When I first started teaching students at UCLA how to search effectively for scholarships online, I strongly encouraged students to sign up for Unigo, a profile-based scholarship database. Together, students and I would sit down and discuss strategies for filling out profiles as comprehensively as possible. All too frequently I found myself reminding students to take their time exploring the various categories, keywords, interests, communities, and future goals listed on the database.
Why students love scholarship databases
Students love the idea of a customized database. By allowing users to fill out an individual profile, Unigo promises to match students with relevant scholarships, thereby answering the most popular question among scholarship seekers: “Where can I find scholarships that are perfect for me?” But most people rush through the process of building a profile so they can get to the list of scholarships as soon as possible. In doing so, users miss out on the promised value of databases like Unigo, which collects words from the user’s profile to generate keyword searches that produce a relevant list of opportunities. If you rush through creating your profile, you’re missing out on the only thing that makes a database more effective than a Google search. So it’s important to develop your own search terms before you open one of these accounts.
Why these databases aren’t enough
Towards the end of my four years working as a counselor at the UCLA Scholarship Resource Center, I decided that scholarship databases should not serve as the central source of opportunities for those who seek scholarships. Ultimately, I noticed that students who relied too heavily on apps and databases built unfocussed and relatively passive approaches to the process of finding, applying for, and winning scholarships. The most important attributes of successful scholarship seekers included persistence, creativity, consistency, and a sense of personal control over their processes.
If you are not proactive in managing your engagement with the tools offered by databases, you will add unnecessary clutter to your email inbox and daily cell phone push notifications, and lose a sense of ownership over the process. Many of my students signed up for databases, quickly got sick of all the emails, and quit. To make sure this doesn’t happen to you, put most of your energy into developing a personal strategy and treat databases as supplementary tools that can add new perspectives to your regular scholarship searches.
How to make the most of your scholarship database search
Here are some suggestions for you to build a strategic approach to using scholarship databases.
- Select only one database to work with at first.
Consider functionality and transparency over all else.(Video) How to Find Scholarships | UNIGO & RAISEME | 5 Tips to Get that MONEY
There are many scholarship databases on the internet and they all have different goals, organizational tactics, and levels accuracy. If you’re just getting started, I suggest that you work with Unigo which organizes opportunities by deadline or Sallie Mae which specializes in scholarships for graduate school. The clear business strategy for both of these companies is to host their own scholarships, provide lists of other opportunities, and connect students with unsubsidized or private student loans.
To attract students who might eventually need private loans, these companies have created accurate and useful content regarding financial planning for college, scholarships, and financial resources.
- Make sure you fill out the profile as comprehensively as possible.
Spend at least one hour making your profile, and make sure that you read through all of the possible categories and options.
I suggest that you spend time brainstorming about yourself and your “key search terms” before you open an account with any of the available scholarship databases. Then you’ll be prepared to assess the many categories and options that you will have to sort through in order to set up a useful profile.
- Thoughtfully control settings related to how the database communicates with you.
You only need one type of notification from the database. To make sure that you devote focused time to the effort of analyzing opportunities on a weekly basis, I suggest that you adjust your settings to receive bundled notifications in a weekly email from the database. If you choose email, make sure that you use filters and labels to direct messages away from your inbox and directly into a “Funding” folder.
I’ve noticed that students who elect to receive text messages, push notifications, or inbox emails from scholarship databases on a daily basis usually forget to follow-up with each new opportunity. Then they have trouble figuring out which notifications have and have not been considered. Direct all automated notifications to one organized place so that when you sit down for your weekly scholarship session, you’ll know exactly where to find related information.
- Strategically analyze the opportunities that are available to you before you engage with them.
Whenever you discover an opportunity that is interesting to you, track down a link or website that allows you to view the original source, which should include up-to-date, and accurate information. This step will most likely require you to leave the database where you initially found out about the opportunity.(Video) How I Got $500,000 in College Scholarships (WHAT NO ONE TELLS YOU) national merit/applying early/ECs
There are plenty of opportunities that are characterized as raffles, sweepstakes, or participation in networks through the building of profiles. Here are a couple of reasons not to apply to these types of opportunities merely because they appear to have the easiest application processes:
• The “easier” it is to apply to a scholarship, the harder it is to win. This is because far more applicants will do what is easy before they will put the intellectual work in to write a competitive application essay. With opportunities like these, your chances of winning are actually pretty slim.
