By Howard Freedman, Founder, Financial Aid Consulting

Creativity, networking, focus and hard work are the most essential ingredients for finding a treasure chest of scholarship opportunities.

Personal Inventory
For starters, be prepared by keeping up-to-date records of the qualifiers that you are likely to need when applying for scholarships:

  • GPA and Class Standing
  • Highest SAT and or ACT test scores
  • Honors and awards
  • Outside Activities (In School and Community)
  • Employment history
  • Internships
  • Leadership roles
  • Heroics

Getting Started
Build a portfolio of your creative works, special projects, problem solving skills and initiatives. Identify leadership skills, innovations, and awards.  This is also an effective motivational tool and way to categorize the requirements for various types of scholarships.

Essay Inventory
Write an inventory of essays about special experiences, leadership, challenges, family challenges or about how you overcame adversity. Do all that you can to make yourself extraordinary as many scholarships will ask about life’s experiences and what you offer. Write them now since they may be needed later.

Broad Internet Searches
Perform a broad internet search using  key words to find scholarships. Using key terms like-scholarships for creative artists and writers provide a large field to pare down to more selective and interesting or less well known scholarships. Then narrow, your findings to those with the best fit and chances to win.

Non Academic Searches
Search for scholarships based on ethnicity, country of origins, organizational and professional affiliations, single parent families, handicaps, professions, first generation students, etc. as you focus on demographic versus academic information.

Network with everybody. Include co-workers, store owners, fellow students, teachers, chamber of commerce members or just by being friendly. It is also another way of building confidence and generating leads. Networking is about starting dialogues and relationships and not just asking closed ended questions with simple yes or no answers.

Create your own scholarship by sharing your story with organizations that may want to award scholarships but cannot attract the right candidates. Scholarships may not be limited to the best and brightest students but awarded to those that have the drive and ambition, are average or simply just want to further their education.

Professional Organizations
Research professional organizations in your field or for which your background qualifies. Learn about the profession before asking how to qualify and apply for scholarships. This may mean a phone call, letter, an essay or an opportunity to share your story about why you deserve a scholarship.

Social Media
Keep your Facebook or other social media locations positive and  professional. Focus on your accomplishments as you never may know who views them. Your social media accounts can be a very powerful complement to formal applications. They can showcase your talents, creations or other ways to look good. Opinions should be constructive and meaningful as you never want to offend a potential reader.

Evaluating Your Chances
Evaluate the odds of winning a scholarship by reviewing the numbers awarded and if your application will go into a lottery pool. If so, it may be best to improve your odds by seeking local or more unique scholarships with better odds. Use scholarship search sites carefully. Limit the personal information you share and never agree to pay for expensive services.

Ask your college admission’s office how they award merit based aid and for which scholarships you may be considered. The selection process is usually common information that should not be a surprise.

Keep track of deadlines and know how and when to follow up. A call or e-mail is appropriate and another way of showing interest

Remain focused, positive and organized. A scholarship will eventually come your way as long as you create a positive image and network with those that may have the right connections or advice to lead to that treasured scholarship that you will deserve.

Howard Freedman, founder of Financial Aid Consulting, is a financial aid consultant, writer and author of Making College Happen: The Realties of Coping With College Costs available on His website is: