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    11 Scholarship-Searching Tips That Every Student Should Know About

    Show me the ~free~ money!

    Scholarships can truly be a godsend (after all, they can give you money for school that's 100% FREE), but sometimes they can be a real hassle to find.

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    So if you're in need of some free money, we’ve found all the hiding spots. Here are 11 ways to track down scholarships and grants:

    If you're trying to avoid taking out lots of student loans, make sure you apply for scholarships both before college *and* each year while you're in school. And to stay organized, it's a good idea to keep a running list of the scholarships you want to apply for and their due dates, which ones you receive, and which costs you use them to cover.

    1. Online scholarship directories can be a great place to start. search page with over 3.7 million scholarships and grants in the database / Via

    Go the basic route in the beginning and look up scholarship databases like Fastweb, ScholarshipOwl,, or Unigo. There are so many out there and although some are dead ends, some sites get to know you; so they can match you with the grants you're actually qualified for.

    “Another cool feature of many of these platforms is that after you create a profile and upload your academic materials, you can apply for a scholarship with one click,” says John Ross, president and CEO of Test Prep Insight. “This makes not only finding scholarships easier than ever, but applying as well. If I were a student looking for scholarships, I wouldn't waste my time manually searching out random, individual scholarships. I'd apply directly through one of these platforms.”

    2. The college that accepted you might also have scholarships and grants that you can apply for.

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    Once you've been accepted into the college of your choice (congrats!), ask about the scholarship and grants they offer. You can either check the college's website or contact their admission department directly. And often, if you reach out to admissions before you apply for scholarships, they can give you helpful pointers that can get you a few steps closer to winning scholarship funds.

    Sometimes schools offer scholarships if you belong to a certain group or have special academic or athletic achievements. There are usually grants available for students of color, first-generation college students, and students with high GPAs.

    Some schools even dole out money if you're interested in a certain career or program at their institution. It literally pays to know what you want to do so if you do, reach out to the department to see if there are funds available for interested incoming freshmen.

    3. And look into scholarships associated with the clubs or activities you were a part of in high school.

    Spreadsheet of speech and debate team scholarships
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    Sometimes you are your own secret weapon. Remember forensics speech, debate team, and karate? Check out the clubs and organizations you joined during high school and see if any of them offer grants or scholarships for students going to college. This may take a bit more legwork but if you're lucky, you might get enough to cover some of your expenses.

    4. The companies your parents work for might also offer scholarships.

    Teen girl and her mom looking for scholarships on a tablet
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    Depending on where they work, your parent or guardian's employer may have scholarships available for college students. They can give you the inside track and help you apply.

    And your parents aren't the only ones who can help. If you have other family members who work at generous establishments, see if they can hook you up. That being said, look into other companies on your own like Coca-Cola, Taco Bell, Google, and Burger King. They give mega-scholarships every year so it doesn't hurt to apply.

    5. Your community can be another great resource to explore.

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    Community is important because when you need them most, they got your back. Look into local places of worship, community organizations, and mom-and-pop stores in your neighborhood. Some towns take a serious interest in the future of their youth and may have scholarships available that you never even knew about. It's totally worth a shot.

    6. And check out the US Department of Labor’s free scholarship search tool.

    The scholarship search tool showing 8,355 awards in the database
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    Fun fact: Even the DOL cares about giving you the resources you need to pay for school. You can check out a range of grants and scholarship on the department's CareerOneStop site.

    7. Ethnic organizations often offer scholarships too.

    National Association of Asian American Professionals Logo
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    Embrace who you are and look into associations that support your culture. Depending on your ethnicity, you can reach out to organizations like the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People or the Asian American Journalists Association. However you identify, find a group dedicated to your culture's development and look around on their website or give them a call to see if they offer scholarships or grants. Groups like these are often rooted in uplifting their youth so they can be a great place to look.

    8. Your state's higher education agency website can also help you track down scholarships and grants.

    US Department of Education
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    Check out the US Department of Education to find your state's higher education agency page. From there, you can look into all the financial aid programs that your state has to offer.

    9. If you know what you want to do after graduation, seek out professional organizations that offer scholarships for students going into your field.

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    If you know what you want to study when going into college, it really helps to be decided. Look into professional organizations in your field and see if any of them offer scholarship or grant funding or if they have a list of resources for scholarship-hunting students. For example, if you know that you want to be a nurse, the American Association of Colleges of Nursing offers several scholarships and has a great big list of nursing scholarships you could apply for. So check out these orgs before you start school and keep looking and applying for funds every year.

    10. And if you have certain conditions or disabilities, organizations related to your diagnosis often offer scholarships too.

    Teen and her mom looking at a laptop
    Daniel Balakov / Getty Images

    Many organizations support people with disabilities or medical conditions through scholarships. For example, if you have a learning disability or ADHD, search out organizations like the National Center for Learning Disabilities that offer scholarships every year. There are also scholarships out there for people who've survived childhood cancers, people with diabetes, and people with many other conditions too.

    11. And finally, think about what makes you unique and search for scholarships based on those traits.

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    You've probably heard there's a scholarship for everything and it's pretty much true. So search for scholarships related to anything that's unique about you. There are scholarships for tall people, aspiring candy technologists, and even folks who make prom gear out of duct tape, so odds are there's something out there for you too.

    How's your scholarship search going? Share your best tips in the comments!

    For more school savings tips and hidden gems, check out our other personal finance posts.