• If there is no required essay or clear community-based component to the competition, it is unlikely that a human being will actually review and evaluate your materials. You want your application to be read by a real human audience, not an automated one. Most of the opportunities that include “giveaways” are in the business of collecting data, so chances are that the “application” or “profile” that you fill out is part of a profit-minded strategy to collect information specific to your age demographic.
• While these opportunities are not necessarily “scams,” they are not scholarships that are awarded based on you, your accomplishments, communities, or goals. So, the content that you produce for them won’t be useful to you in other contexts. Ideally, any written content that you produce for a scholarship opportunity will be relevant to more than one application. Since your chance of actually getting a scholarship is low, and the likelihood of your being able to reuse the content is next to nil, the chances that you are wasting your time are high.
- Only apply to opportunities that require you to write a persuasive essay of some kind.
The persuasive written pieces that you compose for scholarship opportunities should either be related to a topic you truly care about, or require a detailed story about you, your accomplishments, communities, and future goals. If you stick with this rule when it comes to your writing efforts, then you can be more strategic about using your time.
Let’s say that you decide to write an essay about a topic that you don’t really care about, just because you found a related essay contest. In this case, you are probably competing with someone who truly does care about the topic, and chances are that person will write a stronger essay.
Furthermore, if you write about a topic that you do care about, you will more easily identify multiple organizations or communities that are also invested in this topic. Ideally, you will find ways to submit your topic or community-based writing to more than one competition. Finally, if you write an essay about yourself, your accomplishments, communities, and goals then you are building content that you will be able to use and adapt over-and-over again. Most scholarship organizations want to know about you, so the more practice that you get writing about yourself, the stronger your story will become.(Video) 5 Best Scholarship Websites for College in 2023-2024
- Spend additional time assessing opportunities that require you to pay a fee to join an organization before becoming eligible to apply for a related scholarship.
There are a lot of organizations, databases, and opportunities that require applicants to pay dues or make a payment in order to become eligible for related scholarships. One example is the Golden Key Scholarship organization. I generally discourage students from applying to opportunities that require any kind of payment. There are so many free scholarship options that unless there is a real affinity between you and the organization requiring payment, it simply makes sense to start with the free scholarship opportunities first. However if a legitimate organization offers large scholarships to their members, and membership confers benefits that appeal to you even if you don’t get the award – you should consider joining.
Before you make any payments to join communities as part of your search for scholarships, ask yourself these three questions:
A. Does the organization provide profiles about previous scholarship recipients? If so, are these recipient profiles up to date? Can you find a list of last year’s winning students?
By analyzing the way that the organization celebrates its annual winners, you will get a sense of whether or not they stand behind their mission to support students both financially and professionally. If you can’t find any profiles of recent winners on the organization’s website, I recommend against joining.
B. What other benefits do you receive with membership? Would those benefits satisfy you even if you did not win an award?
If you would like to be part of the organization even without winning a scholarship, it’s probably worth paying to join the community. Ideally, the organization can communicate the various activities, networks, and benefits that you gain by joining. If it can’t, do not join.
C. Does the mission of the scholarship-providing organization match up with something specific to you, your accomplishments, communities, or goals?
It should be relatively easy for you to find the mission statement and history of any organization that offers scholarships to its members. If you can’t find out which person or company started the scholarship program and why, then do not join. Furthermore, even though an organization may not be able to generate community activities, events, or networks, if its clearly stated mission includes specific research interests, or community goals that are aligned with yours, it may still be a good idea to join and apply.
In these cases, carefully weigh the specificity of the mission statement against the cost of joining. If the stated mission of the organization truly aligns with your career and personal goals in unique ways, then making it to a finalist round or winning a scholarship from the organization might grant you entry into a prestigious community.
Bottom line: Is Unigo legit?
Overall, scholarship databases are a useful tool to assist you in searching for opportunities. If you are proactive and use them to supplement your overarching search strategy, then you will familiarize yourself with what’s out there. Rather than depend on these databases to do all of the work for you, use them every once in a while to expand your ongoing search for institutions, individuals, and organizations that support various aspects of you, your accomplishments, communities, and future goals.
