A Sparkler asks:
Hi! I am a senior living in Wisconsin. I am just starting to apply to colleges and I don't even know where to start looking for scholarships. Can you give me any ideas or jumping-off points?
Fairly or unfairly, most people think of scholarships as the best kind of financial aid out there—the Golden Ticket to college. We’ll talk quite a bit here them, but for a jumping-off point, let’s start with scholarship engines.
Scholarship engines are online databases where you can search for awards. Most of these engines are free (although you usually have register with the site, sit through advertisements, or endure some product placement). Perhaps the best known engine is FastWeb, which is owned by Monster. FastWeb is regularly updated, contains arguably the largest number of awards, and has some great features, including emailed scholarship alerts and deadlines.
Try one of these databases on for size, see what kind of scholarships are available, and save any that are interesting to you.
But keep in mind that this is merely the first of many steps in the scholarship process. Later, we’ll talk about how to make yourself competitive for those scholarships, how to find the scholarships that don’t get mentioned in the major databases, and how to avoid scholarship scams.