How to Find Scholarships for College

Instructor: Christopher Sailus

Chris has an M.A. in history and taught university and high school history.

In this lesson we explore some of the places we can find college scholarships and some of the resources we should use. Scholarships are virtually everywhere, and knowing where to get started can be a tremendous help.


In the 21st century, when college and university tuition prices always seem to be going up, finding a way to pay for your post-secondary education is incredibly important. Scholarships can be an excellent way for you to help defray those costs.

But who gives out scholarships? How do you find them? Where and how do you apply? Fortunately, the answer to these questions is easier than you think. The rest of this lesson will focus on just these questions and give you some helpful pointers to help you find sources of funding for college.

The Basics

Scholarships are perhaps the best way to help pay for your college; they are, in effect, free money. Though it is money you probably won't ever see--in most cases it goes directly to the college to pay for your tuition--winning a $1,000 scholarship is a lot better than having to pay $1,000, right?

And just because you win one scholarship does not mean you cannot win more. Many students cobble together an array of scholarships, some big, some small, to help pay for their college. In fact, most guidance counselors and teachers will encourage you to apply to as many as possible.

Where To Look

So, just who gives out these scholarships? Here are some of the best places to look and best places to check when hunting for scholarships.

Guidance Counselor

Your guidance counselor is the best place to start in any scholarship hunt. Not only do they likely know the local and state scholarship situation like the back of their hand, but they will be able to personalize your search to your particular situation. They will know which scholarships you should apply to based on your grades and extracurricular activities and those on which you should not waste your time.

Your College or University

Do you already know which college or university you are going to attend? Great! There's a good chance the institution offers a range of scholarships to students based on grades, minority status, or other unique characteristics like being an out-of-state student.

Check with your school's financial aid office and ask to speak to someone about scholarships.

Federal and State Agencies

Government organizations, especially the U.S. Department of Education, offer all sorts of scholarships. For example, if you are the child of a military veteran, there are a range of scholarships and grants you may qualify for regardless of your academic performance.

Get online and check out the federal student aid web site,, or contact your state department in charge of education, to see what you might qualify for.

National not-for-profits

National organizations that support a cause or a particualr interest group often give out scholarships as part of their efforts. For example, the NAACP gives out thousands of dollars each year to students, while the ACLU gives out scholarships to students who have demonstrated activism at a young age.

Scholarships to these national organizations tend to attract lots of applicants, so get your application in soon and make sure it is a good one.

Local Organizations

Local organizations can be a surprisingly excellent source of scholarships. But, unlike national organizations who can publicize their applications on the web, these may be harder to find. Contact your local civic or religious organizations like the Kiwanis Club or the Knights of Columbus.

There is a good chance these organizations will offer some type of scholarship for students, even if it is a small one. The benefit is these same scholarships will also have far fewer applicants, giving you a greater chance of securing one.

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