plus, if you spend two hours working on an application for a $1,500 scholarship and you get it, you made $750 an hour. That’s better than any part time job you’ll find out there.”

The Office of Scholarships helps students navigate the process, providing up-to-date information on awards offered by the university, as well as external sources for grants and scholarships. Visit FIU’s scholarship portal,, for a complete list and information on how to apply.

But the cash flow doesn’t stop there. Thousands of foundations, websites and other organizations offer scholarships, ranging from a few hundred dollars to awards in the ten thousands. The key is knowing where to look and investing the time to apply for as many as possible.

Here are 10 tips to enhance your scholarship search:

1)   When researching scholarships, think about more than just your intended major; expand your search to include your personal background. Many scholarships are available to specific groups of people based on things like military status/affiliation, cultural heritage, hobbies and more.

2)   Channel your creativity. There are many scholarships that take the form of contests for things like best photography or writing. Each fall, FIU students even have the opportunity to compete for $10,000 from Red Robin by submitting the best burger recipe.

3)   Check with your employer or your parents’ employers for scholarships and tuition reimbursement programs. For instance, the American Federation of Teachers union offers scholarships to children of its members.

4)   Research your extracurriculars. Clubs, Greek organizations and honors societies don’t just build resumes—national or regional chapters may offer scholarships for active members, as well.

5)   Get to know your professors. More than half of scholarships require letters of recommendation, and building relationships with faculty members is key to finding someone willing to write a letter on your behalf.

6)   Perfect your materials in advance to save time on submissions and build stronger applications. Have resumes critiqued by Career and Talent Development and personal statements and essays reviewed by the Center for Excellence in Writing.

7)   Look around town. Local government agencies, small businesses, organizations and foundations, and civic groups often offer scholarships to students within the community.

8)   Use an online tool like the U.S. Department of Labor’s Career Onestop, or a mobile app like Scholly, to easily find scholarships that fit your needs and track deadlines.

9)   Apply for anything and everything­­—even awards worth only a few hundred dollars can add up to thousands if you apply for enough of them.

10)   Encourage high schoolers you may know to explore, a website where they can earn scholarship dollars as early as ninth grade by participating in Advanced Placement courses, logging community service hours, earning A’s and more.

This article is part of our Secrets to Success series.