This week's post comes from my brother-in-law Jason, who is a guidance counselor at Pontiac Notre Dame Prep and a former admissions officer at Albion College.
I've copied and pasted his email response to my very simple question, "What are the best websites to find scholarships?" Dude knows what he's talking about!
Hey, I'm trying to answer your scholarship website question and it's a complicated answer. Quick response, here's a link to a article that hits the big dogs: https://www.moneysavingpro.com/scholarships/ The problem with this is that cappex, zinch, fastweb, etc are the big dogs. Every high school counselor in the country is referring students to these sites. So, the competition is fierce. The positive is that they are pretty thorough sites and so much more easily accessible than 'local' scholarships...which sometimes don't even have websites or on-line applications. The mom and pop organizations like Credit Unions and Community Foundations do a lot of their dirty work with individual high schools. I get stuff mailed to me regularly and mass email it out to students. I also like stalking good school's counseling sites. You can poach info from them. ie - Clarkston Northville Ann Arbor Community Lakeland
What makes this even more complicated is that when people think scholarships this is what they think of, community foundations, credit unions, and the Mary Jane Rottencrotch Memorial scholarship for left-handed diabetics. The big money, though, comes directly from the college. Either through need based aid (FAFSA), which depends on the family's financial situation, or merit based (GPA and Test Scores). There are a lot of departmental awards offered at these schools too. I tell students that this is where their search should start (for example http://onestop.utk.edu/scholarships/). There is just more money to be had directly from the schools.
However, here is a dirty little secret that a lot of people don't know. Let's say UT gives a kid some institutional "grant" money to help meet that students financial need, which is basically like a coupon...here's 10% off because we like you and need that other 90% of your tuition money to help pay the bills. Later that kid finds out he has won the MJ Rottencrotch Scholly, which awards them a one time sum of $1500. You would think that you would be able to stack those dollars on top of each other to help off-set the costs, but that's not how they work. Most of those schools end up cutting $1500 of the institutional money they offered you to meet your need. Their logic is that you are getting that money from somewhere else now, and your "need" is still being met. Kind of makes you think that the 500 word essay you wrote, and the letters of recommendation you gathered aren't worth it. But this varies from school to school and student to student (https://costofcollege.wordpress.com/tag/stacking-scholarships/)
Sorry, I get kind of carried away with this stuff. I hope this helps.