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How to Find Scholarships for College: 10 Tips for Parents

This year Bjorn starts his junior year in high school and it’s time to look for scholarships for college (it may even be late). I’ve been doing a lot of research to see which scholarships he should apply for as a high school student. I asked my Facebook friends who have been through this what their best tips for getting a scholarship are. There were some excellent answers that made me think of things I never would’ve considered! Like this:

Did you know that all GPA is not calculated the same? This is true…. Some colleges or universities weight the scale for GPA AP classes. Some do not.

After I go over this list and try out different scholarships I’ll let you know what worked best for us. I’m not an expert on this topic but I’m in the trenches learning all I can.

Bjorn does have solid grades but there are also scholarships that aren’t dependent on good grades or income (if you have lower income check out this program for 18-24 year olds to get help). I want to apply for as many as possible because anything that he wins for his hard work means less comes out of his college fund or our bank account. College is a major expense so it’s worth investing time and effort into both cutting or avoiding costs and saving on tuition.

college scholarships info

Tip #1: Get as Much College Credit as Possible in High School

I also look for ways to cut back on college expenses before scholarships. That means taking concurrent enrollment at the local tech college (CTE) that costs something like $75 for the year. It’s a huge bargain. He takes the bus or drives there a few times a week to take computer programming classes. There’s also a program where he can take courses in high school that count for college credit. Check with your school counselor to see if you have this. If you’re local and plan to go to Weber State University, I learned you can take math, English and social studies courses at Bonneville High that will count for credit towards a degree there.

He doesn’t have a job during school. Instead, I want him to focus on these opportunities which will give him work experience and an education. Why work for minimum wage or less now when we can focus on education that will help him get a better job in the future?

He did take an AP class but didn’t pass the test so I think that’s an unnecessary risk because he could’ve taken another class to get more college credit. If you don’t pass the test you don’t really benefit from the extra work. If I’d known how few pass the AP European History exam I wouldn’t have had him sign up. I passed it and figured he would. Ask the teacher what their pass/fail rate is to get an idea of if it’s worth it to you. Note: AP credit works differently in each college.

There is some sort of CTE scholarship if he plans to major in a tech field. His CTE teacher should know about it.

Tip #2: Pay for Grades

This may be controversial but we paid Bjorn for good grades. To me that’s another way to save on college while in high school. The money spent will more than make up for it if he gets scholarships because of his grades. It’s motivated him to give extra effort. This didn’t happen overnight, it was a process. When he was younger and we struggled with him turning assignments in on time money didn’t motivate or change him at all. Getting a driver’s license and wanting to do things with friends was the biggest motivator to earn more. Now he really looks forward to that payment at the end of each semester.

Scholarships can be a one-time check. Others can be renewed each semester or school year. They cover different expenses. I found this college application worksheet to help me stay organized on what scholarships we apply for and what they cover.

Tip #3: Ask your School Counselor

Honestly, there are scholarships everywhere. Your high school guidance office should have a huge collection of them for local and state ones to apply to. Some may even be specific to your school (we had some for students who worked as custodians at the school). Then there are all the big national ones, but they are harder to get. You can also check with the high school’s librarian to help your kids research scholarships.

You can check with both your kid’s high school counselor or at the college(s) they want to attend. His university probably offers a variety of scholarships, so it may pay to talk to a counselor there if his high school counselor doesn’t already know about them.

My friend who teaches at Bjorn’s school disagreed. She said this: “Stay away from online things; most are scams and are hard to distinguish between real ones. Buy a scholarship book from Amazon. Those are legit. Counselors can’t do much.”

She said this one is good: (affiliate link)

The Ultimate Scholarship Book 2018: Billions of Dollars in Scholarships,…

Yes, this is the one. If you are willing to spend the time, you can make a lot of scholarship money. Thousands.

Tip #3: Check with your Employer or your Kid’s Employer for Scholarships

This tip came to me after getting an email from Lagoon where my son works. They have an employee scholarship that Bjorn can apply for his senior year. I didn’t think of checking to see if my employer offers one. Wait, I work for myself! If you work for someone else, ask! One friend said she got a list of obscure scholarships and got $1500 for writing an essay. I also got a scholarship from my dad’s employer.

I got scholarships through my employer – Shopko. $1000. I also won one through the local arts center in town (for an art scholarship… like $500).

Tip #4: Look Around for Special Interest Groups You Might Fall Into

If you have diabetes, raised by a single parent, a veteran, or just have special interests, talents or challenges? There are scholarships for that! Paula said: My husband said the best thing to do is visit the high school counseling center and get a list of every single scholarship available. Apply for everything you MIGHT qualify for. There are so many smaller scholarships that go unawarded because people don’t apply. Josh said he graduated high school with one large scholarship and about 15 $500-$1500 ones. Those all add up!!

Brandon said: Get a doctor’s note that he has every ailment known to man. Join every religion on the planet.
Having challenges or tragedies are now in your favor. They can be used to write a killer scholarship essay about how you overcame them. Write your essays to talk about how he has persevered despite everything in his life being full on suck all the time. Dead parents, dead pets, dead girlfriend, loss of a limb. More tragic the better.

Think out of the box. I am talking about any affiliation you or anyone in your family have.
My son was given a $20,000.00 scholarship because my dad’s great uncle was in WWI and honorably discharged. My other son received the same amount of money from Kraft Foods where my husband works.

