Scholarship databases are an attractive idea for most applicants – after all, who wouldn’t appreciate an easy way to find scholarships when searching can be so difficult and time-consuming? However, search databases, such as Unigo or Cappex, are only as effective as the person doing the searching. These databases work best when you have a clear understanding of your personal profile as a student and a person (your background, future goals, etc.). In this post, we offer some helpful information about what these databases are, how to use them effectively, and whether they should replace Googling in your search efforts.
What types of scholarship databases exist for scholarship searching?
There are plenty of scholarship databases, and they fall into two basic categories: general and population specific. General databases have information on scholarships for every type of student, from undergraduates to graduate students to all different majors and fields of study to all different identity categories and interests. Population-specific databases focus on one single population (such as graduate students or a particular field of study). They can also include databases found on university websites that list opportunities for a particular school.
Do some searching on the webpages for the programs to which you are applying. Sometimes, universities will have pages with funding-search resources, such as databases or scholarship listings, often with both internal resources just for that school and external resources that could be used to fund any university’s program.
For both types of databases, you will typically need to register with some profile information before you can access the database. Provide the information they ask for as thoroughly as you can because this is how the database creates your personalized list of scholarship opportunities. Often, there is also a search function within the database. I strongly recommend searching within the database rather than relying solely on the list it provides you.
A Word of Caution
Never pay to use a database, and be careful about what personal information you provide. You might wish to create a separate email account just for signing up for databases to prevent excessive spamming!
What are some examples of scholarship databases?
Here are some popular databases for scholarship searching. Some of these are general, and some are population specific:
- Computer Science
- Hispanic Scholarship Fund
- Scholarships for Black and African American Students
- The Illinois Database of Grants and Fellowships for Graduate Students
- Nationally Coveted College Scholarships, Graduate Fellowships, and Postdoctoral Research Awards Programs
How can you be more effective in your database searching?
Evaluate your profile.
The key to being more effective in your database searching is understanding your profile. What field of study are you pursuing? What is your nationality? What is your ethnic background? What communities do you belong to? What are your future goals? Answering these questions can help you develop phrases that will be useful for both database searches and in regular internet searching.
The question of what communities you belong to is very important for scholarship searching. This can include your ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation, race, religious background, local community of origin, tribe, and other key factors. All of these can lead to scholarship opportunities, especially if you are underrepresented in your field of study.
The biggest drawback to databases is that there can be a lot of smaller, contest-like listings alongside genuine, more traditional scholarship opportunities. They aren’t always a scam, but they aren’t necessarily worth your time, either. The keys to identifying the legitimacy of a scholarship opportunity are brand name recognition and the way the scholarship application is crafted. You always want to do a little research to ensure that a scholarship you’re considering is being offered by a legitimate company or organization. Check the corresponding website and see whether the scholarship is listed, whether it has been offered annually, and whether any past winners are posted. Once the organization’s legitimacy has been determined, be sure to read the application carefully. If they don’t ask for much (or any) information, and especially if they don’t ask for a personal statement, the scholarship is likely more of a contest, which means your chances of winning are very low (because anyone can enter easily). I recommend applying only for scholarships that require at LEAST one essay (and ideally a resume and letter of recommendation, too).
Are you better off just Googling?
Ultimately, the answer is this: it depends. Population-specific databases, databases from well-known sources (such as Sallie Mae), and especially databases or listings from university webpages can be excellent resources for identifying opportunities. However, if you rely on databases without putting in the work to determine your personal profile, you might get just as many useless listings in a database as you would by Googling. The key to searching for scholarships – databases or not – is narrowing your search results by using specific search phrases that pertain to your unique identity and experiences. And above all, you will need to take time and be thorough to find the right scholarships for your needs.
Vanessa Febo has ten years of experience teaching academic and professional writing at UCLA, with a special certification in teaching writing techniques. She has drawn on this expertise to guide clients to placements at top institutions, including Harvard, Stanford, and USC. Before joining Accepted, Vanessa coached UCLA students through the application process for graduate programs, major grants, fellowships, and scholarships, including the Fulbright, Stanford Knight-Hennessey, and the Ford Foundation Fellowship. Additionally, Vanessa has extensive experience successfully guiding clients through applications for a diverse range of programs, including those in business, humanities, social sciences, and STEM fields. Want Vanessa to help you get accepted? Click here to get in touch!