Maximizing College Scholarships

by Nataly Kogan

Over one billion dollars is given out in the form of scholarships each year to undergraduate students. As a parent, you should encourage your college-bound kids to apply for as many scholarships as humanly possible to limit the amount of loans that you and they will have to take out. Scholarships are the best kind of financial aid you can get because you don't need to pay them back.

One of the best places online to search for scholarships is FastWeb ( It's a free service and students can search based on their background and profile and find scholarships best suited for them. You should encourage them to go after any scholarship that they even remotely qualify for, regardless of how small the amount. Every little bit helps, and often, there's less competition for smaller scholarships.

Many companies offer to find scholarships for you and your children for a fee and you have to be very careful with these. Some of these are not legitimate, and many of them will take your money with little in return, if you're not careful. You can ask your child's guidance counselor for suggestions, but if you want to go looking on your own, here a few warning signs that a scholarship or a scholarship search service may not be completely legitimate:

  • You have to give credit card or bank account information.
  • The application costs money.
  • The mailing address is a residential address, rather than a place of business.
  • The service guarantees results – no one can guarantee that your kids will receive a particular scholarship.

In general, there's no need to pay anyone to find scholarships for your kids. There are no "secret scholarships" that you and your children can't find using simple resources like the Internet, and with increasingly sophisticated searching techniques you'll be able to narrow down your search to scholarships that best fit your childrens' profile.

Before your kids apply for any scholarship you haven't heard of:

  • Check with the local Better Business Bureau to make sure there are no complaints filed against the party in question. (Their website is
  • If the scholarship comes from a national foundation, make sure the foundation exists.
  • Check with your child's school and guidance counselor to see if anyone has heard of this scholarship or organization.

It's best for college-bound students to start working on their scholarship applications and essays during the summer after their junior year. That way they'll have enough time to devote to this important task without the heavy load of school work, practicing for the SATs, and working on college applications.

This article was adapted from a book titled "GETTING THROUGH COLLEGE WITHOUT GOING BROKE," Natavi Guides, April 2003, $8.95, available at local bookstores and Copyright 2003. Nataly Kogan is the Founder and President of NATAVI GUIDES, the publishers of Students Helping Students™ articles and guidebooks written for students by students. Students Helping Students™ guides address issues relevant to college-bound and college students, are written in an easy-to-read format, and provide important advice in an encouraging and non-intimidating way. Visit to read student-written articles, interviews, and advice, as well as learn more about Students Helping Students™ publications, which make great student gifts.