Explore Accepted’s Scholarship Services and work one-on-one with an expert advisor who will help you get organized, apply for scholarships or admission, and get the results you need to make your academic or professional dreams a reality!
By Rebecca Lippman, Accepted consultant. Prior to working at Accepted Rebecca worked as a Student Affairs Advisor at the UCLA Scholarship Resource Center. She has taught undergraduate and graduate students how to write large grant applications for grants awarded by organizations such as Fulbright Student Program, Gates Cambridge Scholarship, Knight-Hennessy Scholars, Ford Foundation, Paul & Daisy Soros Fellowship for New Americans, and the National Science Foundation. Rebecca has a masters degree from University of Cambridge, and is currently pursuing a PhD in Comparative Literature at UCLA. Want Rebecca to help you get Accepted? Click here to get in touch!
• The Personal Statement That Got Me a Large Scholarship to Cambridge
• 7 Habits of Highly Effective Scholarship Seekers
• Writing a Confident and Thematically Driven Personal Statement for Fulbright
Sites like MEFA Pathway, Student Scholarship Search, and Unigo are legitimate websites that keep a large database of available scholarships.Has anyone won a scholarship from Unigo? ›
Since 2007, we've awarded over $765,000 in scholarships to students ages 13 and up throughout the United States.Are Unigo reviews reliable? ›
According to USA Today, “millions of students use Unigo to assist in their college search.” Education publisher McGraw-Hill wrote “Unigo is the largest and most authoritative library of college reviews on the internet.”How do I know if I won a Unigo scholarship? ›
Scholarship winners are contacted about 90 days after the deadline date — we contact winners by phone/text or email. Winners are also published online about 90 days after the deadline. You can find the winners of Unigo's scholarships in our winners circle.How many people apply for Unigo scholarships? ›
We had over 250 applicants this year and we are so grateful for everyone's interest in applying. Before we reveal our winner, we want to give a big shout out to all of our applicants. It was great to learn about each and every one of you through your essays. Thank you to everyone who applied!What is the top ten scholarship for Unigo? ›
Description: The Top Ten List Scholarship is open to US students who are 14 years of age and older and who are currently enrolled (or enroll no later than fall of 2027) in an accredited postsecondary institution of higher education. One winner will receive a $1,500 scholarship.
If you apply to more scholarships, you will increase your chances of winning a scholarship. Often students dislike smaller scholarships and essay competitions. But these scholarships are less competitive, so they are easier to win. Small scholarships do add up and may make it easier to win bigger awards.Is Unigo trustworthy reddit? ›
I signed up for UNIGO on my clean slate email and a day later I was ridden with spam. I used the website for a few minutes, only realizing that they aggregated most of their data from other websites and do nothing to actually create a meaningful search for scholarships.Are scholarships without essays legit? ›
This is not true. In fact, there are many great scholarships that don't require an essay at all. These no essay scholarships can range from quick scholarships that you can apply to in a few minutes to other scholarships that are focused on students with a specific talent.How to avoid fake scholarships? ›
- Charging a fee. Most scholarship scams charge some kind of fee. ...
- Requesting unusual information. ...
- Asking for your bank account number. ...
- Telling you that you won a scholarship, but you never applied. ...
- Claiming to be a foundation or tax-exempt charity. ...
- Sends you a scholarship check.
Is Unigo a legit website? It is a legal website. Beyond only scholarships, Unigo has lots to give, including careers, internships, college profiles and grades, blogs and a textbook market. The platform provides both profile-based matching and easy-to-browse sections when it comes to scholarships.How rare is it to win a scholarship? ›
Full-ride scholarships are awarded to only about 0.1% of students (Wignall, 2021). Nearly just as rare are full-tuition scholarships, which are awarded to only 1.5% of students (ThinkImpact, 2021). A regular high school student may have the qualifications for as many as 50 to 100 scholarships (Dickler, 2021).What are the chances of actually getting a scholarship? ›
Odds of Winning a Scholarship
Only about 1 in 8 college students wins a scholarship, and the average amount used to pay for college is about $4,200 a year. Very few students win $25,000 or more in scholarships each year (only about 0.1%). Among the students who win scholarships, 97% win $2,500 or less.
