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Why Searching for Scholarships Shouldn’t Stop at Graduation

This post is from a student, parent, or professional contributor. The opinions expressed by the author are their own and do not necessarily reflect the positions, viewpoints, or policies of Niche.

Did you know that you can get scholarships while in college? Yep.

Don’t limit yourself to snatching up scholarships left and right as only a high schooler. Just think: As a college student, you’re that much older, wiser and more likely to know your specific career path. This means that you could feasibly tap into more scholarship options. 

For example, let’s say that as a high school senior, you had no idea what you wanted to major in. By the time your sophomore year in college rolls around, you have a specific game plan as a business major and can apply to business management-specific scholarships. 

Learn more about getting scholarships in your first year of college—or even up through graduate school. Who says you can’t cash a check on your way to your college graduation?

Why Get Scholarships While in College? 

Why not nab all the scholarships you can in high school and call it good? Well, because you could be leaving money on the table. Check out a few reasons why you might not want to take only that approach. 

1. Your high school scholarships might disappear in a jiffy.

When you collect a few $1,000 scholarships over the course of your high school career, the amount you earn can disappear quickly.

If you don’t receive a lot in merit-based scholarships and you cash in your one-off scholarships from the Rotary Club and local gardening club right away, you could look at a lot of money you need to come up with or borrow. It’s a good idea to poke around for scholarships you can get as a college student.

2. College may offer larger opportunities. 

Some scholarships that target college students offer more robust scholarships. These organizations set aside money specifically for college students who have become more accomplished in their college careers.

Rather than offering scholarships to high school students who may or may not see success, organizations reason that the chances remain higher that you’ll graduate if you’ve made it to an upperclassman level in college.  

3. Colleges may offer opportunities for current students.

Colleges may only offer specific scholarships to current students and not prospective students. For example, some colleges may offer scholarships to students who have declared a specific major. 

Common Reasons Why Students Don’t Apply for Scholarships While in College 

Scholarships offer massive help to those who apply for them, as long as you apply to more than, say, a handful.

But scholarship hunting is a numbers game and only a game that a few want to play. (Many students reason that taking out loans offers a much quicker solution.)

Have you made the following excuses? 

Excuse 1: “I only want to apply for big money.”

It’s definitely tempting to apply solely for scholarships that contain lots of zeroes. $10,000 is more appealing than $1,000, right?

However, don’t discredit smaller award amounts. They add up!

Smaller scholarships usually garner less competition and you can find more smaller scholarships compared to huge ones. 

Excuse 2: “I’m sooooo busy.”

College students work around the clock on homework, going to classes and even maintaining jobs after classes. 

Filling out tedious scholarship applications: Who has time for that?

Excuse 3: “It’s hard to find good scholarships.”

Students often try to apply to scholarships they find on Google, but guess what? Many scholarships aren’t marketed well.

Your local hospital in your hometown might offer a great scholarship for budding doctors, but you won’t know about it unless you poke around. 

At Your Fingertips: Finding Scholarships on Campus

Tips for Getting Scholarships While in College

Learn more about how to actually get scholarships while in college.

1. Check with the financial aid office. 

Your very first stop might end up as a really easy conversation. Go to the financial aid office at your college and make an appointment. (Note: Some financial aid officers may allow you to pop in and see them right away, but in most cases, you need to make an appointment.) 

It’s a good idea to have scholarship and financial aid conversations in person, rather than over the phone or via email.

Note that some colleges and universities may have some COVID-19 restrictions in place. It goes without saying that you want to follow these guidelines. 

2. Poke around in professional groups. 

As a college student, you may know your major at this point or at least may have some ideas on what you want to major in.

When you hone in on a specific area of study, the scholarship opportunities may be larger because you can find more scholarships that relate to your precise area of study. Benefactors love bestowing scholarships on students who meet a narrow set of criteria, which could relate to the scholarship creator’s specific personal interests, business interests or passions. 

Get to know area professional associations, groups related to your major and more. Join professional associations. Many have lower fees for students. 

Ask your college’s career center for more information about joining these groups or finding scholarships and other opportunities related to these types of groups.

You might also want to look into ethnicity-based organizations or organizations set up for disabled individuals if these organizations apply to you.

3. Check with your college’s career center. 

This might seem like a weird place to look for scholarships, but think of how many companies that your college or university’s career center comes in contact with. Hundreds!

They might have any number of contacts or at least know how to contact recruiters at specific companies. These companies often offer scholarships. If they have a great relationship with your college or university, they may end up taking a second look at your application. 

4. Look into local scholarships — in two places. 

You might have felt like you scoured your entire town for local scholarships as a high school student. It’s a great idea to do it again as a college student because different parameters (like your major or interests) might have changed and might now apply to you. 

However, don’t forget to take a look in the town where you attend college or university. Many towns and cities have great relationships with the colleges or universities in their midst and offer scholarships for students who attend your school.

Also tap into foundations, religious or community organizations, local businesses or civic groups. You might also want to check with your employer or your parents’ employers as well.

5. Look for scholarships online.

Now, the thought of looking online might make you groan out loud. Yes, the sheer overwhelming number of scholarships that exist online can make you want to tuck tail and slink away. 

However, you can’t ignore the fact that a vast number of scholarships hang out online.

In addition to Niche’s own treasure trove of scholarship opportunities, check out the U.S. Department of Labor’s scholarship search tool, federal agencies or your state’s grant agency.

Get Scholarships While in College

You may face a marked decline in the number of outside scholarship checks you get while you take college classes. A few $1,000 checks don’t last long when college costs so much these days. 

Try to make up for this dry spell by looking into scholarships as a college student. Otherwise, you could end up taking on loans instead.

Wouldn’t you rather pay for college with a plethora of scholarships instead of loans?

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Author: Melissa Brock

Melissa Brock is the founder of College Money Tips and Money editor at Benzinga. She loves helping families navigate their finances and the college search process. Check out her essential timeline and checklist for the college search!