Wednesday, January 25, 2023
Creating Your Personalized Scholarship Search
Most students who come into the Scholarship Resource Center start with a simple question: “Do you have a list of scholarships I can apply for?” In response, I usually swivel around in my chair and say, “this whole office is a list.”
Though many balk at the task of sorting through potential opportunities, we know that it is absolutely essential for students to develop individualized search strategies based on their own self-knowledge.
Here’s how to make a spreadsheet that will facilitate effective personal searches:
Set aside a chunk of time to answer questions about the following aspects of your background, short and long-term goals, and personal interests.
The answers to these questions will become search terms for your spreadsheet. Use each term to navigate institutional or university websites, find privately endowed community funds, and identify interesting essay contests.
Spend one hour experimenting online with each search term.
Goals while in your Degree Program
What is your major? What goals will you accomplish that are related to your course of study? Volunteering? Study abroad? What research topics most interest you?
It is up to you to navigate university bureaucracies and find opportunities to apply for funds to support your degree objectives. Your can start with your department, but there are hundreds of other centers, labs, institutes, student services, and academic communities that support your goals.
What communities do you care about? What communities care about you? What communities do you belong to?
Rather than focus on the nuances of your sense of identity, imagine communities who care about your experiences. This exercise will expand how you think about the role that your identity plays in a world of shared experiences, and allow you to connect with the missions of many organizations.
Based on your current course of study, what are five different career outcomes that you would enjoy?
What essential turning points, key experiences, or critical skills will you need in order to reach these goals? Do professional organizations fund students to achieve career-based goals in these fields?
Interests & Hobbies
Really go for it in this column. Rather than peruse the countless essay contests that exist on the Internet, make a list of the hobbies and interests that you’d most like to write an essay about. Then your search queries will look like this: “Essay contests about coffee…”
List the cities, regions, counties, and states with which you have meaningful or residential connections. When you start searching for organizations, the best place to start is where you’ve lived, where you went to high school, where you are currently based. Ideally, you’ll start asking questions like: “What organizations in LA care about something I care about?”
Project Based Goals
If someone gave you $15,000 for a community project, what would you put together? What are the components of a community mission that you care about? (Check out straussfoundation.org…)
Many organizations award funds to students based on project proposals. But these foundations usually have very specific mission statements. The best way for you to connect with an organization like this is to think about the kind of project you’d like to carry out in the first place.
By creating your own personalized list of search terms, you will have narrowed your scholarship search considerably and avoided the daunting task of searching through endless lists of scholarships that may not even interest you. The point is to find and apply for scholarships that are for you. And trust us–there is a scholarship out there with your name on it!