Scholarship Search Guidelines

Free money! What everyone wants for college, right? Scholarships are one source of gift aid and are typically monetary awards that are based on some sort of achievement, talent, connection, or area of interest which in most instances does not need to be paid back.

There are a number of ways of searching for scholarships. Students can check with employers, their high school guidance department, as well as with local businesses and with civic and community organizations. In addition, one can search for scholarships for free by accessing a national database of available scholarships. After answering questions and establishing a student profile, the student will be provided with a list of scholarships that match his or her interests. Although a tedious process, searching for (and applying for) scholarships is an important part of the college financing process. However, during your scholarship search, there are a few guidelines and cautions that I want to make you aware of.

Although most scholarship agencies are on the up and up, there have been some reported scams over the last number of years. Since scholarship information is readily available online, NO ONE SHOULD PAY anyone or any agency to conduct a scholarship search for them. Scholarship searches are both free and straight forward. A widely used national database of scholarships is available on and is easy to use. Visit that site to conduct a scholarship search yourself and then carefully follow all of the directions for each scholarship application.

Just a few tips related to scholarship searches:

How can you tell good scholarships from the bad?

A scammer will guarantee that you will definitely win an award, requires personal finance information, such as a credit card or bank account numbers, tells you that you won something even if you didn’t apply, and/or doesn’t supply you with accurate contact information. STAY AWAY from anyone doing those types of things.

A legitimate scholarship service should NOT charge money for a scholarship search or to apply for a scholarship and makes contact information, scholarship application materials, and entry guidelines readily available when requested to do so.

If you do suspect a scam, please speak up as this helps others. Keep copies of anything you receive from the company that you suspect and report the information to the National Fraud Information Center at

There are a lot of other resources related to scholarships on our website at Financial Aid Sense. In addition, in our newly updated publication Financial Aid Sense: A Practical Guide about financial aid and the college financing process has devoted a section of the guide to assist families with the scholarship search process AND includes tracking forms, check lists, and more. Check out Financial Aid Sense – a practical guide that helps families navigate through the entire financial aid process.

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