How to Direct Your Students to Find Private Scholarships

Applying for scholarships can be a daunting task, yet it’s worth the time it takes to do it. Many scholarships go unawarded each year, and your students won’t get scholarships if they don’t apply for them.

But how do they locate private scholarships? And what can they do to improve their chances of getting scholarships?

Today, I’m sharing tips to take the mystery out of the process. We’ll start with an overview of what private scholarships are, and then we’ll cover how to find them.

What is a private scholarship?

A private scholarship is a type of financial aid funded by private entities rather than government bodies or educational institutions. These entities include corporations, non-profit organizations, foundations, community groups, and individuals. 

Private scholarships are often awarded based on a variety of criteria, including academic achievement, artistic or athletic talent, affiliation with certain groups, or career aspirations.

These scholarships have eligibility criteria established by the organization offering the money. The application process for these scholarships may require you to submit essays, letters of recommendation, or other materials that showcase your qualifications and alignment with the scholarship’s goals.

Private scholarship awards vary widely in terms of the amount awarded and the scholarship duration. Some might be one-time awards, while others could be renewable.

Advice for Students to find private scholarships

Now, let’s look at ways your students can find and apply for private scholarships.

Ask colleges about scholarships 

First and foremost, always check with the financial aid departments at the colleges you are applying to. Many times, just by applying to the college, you can qualify for merit scholarships based on your GPA and possibly test scores.

Sometimes, there are additional applications you’ll need to fill out on top of the regular admission application. That’s why it’s best to check with the school’s financial aid department to see if there is an additional application or additional steps that you must complete to be eligible. 

Check scholarship websites 

You can use numerous scholarship websites and online resources to find scholarships. Though the pool of students applying to these published scholarships is much larger, many are not applied for or awarded at all.

These websites include, Sallie Mae, and Appily. For many of these websites, you do have to sign up and make a profile. But once you do that, they match the best scholarships to fit your criteria. 

Vetting scholarship websites

An excellent scholarship platform encompasses several qualities that make up its effectiveness and user satisfaction. To start, being a trustworthy site is vital for establishing credibility and helping you feel secure in sharing your information. 

Also, you should not have to look around the website and sift through it to find scholarships. The website should be user-friendly and provide options to filter what you see based on your criteria. 

Start looking for scholarships early 

Be sure to start this process early because it can be time-consuming. You can begin as early as your freshman year. 

Most scholarships have the same annual deadline, so you can even begin making a list of scholarships you want to apply for so you can return to them later. Being organized in this way will help you prioritize which applications to start with when the time comes.  

Look into niche-specific scholarships 

Think about the unique interests or hobbies that help make up your identity because there are often corresponding scholarship opportunities. 

If you are an engineering student, search for scholarships catered towards seniors interested in an engineering program. If you are adopted, search for scholarships that are for adopted students. Sometimes, these scholarship opportunities will be for all grade levels as well. 

Read the fine print and know what you’re applying for

Be sure to read the fine print to ensure your scholarship eligibility. You also want to gather all of the required application materials. 

If you need a copy of your high school transcript, ask your Guidance office for this in advance. If you need letters of recommendation, be sure to ask people who can write these well in advance to give them ample time to complete them. 

Please pass these tips along to your students!

Sara Shaver is the Director of Student Services at My College Planning Team