College  |  October 19, 2022  |  Tim Gorrell

Scholarship Search Tips & Advice for Parents

What you’ll learn
  • The importance of scholarships
  • Why it’s important to start searching early
  • Who can help your student find and apply for scholarships
  • Free scholarship websites your student can use 

Looking to piece together your paying-for-college plan? Consider free money, like scholarships. The following search tips and resources will help you get started.

When your teenager says that they are bored, share this suggestion—start looking for scholarships for your higher education. Scholarships are free money and, unlike a loan, they don’t have to be repaid. While your student has some down time, it’s a great opportunity to start searching for scholarships that can support their higher education without costing anything for your family.

Why start the scholarship search early

It’s important to start searching for scholarships early, since some applications may have deadlines a year out from when the dollars are released. That means if your student wants to earn these scholarships to cover their freshman year college costs, they’ll need to fill out the application the summer before their senior year of high school. Also, it takes time to do the research necessary to find all the available types of scholarships for which your student may be qualified.

Before starting the scholarship search

Your teenager can prepare for their scholarship search earlier in their high school years, or even middle school. Besides academic grades, scholarship organizations put a high emphasis on activities outside of the regular classroom. What is your student passionate about? The answer can lead to volunteering opportunities that they can add to their scholarship applications and might even inspire a field they want to study in college.

  • Are there any extracurricular academic clubs that they’ve joined and any sports in which they participate?
  • Do they work a part-time job to add to their college savings? Not only do these activities show off your student’s skills, but they also show that they enjoy challenges and have good time management.
  • Organizations with which your child might do community service, volunteer work, or participate in athletically or academically, may also offer specialized grants for individuals who have worked with them.

High school counselors are an asset in your search

An appointment with your student’s high school counselor can be useful. They have access to many scholarship resources and tools to point you in the right direction. The counselors also can offer guidance on writing scholarship essays, and help your student prepare for the scholarship interview process. They can also assist them on deciding which teachers to ask for recommendation letters to strengthen their applications.


Get matched with college scholarships

Our free Scholarship Search helps you find scholarships as unique as you are.

• Access to thousands of opportunities
• Email alerts for new matches

No purchase necessary. Void where prohibited. Odds of winning depend on number of entries received. Ends 7/31/2023. See Official Rules.

An illustration of a boy doing homework on his bed with a cat on his shoulder

How to get going on the scholarship search

It can be hard to know where to start looking for scholarships. You can learn more by visiting Federal Student Aid, a website managed by the U.S. Department of Education. This is the federal agency for which you will fill out the Free Application of Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) to determine how much federal financial aid your student will receive. The agency offers tips and advice on scholarships, including what other sources to tap for more information. The Department of Labor also offers a free  scholarship search tool.

Free scholarship websites

After seeing what scholarship resources the guidance counselor can offer, it’s time for your student to hit the web. There are many free online scholarship sites for you to do your research like Sallie Mae’s Scholarship Search, Fastweb, and Nitro. On these sites, your child can create a profile with their academic scores, community service and volunteering, athletic and academic activities, along with family and community affiliations. These factors will be run against a search’s database to be matched with scholarship opportunities for which your student is eligible.

If your child is still a few years away from heading off to their higher education, make sure to write down the names of the scholarships that you might want to apply for later, or use the list functionality that scholarship search sites offer.

Also, be sure to apply for scholarships with smaller monetary amounts. If your student balks at spending time on essays or applications for these, remind them that if they earn even a few of them, that can mean more free money for college. Even a few hundred dollars can cover lab fees or a couple of textbooks. There also tend to be fewer applicants for these scholarships.

Remember, you shouldn’t have to pay to apply for a scholarship. If an organization asks for a fee or credit card number, do not share that information with them.


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