Most students who are looking for scholarships start with a simple question: “Where can I find a list of scholarships that are perfect for me?” During my time at the UCLA Scholarship Resource Center, I used to swivel around in my chair and say, “This whole office is a list. So is the internet.”
Though many balk at the task of sorting through potential opportunities, this task is absolutely essential. Anyone searching for scholarships must develop individualized search strategies based on their own self-knowledge. Below you’ll learn how to accomplish this efficiently.
How to generate a list of terms that will facilitate effective personal searches
Set aside a chunk of time to answer questions about the following aspects of your background, short- and long-term goals, and personal interests.
Answers to these questions become your search queries on the internet. Use each term to navigate institutional or university websites, find privately endowed community funds, and identify interesting essay contests.
Once you have a list of 25+ terms that describe various aspects of who you are, spend one hour experimenting online with each search term.
Here are some categories to think about that will help you generate search terms:
Graduate school goals
List the specific goals that you will achieve through your degree program. Questions you can ask yourself to hone your specific goals include:
- Will you conduct research or fieldwork?
- Do you plan to get hands-on work experience?
- In what kind of community, archive, or institution do you plan to carry out your research or conduct work?
- Who do you wish to serve through your work and research?
- Think through the progress of your degree – what are normal benchmarks for a person to hit along the way?
It is likely that you will be able to get funding to support your work towards achieving each of these benchmarks, but you must identify what those achievements are in order to search for related funding.
When you know which university you plan to attend, it is up to you to navigate university bureaucracies and find opportunities to apply for funds to support your degree objectives. You can start with your specific department, but there are hundreds of other centers, labs, institutes, student services, and academic communities that can support your goals.
Use the following three questions to build the search terms related to your individualized sense of community:
- What communities do you belong to?
Consider ethnicity, race, religion, immigration or citizenship status, medical conditions, gender, sexuality – identifying these elements of your sense of self will allow you to connect with a large number of communities.
- What communities do you care about?
Perhaps you don’t belong to a particular community, but you care a lot about one. Many people care about the animal kingdom or the environment. Some of your career goals might even be built around a community or entity that is outside of yourself. Or you may have special hobbies and interests that play a big role in your recreational life. Do any of your habits and routines make you part of a broader community?
- What communities care about you?
Do you know of any organizations that care specifically about aspects of your life and person? Can you think outside of yourself and your own interests and imagine which communities might be invested in you and your goals?
Rather than focus on the nuances of your sense of identity, imagine communities that care about your experiences. This exercise will expand how you think about the role that your identity plays in a world of shared experiences, and allow you to connect with the missions of many organizations.
Use this category to list as many future careers that you see your degree leading towards. It’s okay, in fact better, if you include more than one career trajectory here.
- Are these careers associated with professional organizations?
- What essential turning points, key experiences, or critical skills will you need in order to contribute to these communities?
- Do related national associations of organizations fund students to achieve career-based goals?
The likely answer is yes!
Interests & hobbies
I usually use this category to help clients find essay contests that are specific to personal interests and hobbies. Really feel free to go all out here; there are essay contests for people who love coffee and for people who love zombies. List all of your genuine interests and hobbies here please.
Rather than peruse the many essay contests that exist online, I’m encouraging you to make a list of the hobbies and interests that you’d most like to write an essay about. Then your search queries will look like this: “Essay contests about coffee…”
What countries, regions, states, and cities do you have a personal relationship with? List places that have more meaning to you than “I have traveled there,” but are also little broader than just “I am from there.”
When you start searching for organizations, the best place to start is where you’ve lived, where you went to high school, where you went to college, and where you are currently based. Ideally, you’ll start asking questions like: “What organizations in LA care about something I care about?”
Include all of the languages that you currently speak or are interested in actively learning over the next two years.
There are many federal grants and career-based associations who would like to support people who can use multilingual abilities to build careers that involve working with an incredibly diverse population of individuals. Just having a language other than English or studying a new language as part of your course of study may make you eligible for additional scholarships.
If someone gave you $15,000 for a community project, what would you put together? What are the components of a community organization or mission that you most care about?
Many organizations and private donors award funds to students based on project proposals. But these foundations usually have very specific mission statements. The best way for you to connect with an organization like this is to think about the kind of project you’d like to carry out in the first place, and then search for foundations that would care about that kind of project.
So if you’re faced with a daunting tuition bill from your dream school, don’t give up on your dreams. Roll up your sleeves, follow the suggestions above, and spend some time looking for a scholarship that’s also looking for you.
And don’t forget – we can help! Connect with your personal Accepted advisor today for guidance on finding, applying to, and winning the scholarship that will make your grad school dreams obtainable.Want Rebecca to help you get Accepted? Click here to get in touch!
• 5 Fatal Flaws to Avoid in Your Grad School Statement of Purpose, a free guide
• Awards! Grants! Scholarships! Oh My! a podcast episode
• What is a Scholarship? And Why Didn’t I Get One?