Don't think you can afford college without selling your soul? Learn these easy tips on how to get scholarships for college students so that you don't have to. #Makemoneyincollege #forseniors #2019 #college #scholarshipsLooking for college scholarships can be overwhelming, to say the least. There are endless forms to fill out — and that requires finding the right forms in the first place.

But it doesn’t have to kill you. In fact, there are effective ways you can win the financial aid game without dying of sleep deprivation or exhaustion. Here are our top six tips on how to get scholarships for college.

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1. Know How to Sell Yourself

Before you apply for a college scholarship, you need to understand what you represent as a package and for what types of awards you’re eligible to apply.

Do you qualify for financial aid for undergraduate students? Are you an athlete, merit scholar, painter, or video game enthusiast? You don’t need to be the best at anything, but it helps to know what type of college scholarships you should be focusing on.

Consider your passions, what you want to major in — if you are passionate about STEM, for example, then try applying for scholarships such as the Science, Mathematics, And Research for Transformation (SMART) Scholarship. It gives a full ride to college for students interested in pursuing technical degrees in STEM.

In fact, honing your passions is an effective strategy to get scholarships for college, even if you have an average GPA or standardized test scores.

“A well-rounded résumé is a way to help support less-than-stellar SAT scores,” says scholarship coach Rhea M. Watson of Scholarship Solutions. “The perfect matrix to attending college debt free includes good grades and scores, but it also entails great volunteerism and extracurricular activities.”

In short, Watson says that students with a mid-tier academic record shouldn’t sell themselves short of potential funding opportunities.

“When scholars fall in the middle range, they shouldn’t have average involvement in their schools and communities,” she adds.

“When they excel in these areas, it can help level the playing field when competing for college scholarships.”

Read up on the basic eligibility criteria for federal student aid on the U.S. Department of Education’s site to find out for which type of loans and awards you might be eligible. Additionally, look for opportunities designated for students of color, students of specific ethnic backgrounds, and LGBTQIA+ students (if these qualities apply to you).

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2. Start Looking for College Scholarships Early

It’s logical to start looking only after you know where you’ve been accepted to college. However, you will have a lot more options available to you if you start earlier. Matriculating undergraduates should research student loans, financial aid, and other scholarship opportunities during their junior year of high school or earlier. That way you don’t miss a single application deadline as a high school senior.

But if you’re already in your senior year, don’t panic. There will still be opportunities available to you. You just might have to spend a little bit more time researching to find the right one.

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3. Look Locally

The biggest mistake people make when searching for college scholarships is focusing on national opportunities instead of local ones. Although more famous ones might have larger award amounts, they’re also more difficult to obtain, since the application process is so competitive.

The best thing you can do for yourself is to start local — I mean really local.

Don’t just look for opportunities in your state — look in your specific town and region. Local businesses in your community may offer smaller awards in the form of a few thousand dollars. You will likely have a higher chance of success if you leave no stone unturned during your search — which includes looking in your own backyard.

“When I was working at a high school, we’d advertise a local scholarship that might pay $2,000, but it was rare anyone from our school would apply,” says college counselor Joann Elliott of College Counseling Tutoring. “Local scholarships may be less money, but your odds of winning are usually higher.”

4. Get Creative

While looking for college scholarships, make a list of all of the different outlets you can pursue, including those you wouldn’t normally consider — like your parents’ jobs, your school guidance office, your community center, or any local and national businesses.

Additionally, understand what makes you unique, and how you can capitalize upon these factors to win wards. There are many niche scholarships out there — for example, some organizations offer scholarships based on physical traits, such as Juniata College’s left-handed scholarship, which gives $1,000 to $1,500 to left-handed students attending the school.

“There is a common misconception that scholarships are awarded only based on academic or athletic merit,” says Venkates Swaminathan, founder and CEO of college admissions coaching site Lifelaunchr. “All it takes is a simple web search to find hundreds of unique and interesting scholarships, available to all types of students and just waiting for applicants.”

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5. Find a Good Mentor for Recommendations

If you’re applying for scholarships that require a letter of recommendation, make sure to ask a teacher who knows you well to write about your accomplishments. Give them a copy of your résumé, information about the award, and a paragraph detailing what you’d like them to emphasize in your recommendation.

Know that teachers are humans, too. They have many students, so it’s your job to make their lives easier.

Provide all the information they need and give them enough time to complete your recommendation. After all, they’re doing you a favor by writing a recommendation letter.

Try to give teachers at least a month to write your recommendation, and then follow up a week before the deadline if they haven’t submitted their letters yet.

Most important, send them thank-you notes afterward. It doesn’t matter whether or not you get the scholarship. Those teachers took the time out to write you a letter, so you need to do the same and show gratitude. This goes for anything in life.

6. Apply to Multiple Scholarships for College

Don’t worry about the amount of money in any one scholarship. You don’t have to rely on just one of them to cover all of your tuition and housing needs.

Consider applying to at least a few dozen simultaneously. It may sound like a lot of work, but even if you spend 10 hours applying for a $500 scholarship, you’ll essentially have earned $50 an hour if you win it.

You’re more likely to be successful applying for a bunch of smaller college scholarships and pooling the amounts together than trying to go for a single well-known full scholarship. Look for funding opportunities that offer a range of services — from tuition assistance to textbook grants to housing aid.

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Online Resources to Help You Get Scholarships for College 

There’s no shortage of online resources you can turn to in your hunt. If you’re looking to lower the sticker price of your higher education, consider perusing the following sites.

Databases

Government Resources

Demographic-Specific Scholarships

Corporate-Sponsored Scholarships

  • Coca-Cola: $20,000 scholarship awarded to students who demonstrate leadership and academic excellence.
  • Questbridge: A full-ride scholarship to one of the organization’s partner colleges.
  • Jack Kent Cooke Foundation: Up to $40,000 per year to attend a four-year accredited undergraduate college or university.
  • Live Más Scholarship: The Taco Bell Foundation gives awards that range from $2,500 to $25,000 and can be used for undergraduate and graduate studies.
  • Dell Scholars: Grants a $20,000 scholarship, a laptop, and personalized support through the college process.
  • Horatio Alger Association of Distinguished Americans: Different programs ranging from $6,000 to $25,000 make this one of the nation’s largest needs-based college scholarship programs in the country.
  • Elks National Foundation: Awards 500 four-year scholarships ranging from $1,000 per year to $12,500 per year.

Final Thoughts on How to Get Scholarships for College

The road to winning scholarships is not easy — but remember that the more often you apply, the more likely you are to win.

Aside from just applying for financial awards, there are a number of other ways to save money during the college application process, such as getting fee waivers when taking the SAT/ACT.

Anything that is worthwhile takes time and effort. So now that you’re equipped with the knowledge and tools to get scholarships for college, go write a killer application.

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Additional reporting by Connor Beckett McInerney.