Scholarship Search Strategy

Get your scholarship search organized so you don't miss a deadline. You improve your odds of winning scholarships dramatically if you actually get the application in on time. (Duh!) 

Finding free money for college takes a lot of time, but money you don't have to pay back is better than money you owe no matter how low the interest rate. (Captain Obvious strikes again!)

Just thinking of paying student loans over a few decades makes searching for scholarships and grants well worth the effort.

If you're young and reading this, that might be difficult to comprehend, so let's list a few of the things that carrying around too much student loan debt might cause:

  • inability to buy a new car - if you can afford the payment, your debt ratio might still be too high
  • inability to buy a house - (see above)
  • lack of funds for travel
  • lack of mobility in a job - if you can get one... you might have to keep it whether you like it or not

Follow these tips and check out the free tools listed to help you organize your search and avoid missed deadlines.

Set up a Google Alert

First, decide if you will create a special email address for your scholarship search. This might help you prevent spam, but if you aren't diligent about logging into the separate email address, you might also miss opportunities.

You can always forward the emails from the new addy to your regular email, but that defeats the purpose of preventing a flooded inbox. 

You do what's best for you and then head on over to and 

This is one of those times when you want your inbox flooded with emails alerting you to new scholarships and upcoming deadlines. A Google alert can take care of that for you.

Create a Spreadsheet

Use Google Sheets, Excel, or another spreadsheet program to create a master list to help you avoid becoming completely overwhelmed. Record every site or organization offering a scholarship on the same spreadsheet.

Don't save them for later or rely on your memory. Record scholarships and all their relevant data as soon as you find them.

Organize scholarships by category or make it simple and enter them in alphabetical order or by their application deadline. Just keep it consistent and you won’t wind up applying for the same scholarship three times and you won’t miss a deadline.

Use More than One Source for Scholarships

There are a lot of sites out there with scholarship databases. Not all of the information is accurate and we don’t all share the same database. Pick as many sites as you have time to monitor and start searching.

Look for sites that don't require you to fill out a long profile. Many of these sites use an algorithm that return nothing but contests or programs that pay them referral or affiliate fees.

While there's nothing wrong with including these scholarships and contests in the database, it can be more than a little frustrating when good students find their search results filled with these contests rather than traditional scholarships. 

Check Local Sources

New scholarships are constantly being created by national organizations and local businesses. Even private citizens create local scholarships to reward students in their communities. When these scholarships are one-time awards, you may never find them in a database online.

Don’t limit your scholarship search to websites, Internet searches, or directories. Check with your guidance counselor if you are in high school and check the websites for the colleges you wish to attend. They often have information on scholarships and grants available to their students.

Go Directly to the Source

Once you find something you are interested in, your best bet is to research that scholarship directly and go to the official website or to the organization that manages it. You are much more likely to find accurate information about the scholarship, its requirements, and its deadline if you go directly to the source.

This is especially important for scholarships that require projects or essays. You don’t want to waste time writing an essay on last year’s topic or pulling together a complete scholarship package this month for a scholarship that had a deadline last month or that no longer exists.

Use Asana, Trello, or other Project Management Software to Track Your Scholarship Search

Jan 17, 2017 By Betsy Muse