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If you are like the thousands of students attending college this fall, you may be wondering how on earth you will be able to afford it. Of course, you can probably take out loans, but you still have to pay those back with a hefty interest rate. So, how will you afford college? One word: scholarships.

There are hundreds of thousands of scholarships that you can apply for to earn money for college. However, it’s just figuring out where to find those scholarship opportunities that are the biggest struggle.

When it comes to scholarships, there is no doubt that programs such as the Coca-Cola Scholarship, Questbridge Program, and Gates Millennium Scholarship program are all superb. However, when you look at the statistics, for example, and realize that roughly 150 students win the Coca-Cola Scholarship out of 136,000 applications, realistically, the odds of you winning are extremely slim. If you think you stand a fair chance in the big scholarship programs, though, by all means go ahead and apply for it.

For most students, myself included, however, we get scholarship money through local organizations and companies that sponsor them. For example, your school may sponsor a scholarship through the PTSA or your local rotary club may offer a scholarship.

While these awards are generally within the $500-$2500 realm, they are much less competitive due to the smaller applicant pool. So, you may be wondering, “Easy scholarships? Where do I apply!?”

Well, the best way to effectively seek out local scholarships is to go to your school counselor and ask them for a list of local scholarships. Most likely, they will have a list filled with local scholarships you can apply to alongside their deadline, or they will direct you to a website listing with local scholarships.

Additionally, if your school sponsors a PTSA/PTA club, ask around to see if they have a school-sponsored scholarship you can apply for. Usually, only students in your class can apply for these scholarships, and are therefore much less competitive to win.

If you are apart of the National Honor Society or National Technical Honor Society, ask your advisors for more information on the society scholarship. Although the NHS/NTHS scholarships are national awards, you must first go through a local process to proceed to the next level.

Look to your local and state agencies, such as insurance firms, the state department, credit unions and banks. Many of these local agencies will sponsor scholarships for students to apply to, if they plan on attending their state school. Keep a lookout for these scholarships, because the deadline is usually much earlier!

Another great resource to look for local scholarships is Student Scholarship Search. Once on the website, simply click the state in which you reside and you will be brought to a list of local scholarships only sponsored in your region.

And lastly, although not clear-cut local scholarship, look to your college or university. Most likely when you apply to a college, you also get considered for any merit/academic/sport achievement awards. However, browse your college or university to see if there are any other scholarships you can apply for. In addition, many states offer scholarship programs for those students that attend their state school. For example, Florida sponsors the Bright Futures Scholarship for in state residents planning on attending in-state schools!

College is a great time to create new friends, attain knowledge and make a difference. The cost of college should not limit you from these things. By effectively seeking out and searching for scholarships that appeal to a smaller applicant pool, you will have much better chances in winning some sort of monetary value for college.

So, what are you waiting for? Search! Search! Search!

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