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A VSAC guide to searching for college scholarships

Scholarships—like grants are financial aid that you don’t need to pay back. They’re offered by different groups, organizations, and even individuals. And they’re offered for all kinds of achievements,  to all kinds of students. Scholarships are usually competitive, with eligible applicants competing for a limited number of awards. But remember, you’re only competing against people who actually apply. 

View our online Managing College Costs event to learn about financial aid for college or career training after high school.

Where to Find College and Career Training Scholarships 

Since scholarships are competitive and funds are limited, you should start searching 9 to 12 months before your starting academic year. It’s always a good idea to start locally before you look into national scholarships. With national scholarships, you may be competing with hundreds or thousands of students. Locally, you’re competing against a smaller group.

5 Ways to Find Scholarships

1. Locally, reach out to:

  • town, city, county, and state organizations
  • nonprofit organizations
  • local banks
  • Memorial Funds
  • professional organizations

You can also find local college scholarship information by talking to your:  

  • high school guidance counselor
  • local librarian
  • local business owners
  • club representatives
  • town officials

Also, ask your parents about any organizations, clubs, or financial institutions they belong to that may offer scholarships. Their current employer may also offer education scholarships.

2. VSAC-assisted scholarships are a great resource for Vermonters looking for college and career training funds. VSAC administers more than 150 scholarships for Vermont students through our scholarships booklet.

Learn & apply for vsac assisted scholarships

3. Your college or university: Look through the website of the college or career-training program you’re interested in. Ask yourself:

  • Which scholarships are offered?
  • Which ones do I qualify for now?
  • Which scholarships can I access once I’m a student? 

You can also call the admissions office to ask about any new scholarships that aren’t on the site. 

4. Veteran and military organizations: Both the United States federal government and nonprofit organizations offer money for college and career training for:

  • Veterans
  • future military personnel
  • active duty personnel, or
  • family members of veterans or active duty personnel. 

5. Websites also offer access to scholarship databases. Try these resources: 

  • Bigfuture® by The College Board: Find scholarships, other financial aid, and internships—from more than 2,200 programs, totaling nearly $6 billion.
  • Fastweb®: Find scholarships that match your strengths, interests, and skills—from more than 1.5 million scholarships, totaling $3.4 billion.
  • Cappex®: Fill out a free profile to discover which scholarships match you best.
  • NEFCU nursing and science scholarships: Learn about nursing and STEM (science, technology, engineering & math) scholarships for members of the New England Federal Credit Union.

VSAC, in partnership with other Vermont agencies, also offers grants and interest-free forgivable loans to help eligible students afford degrees or career training to pursue a career they want.

How to Search for Scholarships

VSAC-Assisted Vermont Scholarships

Access VSAC-assisted scholarships for Vermont residents.

Scholarships can affect your financial aid

Before applying for scholarships, check with the financial aid office of each college you’re considering. Find out how receiving a scholarship might affect your overall financial aid.

First, consider the potential benefits of each scholarship:

  • Will it reduce “unmet” or “remaining” costs? Sometimes there’s a gap between your family’s need (as determined by the financial aid process) and the amount you have been awarded in student aid. Scholarships can help close this gap.
  • Will it reduce the need to borrow student loans? Student loans are repaid with interest which increases the full cost of your education. VSAC always recommends students and families only borrow what they need. Looking for scholarships first, and double-checking scholarship opportunities before you choose a student loan, is a great way to minimize college and career training costs. 
  • Will it reduce work-study? The federal government and colleges provide funding for work-study employment. Most colleges recommend that students work no more than 10 hours a week to avoid interfering with studies. Scholarships can be helpful in reducing your need to work. 

Then, consider the potential drawbacks:

  • Will it reduce grants? Grants and scholarships are both usually free student aid. But if scholarships make you eligible for less grant money, you are simply replacing one form of “gift aid” for another—and it may not be worth the effort.
  • Will it reduce scholarships from the college or another source? Again, if you are simply replacing one form of student gift aid with another, it may not be worth your time.

VSAC-Assisted Scholarships

Access VSAC-assisted scholarships for Vermont residents.

Beware of scholarship scams

Be careful when using scholarship search companies! While some brands are legitimate, others aren’t. A tip-off could be if they “guarantee” or “promise” scholarships or grants. No reputable scholarship company would make those claims.

Beware of these scholarship scam statements:

“This scholarship is guaranteed or your money back.”

“You can’t get this information anywhere else.”

“We’ll need your credit card or bank account number to hold this scholarship.”

“We’ll do all the work for you!”

“There’s a fee to apply for this scholarship.”

“You’ve been selected by a national foundation to receive a scholarship.”

“You’re a finalist …” (in a contest you never entered)

For more information on scholarship scams, visit the FTC’s scholarship scams site or call toll-free 1-877-FTC-HELP (382-4357).

VSAC-Assisted Scholarships

Access VSAC-assisted scholarships for Vermont residents.

7 Tips for scholarship success

These 7 tips can help you be more successful in your search for education scholarships:

  1. Follow through—and don’t be scared off by the competition. If a scholarship is based on academic achievement (grades, awards), you’re only competing with students applying for that specific scholarship. You may be 1 of just a few who follow through with the whole process. Complete the full assignment.
  2. Don’t let financial need requirements keep you from applying. If a scholarship is based on finances, you’ll only be compared to other applicants within that scholarship pool.
  3. Make sure each scholarship is worth the effort. Consider the size of the scholarship pool when applying. That’s why we suggest starting locally. Always make sure the amount of work needed to apply aligns with how much competition you’re facing, along with the scholarship prize.
  4. Search thoroughly. You never know where you might find scholarships that are right for you. Use all the resources we mentioned above, but also find some of your own. 
  5. Read and follow all instructions. Following directions tells the scholarship committee you’re qualified and ready for the upcoming responsibilities.
  6. Submit materials on time. Does the scholarship application have to be postmarked or received by a specific date? Every scholarship is different, so make sure you read all the information and give yourself plenty of preparation and time to submit!
  7. Double-check the receipt of your application. Call or email the organizations or log on to the scholarship organization’s online portal (if available), to make sure your application was received. Be specific when asking what documents have been received. 

VSAC-Assisted Scholarships

Access VSAC-assisted scholarships for Vermont residents.