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Even the best student loans and other financial aid items don’t always provide enough to cover all the costs of college. Scholarships are a great way to bridge the gap, with no obligation to repay the money. Finding scholarships you qualify for can be difficult. But there are several great scholarship websites that can help you do it.
Keep in mind, however, that many colleges deduct private scholarships from the amount of gift aid they provide, reducing how much “free money” you can get from the school. That would effectively negate the work you did in seeking out and applying for private scholarships. Therefore, you should consider looking at schools that offer merit-based scholarships or provide generous packages to students with financial need.
Best Scholarship Websites of 2023
We’ve rounded up the best scholarship websites for students looking to save on the cost of college, with an emphasis on those that provide a wide breadth of opportunities. Most of the sites are free to use. Some offer basic features at no cost, with an option to pay for additional functionality.
Compare the Best Scholarship Websites
Our Experts for the Best Scholarship Websites
We consulted scholarship and financial experts to give their insights into finding the best scholarship websites — and when to avoid them altogether.
- Christopher Rim, founder and CEO at Command Education
- Jennifer Ledwith, owner at Scholar Ready
- Neeta Vallab, founder at MeritMore
- Ryan Wangman, loans reporter at Personal Finance Insider
Best Scholarship Websites Frequently Asked Questions
There isn’t a singular website that’s the best to apply for scholarships. Instead, consider scholarships.com, Fastweb, Bold.org, Peterson’s, College Board, Scholly, GoingMerry, Scholarship Owl, and ProFellow.
Do your due diligence when looking to apply for scholarships you find on aggregation websites. Confirm that the scholarship’s sponsor is legitimate by looking at reviews of the company, and check its Better Business Bureau grade, if available.
Most private scholarships won’t completely cover the cost of your education. You’re better off looking for merit scholarships from individual colleges that cover your costs completely or filling out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) to see if you’re eligible for a need-based full ride.
Generally speaking, you shouldn’t pay someone to search for scholarships for you, though there are exceptions to every rule. Many scholarship websites are free to use. They only “cost” the time you spend searching on them.
The timing on when you should start filling out applications for scholarships varies depending on the specific scholarship you’re applying for. Some scholarships are even available to high school students, so it’s never too early to start your search.
Our Experts’ Advice for Choosing the Best Scholarship Websites
What are the advantages of private scholarships versus scholarships or grants from schools?
“Honestly, there are very limited advantages to using private scholarships over grants directly from schools. Unlike private scholarships, most grants from schools do not require a separate application and are renewable for four years. Additionally, many colleges will deduct the value of a private scholarship from any award they give you. This is called ‘displacement.’ And because this practice is so prevalent, it often leaves students with no net financial benefit, despite the effort they invested in submitting an application.”
“Unlike scholarships from schools, private scholarships can be used at multiple universities. Furthermore, unlike grants from schools, private scholarships don’t have to follow federal or institutional financial aid methodology. Consequently, students can receive private scholarships without regard to other financial aid awards. Furthermore, some private scholarships send the money directly to the student, allowing greater flexibility in using the funds.”
Should you always consider scholarships before loans? Are there any scenarios you should pick a loan?
“No, you should never pick a loan over a scholarship! You always have to pay back loans. Students should bear in mind that they may have their scholarship rescinded if they don’t meet the terms and conditions. They should be absolutely sure to read the terms of their scholarship thoroughly to understand the possible consequences if they fail to meet the set conditions.”
“You’ll need to repay the money you borrow from any lender, so it’s never a good idea to choose a loan over a scholarship, which is money you don’t have to pay back. There aren’t any scenarios I can think of where it is better to pick a loan than a scholarship.
How do you know what scholarships you’re qualified for?
“Many websites will allow students to filter through their databases to find scholarships they are eligible for. Others ask students to create a profile and then match them based on demographic information. Once students find the scholarships on databases, they should be sure to cross check eligibility requirements on the sponsoring organization’s website.”
“Private scholarships will usually have a qualifications section in their description. Some colleges may publish a scholarship grid showing the GPA and test scores required for certain levels of eligibility. Not all merit scholarship information is published however.”
What’s the best way to track what scholarships you’ve applied for and are waiting to hear back from?
“Students should keep a spreadsheet to track their scholarship application status.”
“Like Jennifer mentioned, a spreadsheet is usually the best way to track application status. Make sure you note how far along you are in each process, as well as any awards you have received — both private and from the schools you’ve been accepted to.