Have you ever sat in front of your computer late at night desperately seeking scholarships? You are not alone. I’ve done this and I know it can be overwhelming to sift through thousands of links and announcements in an attempt to discover the perfect scholarship.

The tips below will give you a framework for your scholarship search. The first step, however, is to clear your calendar. You cannot expect to find multiple matching scholarships without investing some time. Just as you make time for doing laundry, cooking, working out, banking, or walking the dog, you must put “research scholarships" on your to-do list.

Once you’ve blocked out time, recognize that scholarships are promoted through multiple sources. Each approach is a little different, as explained below.

Online sources:

Online sources include scholarship databases, scholarship-matching websites, sponsors’ websites, and search engines. If you have not already done so, you should familiarize yourself with www.studentaid.ed.gov, which is the U.S. Department of Education website that helps students navigate multiple sources of aid, including scholarships. Also, be sure to subscribe to at least two free scholarship-matching websites such a Scholarships.com or Fastweb. After you enter your personal profile, you will be alerted to scholarships that match your profile. The reason I recommend subscribing to two sites is because each service uses a different system to create the matches and you might uncover a scholarship on one site that was not available on the other.

If you know exactly which scholarship interests you, then I recommend visiting the sponsor’s website so you can get the latest information, learn about past recipients, and understand how their process works. Another option is to use the power of Internet search engines to help you discover scholarships that might not be listed in the scholarship databases or matching services. To narrow down the list, add a few descriptive words related to your background or your intended career or major. To localize your search, add your city or state to the search criteria. Search engine sleuthing can lead to scholarships that you (and possibly your competition) have never heard of before.

Print sources:

Many scholarships do not appear in online sources. Instead, they are promoted by sending printed announcements, along with fliers or brochures, to counselors, advisors and contact lists. Regularly check with these information gate-keepers to gather new information. Small local scholarship groups might not have the resources to launch a media campaign and they will distribute their materials through the mail or more traditional methods.

Libraries are also a great starting point for your scholarship search. Several books, reference materials and directories are dedicated to scholarships. Your local newspaper can be another great resource. Local scholarships might not submit their information to large national databases because they are promoting the scholarships solely to a local audience. Monitor the local paper for announcements of silent auctions, golf outings, and fundraisers because the purpose of those events could be to raise money for scholarships. If so, those funds will be awarded in the future and you might meet the criteria. It’s worth checking.

Social networking sources:

Word-of-mouth is a very strong method by which to learn about scholarships. Once you express that you are seeking scholarships, you never know what might surface. Whether you use email, social networking sites, or in-person networking from your family or business life, people are surprisingly willing to help.

To be most effective in searching for your “perfect” scholarship, pay special attention to the organizations and industry groups that are aligned with your career goals or intended major. These professional organizations can be great hubs for networking, scholarship information and other educational opportunities.

Throughout your search, keep in mind that the majority of scholarship applications are due from January through April each year, in preparation for the next school year. Even if you follow a different school schedule, take advantage of the “peak season” for your scholarship search.

Visit the University of Phoenix external scholarship page to start searching for scholarship opportunities.