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Phoenix Forward

7 ways to become a scholarship hunter

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Searching for scholarships for college can be a lot like searching for a job. It's stressful and can take an enormous amount of time and effort. But just like job hunting, it always helps to have a few leads.

Most people aimlessly search the web to find scholarships for college says Amanda Hendricks, External Scholarship Manager at University of Phoenix. "That's one of the last places you should start," she notes. Here, she explains seven ways to think outside the (search) box:

1. Look into your family background.

Many scholarships are based on your ethnicity and heritage. Explore your family background to see if you might be eligible for any of these types of programs. Also explore whether any organizations offer scholarships related to your religious affiliation.

2. Check with your employer.

"Even if an employer doesn't offer tuition assistance, the company may offer scholarships to its employees or even spouses and other relatives of its employees," Hendricks says. Many companies have missions (they're sometimes called foundations or auxiliaries) whose goal is to improve the lives of their employees and help their employees' communities. Find out whether your employer has one that offers scholarships.

3. Join professional associations.

Numerous professional associations exist for accounting, teaching, criminal justice and nearly any profession. Joining an association is "a great way for aspiring professionals to join a network" and possibly find niche scholarships, Hendricks says.

4. Explore military opportunities.

If your family has a military affiliation, there's a good chance you're eligible for a scholarship, Hendricks says. Scholarships are usually tied to individual branches of the military and are generally offered to people who have served in uniform and their relatives.

5. Consider your local community.

You can find scholarships targeted specifically for "residents of a defined geographical area," Hendricks explains. Scholarship criteria could include the town where you live, your state or even a region, such as the Midwest. She also recommends looking for scholarship listings in libraries, community foundations, chambers of commerce, post offices, local newspapers and community newspapers.

6. Tell everyone you know.

It's important to keep your eyes and ears open because you never know how you'll uncover a new lead on scholarship opportunities.

7. Now, conduct targeted searches online.

A bevy of scholarship opportunities exist online, but be prepared to search through hundreds to find a few that are right for you. To help you zero in on those that apply to your specific criteria, create a profile on sites such as Scholarships.com or FastWeb, Hendricks suggests, and fill out as much profile information as possible.

Interested in furthering your education?