Over 33% of private scholarships are provided to STEM students. The chances of a white student getting a scholarship are 14.2%, while the odds for minority students are 11.2%. What is this? The odds of a Black student winning a scholarship is 11.4%, 9.1% for Hispanic students, and 10.5% for Asian students.Are full scholarships rare? ›
The downside is that not many student-athletes actually get full ride scholarships. They are pretty rare, and not all schools offer this type of financial award. So, what can you do to increase your odds? Check out our tips below so you can create a plan that will maximize your chances.Is it possible to apply for too many scholarships? ›
There is no limit to the number of scholarships you can apply for, and you actually should apply to many. Scholarship awards can vary greatly, so you might apply for a few scholarships with huge awards, and you might also apply for some that are only worth a few hundred dollars.What is the hardest type of scholarship to get? ›
If you're a star athlete, you may qualify for an athletic scholarship with a particular school. An athletic scholarship may cover some or all of your tuition costs, depending on the school. Athletic scholarships are some of the hardest to receive.
- Rhodes Scholarship.
- Fullbright Scholarship.
- Gates Cambridge Scholarship.
- Princeton Scholarship.
- Mitchell Scholarship.
- Churchill Scholarship.
- Marshall Scholarship.
- Jardine Scholarship.
The main challenges of searching for scholarships are finding opportunities you are eligible for, as mentioned, and taking the time to search for scholarships. Though most students have a busy schedule, it can really pay off in the end if students can find the time to apply for a few scholarships.How do you impress scholarship judges? ›
Service and volunteer work are outstanding qualities applicants should highlight when applying for a scholarship. Your selflessness is a value the committee will appreciate. Creativity reflects your ability to captative. Remember, judges are reviewing many applications.
Focus on something unique and interesting about yourself—such as an accomplishment, hobby, talent, interest, or experience—that makes you stand out from other applicants.What are scholarship judges looking for? ›
Down in the nitty gritty, judges will compare GPAs, test scores, experiences, essays, in order to see which candidate is most suited for their scholarship award. After this step, they'll pick their winner—or winners, depending—and send out notifications to the lucky and deserving student.Do people actually get scholarships from niche? ›
Niche is 100 percent legit and people really do win each month. While you definitely should be on the lookout for scholarship fraud (better safe than sorry), rest assured that Niche scholarships are the real deal.Are scholarship emails real? ›
You always have to apply for scholarships in order to receive them. If you receive an e-mail that says you have won a scholarship from an organization that you have never heard of, let alone applied to, ignore it. Such e-mails could easily be an internet phishing scam or some other type of ruse.Are Nitro scholarships real? ›
1. Nitro College Scholarship — $2,000. The $2,000 Nitro College Scholarship is an opportunity for anyone enrolled in an accredited college or university for the upcoming school year.What should you avoid in a scholarship essay? ›
Don't use words like “finally”, “in sum” or “in conclusion”. Don't repeat or sum up in any way. Don't start too many sentences with the word “I”. Don't tell the reader explicitly, “I am a unique and interesting person.” Instead, let the reader glean this from your unique and interesting essay.Do admissions officers read scholarship essays? ›
Usually one to two admissions officers read an essay. Some colleges do not look at essays. Some colleges will choose only to look at your GPA, Course Rigor and SAT/ACT scores. If you GPA and Test Scores are high enough, they may not feel that and essay is necessary.What happens if you get a scholarship and don't use it? ›
However, these funds must be used correctly. Failing to use scholarship funds for education-related expenses can result in a scholarship provider revoking your award, or forcing you to pay back what you spent. In extreme circumstances, providers could take legal action.What are two things you should never do when applying for a scholarship? ›
- What Not To Do When Applying for. Scholarships. ...
- Don't Go Over The Word Count. ...
- Don't Forget About Grammar and Spelling. ...
- Don't Write An Insincere Essay. ...
- Don't Just List Your Accomplishments. ...
- Don't Try To Force Another Essay to Fit. ...
- Don't Be Too Negative. ...
- Don't Wait Until The Last Minute.
The diversity of reasoning that goes into giving money away creates a confusing network of opportunities for students to sift through on the internet. Furthermore, the many inconsistent algorithmic interpretations of language on internet search engines and databases make this process even harder.
