By a very wide margin, the single best sources of scholarship money are the colleges themselves. If you’re eligible for a moderate-to-substantial amount of need-based aid, you should look for schools that meet at least 80% of your needs.
If you’re not eligible for much or any need-based aid but will need outside funds to make college affordable, outside scholarships can be helpful.
According to data published in May of 2019, the National Association of College and University Business Officers (NACUBO) says that discount rates – the percentage reduction from published rates – for private colleges “surpassed 50% in 2017-18 and are on course to hit 52% in 2018-19.”
The College Board also reports that the average annual published (sticker price) for tuition and fees at private colleges is $32,410 (it’s lower than that for public colleges and lots lower for in-state students). The actual annual outlay for tuition and fees for those private schools calculates to be a little under $15,600, on average.
It’s important to bear in mind that while need-based aid at private colleges is reasonably generous, merit aid (scholarships) at those colleges for all but the very most talented (academics, test scores, arts, athletics, leadership, service, etc) students is limited, by comparison.
As you search for opportunities on scholarship sites, remember that most colleges have a policy that outside scholarships will reduce, dollar-for-dollar, any loan, work-study, and grant portion of need-based aid those colleges would otherwise offer.
Scholarships almost certainly won’t reduce the expected family contribution – and that means that the most productive thing you can do is to focus on colleges that are generous with aid and not on clearinghouses of scholarships that tend to be relatively small and very hard to get.
That being said, here are some of the best scholarship websites for you to explore.
The scholarship site boasts over $10 billion in scholarship awards and over 4,000 scholarship providers. It has an impressive collection of articles, test-prep resources, and more.
It also has the tools and tips you need to start a scholarship search — and its search filters make navigation simple. Filling out a very short survey allows you to adjust the filters as you go, and that gives you more control than sites that require extensive profiles to get started.
Like Peterson's, Unigo has plenty to offer beyond just scholarships, including jobs, internships, college profiles and rankings, articles, and a textbook store. When it comes to scholarships, the site offers profile-based matching as well as easy-to-browse categories.
Fastweb, a subsidiary of Monster, hosts more than 1.5 million scholarships that amount to more than $3.4 billion dollars. And it's all so well organized! The search platform's filters make it easy to find exactly what you're looking for.
One minor drawback: You have to fill out a profile to get started. But the profile helps match you with scholarships most likely to suit your needs, and the sign-up process is relatively painless.
Cappex has a large scholarship search engine, and they're not afraid to brag a bit: "We've Got More Than $11 Billion in Scholarships." Registering can be annoying, but you'll be glad you took the time to get personalized results. Cappex sets itself apart with its "What Are My Chances" tool, which attempts to calculate the odds that you'll get into a certain college before you apply.
Over the years, Chegg has expanded from its humble beginnings as an online textbook store to become a well-rounded education resource and scholarship search engine. It acquired scholarship match service Zinch in 2011 and now hosts over 25,000 scholarships totaling over $1 billion. Its interface is simple and the mandatory sign-up process is well worth the time.
What's more, it has a "top scholarship picks this week" category, which highlights opportunities you may have otherwise missed. And on top of the scholarships, Chegg offers homework help, tutoring, test prep, internships, and (of course) textbooks.
As with all of the best resources, The College Board offers much more than an extensive list of scholarships. It also has test prep, articles, and college search tools, among others.
And its "scholarships, other financial aid, and internships from more than 2,200 programs" total nearly $6 billion. Added bonus: While you're perusing the site you can prepare for the SAT!
Formerly known as College Prowler, Niche is one of the easiest scholarship sites to navigate. It's neatly organized into categories that make it simple to start finding and applying for scholarships.
You can browse by categories, including, but not limited to, sports, interest area, career, and major — but it can be tricky to filter outside of these preset groupings. Still, with no required sign-up and a user-friendly design, Niche is a simple and powerful scholarship search engine.
Scholarships.com advertises more than 3.7 million scholarship and grant opportunities worth more than $19 billion. It's one of the biggest and best scholarship websites and is updated daily.
You can browse by category, but if you really want to navigate the extensive list of opportunities, you'll need to make a profile. It's one flaw: The site has ample information about alternate forms of financial aid, but it lacks some of the resources other sites offer.
Scholarship Monkey offers three scholarship search options: personalized, by keyword, and by lists. Results from any of these searches can then be further filtered by college, but, unfortunately, not by any other criteria.
Despite its huge index of scholarships, the site’s not as easily navigable as some others, making it more difficult to take full advantage of its opportunities.
Another reason it ranks lower on the list: is spam. I've received numerous emails from the site, even after unsubscribing. Nonetheless, it's a great tool with a huge database of scholarships – even if it is trickier to use than others on the list.
Going Merry allows users to find and then apply for scholarships directly from its website. It also allows users to view how many others have applied for a scholarship so far.
Going Merry auto-fills students’ info into scholarship applications based on the profile they complete, has a “save” function so students can come back later to an application to complete it, sends reminders on upcoming deadlines for any applications in progress, and allows students to apply for multiple scholarships simultaneously.
We found the Going Merry profile reasonably easy to complete, and, given its many unique features, we think that Going Merry’s clearly worth a look.
Get More Assistance Finding Scholarships
JRA Educational specializes in individualized consulting and college planning. We’re here to ensure students have the best opportunities for future success, and that includes financial aid and scholarships for college.
Our list of best scholarship websites is a great place to start, but if you need more customized assistance, please don’t hesitate to reach out. We’ve been helping families like yours for more than 40 years, and we’ll help you put your best foot forward as you plan for college.
For more information on scholarships and college preparation, call 561-907-8631. You can also check out our college guidance and counseling resources online.