Here are some scholarships available for special groups of students:
Students with allergies

Students who do duck calling

National Potato Council :: Scholarship Program

Compare yourself to a flavor of ice cream and other weird scholarships

There was a mattress scholarship I found but they don’t seem sure they’ll continue it.

Academic scholarships through the planned for university are tied to GPA and ACT/SAT scores but every school also has private scholarships set up by individuals, families and corporations. Some are small, some large. Some department dependent, some life circumstance, etc. really it is what is important to the people who set it up; like maybe in honor of a loved one who died, or because they are grateful for help they received so they pass it on….check on the website of the planned for university. At the university I teach at they are called foundation scholarships (we have a university foundation that manages all donations that pass through the school).

Tip #5: Get CLEP College Credit

Does the school he will attend accept CLEP credit? Between CLEP and AP credits and a variety of scholarships, I finished my BA in three years and never paid for tuition or books. That was 20+ years ago at a small school (SUU), but there are always opportunities out there for motivated students. https://clep.collegeboard.org/

CLEP offers 33 exams covering material generally taught in the first two years of college. CLEP is an awesome way to get a lot of college credit! Not all colleges accept it though so check that out too. BYU-I accepts some. BYU doesn’t accept any at all. I clepped out of all my physical science classes at Weber.

Tip #6: Get High SAT and ACT Test Scores

Do SAT and ACT prep and take those as many times as necessary to get a near perfect score...

Take the PSAT or ACT class in high school if possible. Class credit while you study with a group. Look for as many places nearby you to take it over and over. 

For the regular scholarships through colleges and universities, most want you to apply their second semester of senior year, so January-ish. Most are tied specifically to SAT or ACT score and GPA. Have him take the ACT test multiple times. Katlyn only took it twice though I wanted her to take it more times. She was satisfied with a 30 on her ACT, which gave her a full ride with Weber State including her GPA. Free college is awesome. I’m going to strongly suggest that Caleb (who doesn’t test as well as Katlyn) take the ACT more than that. We’ll see how round 2 on the college front goes for us coming up soon!

Mathew Lesko’s site is worth getting a subscription to for a month or two to find scholarships. I’ve heard great things about this guy. Here’s his resource for scholarship information on how to save on college, get scholarships and more.

299 Ways To Use Internet To Keep Cash Coming In (Custom Report Allow 14 days For Email Delivery)

Warning: this guy is zany! I actually saw him at a affiliate marketing conference years ago. He was dressed in his question suit coat and really stood out. Now I wish I’d talked to him!

This is older but still good (this is also a YouTube video):

18 Sources For Free Money For College (Grants) For Any Age, Income or Grade Point Average

Tip #7: Use a Scholarship App

MyScholly helps you find scholarships to apply for. The difference here is that they have people actually review scholarships to weed out the scams or ones that require that you spend money to apply for. It does cost $2.99 per month but I’ve heard good things about it.


In addition there is ScholarshipOwl, FastWeb, Zinch and Scholarships.com. I don’t have any experience with them but they are basically databases that you put in your information and criteria and they match you with scholarships.

Tip #8: Look for State Specific Scholarships

Check your state to see if they offer scholarships to people who live in and attend a college in their state. Utah Futures has a great database of https://utahfutures.org/scholarships/search scholarships.

Utah also has the Regents’ scholarship that you can apply for each year. There’s a lot of hoop-jumping, but he can also apply for it every year. Many college freshman forget to apply for the money for their next year.

Students who score well on the PSAT/NMSQT (National Merit Scholarships) will be deluged with legitimate scholarship offers from dozens of schools. http://www.nationalmerit.org

Tip #9: Ask for a Tuition Lock

I’d never heard of or thought of this but one of my Facebook friends said you can ask for a tuition lock:
Ask schools if they lock in tuition for 4 years. This is very important. If you receive a scholarship for 3/4 The first year sounds amazing. By the end of 4 years it might be a 1/4 with tuition cost for the last year.

Tip #10: Check your Insurance Company!

This comes from the Get Rich Slowly blog: a scholarship from an insurance company. One of Aziza’s scholarships was an $8,000 award ($2,000 per year) from Foresters Life Insurance Company. She obtained this scholarship via a family affiliation: Aziza’s grandmother doesn’t work at Foresters, but she is policyholder. Turns out Foresters has a great scholarship program that’s open not only to customers, but also to their spouses, children and grandkids.

College Scholarship FAQ

When do you start applying for scholarships?

There are scholarships given out starting at ninth-grade or even in kindergarten. Obviously more the closer you get to your senior year. The ones that come directly from the college typically are, but there are community and national ones from businesses that start earlier.
Also note that you can get a scholarship AFTER you’re in college or for grad school too!

My youngest became a Grad-assistant for 2 years which allowed him to earn his Master’s Degree free and clear while gaining experience.

Most scholarships are tax free but you need to check with each one to get the terms. Note this in your scholarship planner but it’s good news that most of them aren’t taxable – which saves you even more money! Being married to a financial planner I know to start saving early. In Utah they have a savings plan that is tax free and we have one for each of our kids. We encourage our parents to contribute to the kid’s college funds over giving them things or if they choose to.

How can I connect with other parents who have college age students? 

Check out this Facebook group for moms of college students where parents share their tips. Ask your friends for any scholarships they’re aware of through their employer or drawing from their experience as parents. They give super practical advice as you can see!

You can also search Facebook for posts about scholarships.

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