The Four Sources of Scholarships

phase 4 scholarships Jun 02, 2022

I was paid to go to college. Yep, at the beginning of each semester I received a check from the university as a reimbursement for scholarships I had received in excess of the cost of tuition. Between undergraduate and grad school I received over $500,000 in scholarships, grants, or assistantship awards or offers, and responding to questions about how I received so many scholarships is how I got started as a college prep consultant back in 2007.

It first helps to understand where the primary sources of scholarships are, so that you can create an intentional plan. Here are the four big sources of scholarships, and where to look for them.


Government Scholarships

While the Federal government does not offer any scholarships, your state government may offer some opportunities you should look into. These vary dramatically by state, but can comprise a substantial portion of the total scholarships available. In most cases, your application for the scholarships will include completing the FAFSA (yet another incentive to complete the application early). Searching for "[your state of residence] student aid commission" should pull up your state's department of education financial aid website (even if the name is slightly different), which is a good place to initially locate scholarships or grants that are specific to your state.


University-Wide Scholarships

University-wide scholarships are the ones listed on the student aid reports the college sends to you, or are listed in the brochure you got from the financial aid office. All incoming freshmen are eligible, so your competition is the entire class of that year. This usually consists of presidential or chancellor scholarships, minority scholarships, and partial merit scholarships. Narrowing the playing field in these circumstances is difficult, and requires you to be at the top of the application pool in your test scores, grades, and general portfolio. To find out about these opportunities contact the financial aid office of the school.


Department-Specific Scholarships

In addition to university-wide scholarships, there is another place on campus you can often locate scholarships.  That is through department-specific scholarships offered by the individual schools on campus. In some schools there is excellent organizational communication, and the resources available through the individual colleges are tied closely to the financial aid office for the university. In these cases, simply talking with a representative from the office can inform you of your potential opportunities. However, most of the time universities instead suffer from large bureaucratic structures, and the only way for you to discover all your scholarship options is to talk directly with the department. 

If that is the case, it is actually to your advantage. That’s because it narrows down the playing field naturally. Only the individuals pursuing that major, from that year’s freshman class, who check in with the department, receive and complete the application are eligible, so your chances are much higher! For most students this is going to be your best option. Get in touch with the department early on and find out how their scholarships are structured.


Private Scholarships

 In addition to scholarships from the state and university, there are also private scholarships offered by individuals, organizations and companies that you should look into. When people refer to “online scholarships” this is typically what they are talking about. The availability of information through the internet have reduced the “gold-mine” opportunity that these once were, and as a whole these scholarships represent the smallest slice of the college scholarship pie, but they still have some great opportunities for people who are willing to in the work. How do you locate private scholarships? First, you should start close to home, and see if there are any groups you have ties with that have opportunities, such as:

  • Your parent’s job (companies sometimes offer scholarships to the children of employees)
  • Any professional or social organizations your parent is a part of
  • The military, if your parents were ever enlisted
  • Your church
  • Your local city

Additionally, you should check online to see what scholarships you are eligible for. This search process can be a little intimidating, but typically pays off for those who are persistent. I would recommend you start with,,, or (Scholly is a paid service, but I find it worthwhile).

 Would you like help on what steps your teen can take to secure more scholarships and be best prepared for college or trade school? Schedule a FREE 30-minute consultation to tell me about your situation and discuss what options would be best for you!

Stay connected with news and updates!

Join our mailing list to receive the latest news and updates from our team.
Don't worry, your information will not be shared.


50% Complete

Join Our Newsletter

We know that college prep can be overwhelming. That's why we work hard to simplify and streamline the advice on how to guide your teen to success. Sign up below to join our newsletter (we hate spam, and never sell or rent out your info).