Where to find scholarships for college

Lisa Fan
Lisa Fan is a senior at East Ridge High School in Woodbury, Minn.
Cappex stands out from other search engines in that it rates each scholarship on a scale of one to five stars on both application ease and competition.

With so many scholarships out there, where does one start looking?

I decided to do some hands-on exploring. I wanted to see which scholarship search websites were easiest to use to find the types of scholarships I wanted to apply for and which were the most user-friendly in general.

I used four popular websites that other teens had recommended: Fastweb, Cappex, Collegeboard and Scholarships.com.

My favorite was Cappex.com. Like the other websites I looked at, it is free to use. First, you must create an account to search for scholarships. Then you fill out a profile, including information such as your ethnicity, GPA, colleges of interest, possible majors and activities.

There were three categories of scholarships: Cappex scholarships, scholarships matched to my profile, and merit scholarships from the colleges I selected.

By clicking the Cappex scholarships tab, I learned that Cappex gives out thousands of dollars in scholarships every month, and all I needed to do to apply is to click the “apply” button. It doesn’t get easier than that.

My general search came up with 50 scholarship matches, ranked in order based on the work required to apply and the amount of competition for them. You can add more information about yourself to get more matches. You also can mark each scholarship by whether you will apply, might apply, etc.

Cappex stands out from other search engines in that it rates each scholarship on a scale of one to five stars on both application ease and competition. Having that information is really helpful in deciding which scholarships to apply for.

I also liked that the information in my profile was reflected in the search results: Some scholarships were specifically for minorities like me. Some were for residents of Minnesota, where I live, and some were for people interested in majoring in mathematics, like me.

I saw right away that ScholarshipsPoints.com – where you can compete for scholarships by being active online — and the Achieve Scholarship for Minnesota teens were interesting based on few requirements, easy application, and low competition.

Then I clicked on the Merit scholarships tab. A list of the colleges that I had marked on my profile showed up, each with a link to its scholarship programs. That made it easy to see what kind of scholarship options I have at each college.

As much as I like Cappex, I preferred the more detailed scholarship descriptions on Fastweb.

My Fastweb search returned 45 results. Along with the scholarship name, the dollar amount, deadline and other information, I could mark scholarships I liked and discard those I wasn’t interested in. Clicking on the scholarship name provided a detailed description, with all the information I needed about the scholarship and the application. But the scholarships didn’t seem to be in a specific order, other than that all the college-specific scholarships were at the top of the page.

My profile information was reflected in the search results. I recognized some big-name scholarships, such as Davidson Fellows and Siemens. There were many scholarships specific to colleges I am interested. There were also a couple of music and art-related scholarships. A good number of the scholarships I saw were essay contests, and many have a required GPA.

What I did not like is that Fastweb’s profile choices did not include a number of my activities. Although I’ve been active in piano, tennis, Mock Trial and National Honor Society, the only activities that I could check off were “Music (instrumental)” and “Art,” because none of the others were listed. That may have affected the search results.

Collegeboard is a little different than the others because the website is not specifically geared toward searching for scholarships, but it does have a good scholarships search engine.

My scholarship search returned 79 results, listed in alphabetical order, which is not as convenient for browsing as the rankings at Cappex.com. Also, there was no way to flag scholarships you’re interested in.

The scholarships are not listed in table format like on the other websites, but each lists the sponsor, type of award, deadline, and award amount. Clicking on the scholarship name gives additional information about its requirements and contact.

Some descriptions were vague and the site directs you to the scholarship sponsor’s website for more information. This made it harder to decide quickly which ones were worth taking a second look at. Sometimes I couldn’t even tell what the scholarship was about, and none stuck out besides the familiar ones such as the National Merit Scholarship. But I liked huge variety of scholarships to choose from. And I liked that you can click on a link to see what criteria from your profile the search was based on.

Collegeboard’s scholarship search engine doesn’t indicate how difficult or competitive the application will be. Because it doesn’t ask which colleges you’re interested, it doesn’t list college-specific scholarships.

Finally, I checked out Scholarships.com. This search only produced 26 results. Again, I did not see any college-specific scholarships listed. One feature I liked is that you can order the scholarships by dollar amount or deadline. But the scholarships listed either seemed irrelevant (not reflecting the information in my profile) or too hard to achieve. The Coca-Cola Scholars Program scholarship seemed like worth the effort. It’s an achievement scholarship that rewards up to $20,000 to 250 seniors each year.

Besides the scholarship search tool, the website also has a “Featured scholarships” link on the home page. This is helpful to narrow down scholarships by grade level, major, state, or type. You can list academic and merit scholarships, community service scholarships, or minority scholarships, just to name a few. There’s even a “weird scholarships” category. Looking at the academic and merit scholarships page, I found the Gates Millennium Scholars Program, funded by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation for minority students. Although the competition for the scholarship is fairly heavy, the rewards are huge – full tuition scholarships to your college of choice.

All these websites allow you to email scholarship reminders and deadlines ro yourself to help you keep track of things.

All in all, I liked Cappex.com the best. I also liked the Scholarships.com “Featured scholarships” tool a lot. I decided that my goal of applying for five to 10 scholarships was realistic. I’d just have to take some time deciding which scholarships to apply to and how much time I was willing to spend on applications,. The important thing is to get started early, devote a lot of time to searching and applying, and apply for many!