How to find local scholarships
When it comes to finding scholarships, here’s a good rule of thumb: Look for financial aid opportunities offered in your city, county and state. In a local rather than a national arena, the pool of candidates is often smaller, so you may have less competition.
“It’s a numbers game,” explains Amanda Hendricks, University of Phoenix external scholarships manager. “Instead of you being one in 1,000 applicants, you could be one in 50 applicants, or even one in 10.” Her observations echo anecdotal evidence from many higher education organizations — such as the College Board, a nonprofit that promotes academic excellence — which suggest that local academic awards have fewer applicants than national scholarships.
But since local scholarships tend not to be widely publicized, you’ll need to do extra legwork to find them. Here are five ways to track down these prizes:
1. Tap charitable organizations.
This is the first place to look, Hendricks says. Go online and type the words “community foundation,” and then check for scholarships at three levels: your city, county and state. Many of these philanthropic community groups offer scholarships — plus they’re connected to all kinds of local businesses, which might tip you off to other opportunities, too.
2. Ask your employer — and your parents’ employers.
If you work full time, part time or even as a volunteer, you may be eligible for a scholarship from your company. Check with your human resource department to find out what’s available and whether you qualify. Then ask your parents’ employers. Companies and unions often extend scholarships to the children of their staff or union members.
3. Look to businesses in a growing industry.
Some fields award scholarships with an eye to their future workforce. “Businesses and professional associations are priming the pump,” Hendricks notes. “They want people to enter a certain profession, or they want people already in that profession to get more training.”
She cites accounting, criminal justice, information technology and health care among these growing sectors. If you plan a career in one of these fields, investigate scholarship funds at related, locally based companies.
4. Make social media work for you.
“Follow potential scholarship providers on social media,” Hendricks recommends. Since small local companies may not have publicity teams, their Facebook® or Twitter® feeds can be their primary way of getting news out — and your main opportunity to learn about what they have to offer. “Facebook is the most popular place for them to post scholarship info, especially if they don’t have full websites,” she points out.
5. Keep an eye on old-school bulletin boards.
Scholarship announcements can be found in ads on neighborhood bulletin boards, at grocery stores or in local newsletters. “Look in any place with a lot of traffic, such as a library or community center,” Hendricks says. “Sometimes a mom and pop wants to give back to a community, and you’ll find their scholarship by word-of-mouth or a posted flier.”
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