- Create an accomplishments resume. ...
- Don't miss deadlines. ...
- Complete the scholarship matching profile thoroughly. ...
- Apply to as many scholarships as possible. ...
- Look for scholarship listing books. ...
- Find local scholarships on bulletin boards. ...
- Tap into family connections.
If an application asks for money, walk away. Don't give out bank or credit card information. Any financial data you provide should come from IRS or FAFSA data. Legitimate providers do not ask for bank information.When should you start worrying about scholarships? ›
You're likely to find that most scholarship deadlines will be from September through May. However, you can take advantage of the extra time on your hands during the summer to begin researching the possibilities. You could even start working on your essays during the summer, provided the topics are already posted.Is Unigo free to use? ›
Sign-up for a free Unigo account. Doing so gives you access our scholarship match tool. When you use our personalization tool you answer a handful of questions and we narrow down millions of awards to those that meet your eligibility criteria.How much money is wasted in scholarships each year? ›
However, the act of leaving of financial aid money on the table is still happening! Similarly, the National Scholarship Providers Association reported that an estimated $100 million in scholarships go unused each year as well because of a lack of applicants, according to Forbes.What percent of students don't get scholarships? ›
However, only 7% of college students will receive a scholarship. The U.S. Department of Education awards an estimated $46 billion in scholarship money annually. The average scholarship for 2-year institutions is worth $6,010.How much does the average student win in scholarships? ›
The average institutional scholarship award is $6,335. About four in 10 scholarship recipients received funds from their state, with an average award of over $2,362.What is the average GPA to get a scholarship? ›
Minimum requirements range from around 2.0 on the lower end to 3.75 or higher for competitive academic scholarships. Generally speaking, a 3.0 GPA or higher will give you a decent shot at qualifying for a variety of scholarships.What percent of people get a full scholarship? ›
How hard is it to get a full ride scholarship? Less than 1 percent of students get full ride scholarships, showing just how difficult it is to earn one. However, with the right background, proper planning and by knowing where to look, your chances of landing a full ride scholarship can increase.How many students actually get scholarships? ›
According to calculations by Kantrowitz, around 1 in 8 college students has won a scholarship. The average award is around $4,200. Around 0.1% of undergraduate students received $25,000 or more in scholarships.
What are the three most common types of scholarships? Common types of scholarships for college are merit-based scholarships, need-based scholarships, and athletic scholarships.Where do most college scholarships come from? ›
Scholarships come from a variety of different sources, including clubs, organizations, charities, foundations, businesses, colleges, the government and individuals.What is the most famous scholarship? ›
The Rhodes Scholarship is the oldest graduate fellowship in the world, and probably the most famous.How much is a d1 scholarship worth? ›
Division I colleges may offer full athletic scholarships a maximum of tuition, fees, room and board, course related books, up to $250 in course required supplies, and transportation costs one time per academic year to and from the college by direct route.How do you get a full ride scholarship with a low GPA? ›
- Play the scholarship “lotto” ...
- Go for “no” or “low” GPA scholarships. ...
- Tap your parents' network. ...
- Pre-package your application materials. ...
- Use social media. ...
- Embrace failure.
The short answer is that you should apply to as many as you can, as early as you can. This means that you need to be looking early, and finding out when deadlines are. But remember, you don't want to make a career out of scholarship searching and application.Can you use two scholarships at once? ›
Absolutely! There is no reason why you cannot apply for many scholarships at one time. In fact, the more scholarships you can apply for, the more chances you have to line your pockets with free money! The most important thing you need is a strategy to help you apply for more than one scholarship at a time.How many people don t apply for scholarships? ›
Studies show that 1 in 5 students don't apply for scholarships or financial aid for several reasons ranging from myths leading them to believe scholarships must be paid back, to lack of information on how to apply.What are reliable sources for scholarships? ›
- Bold.org. Bold.org allows individuals and companies to create scholarship and grant opportunities. ...
- BrokeScholar. ...
- Chegg. ...
- College Board. ...
- Get Schooled. ...
- JLV College Counseling.
Some scholarship committees only consider applicants whose GPA meets a certain threshold. Minimum requirements range from around 2.0 on the lower end to 3.75 or higher for competitive academic scholarships. Generally speaking, a 3.0 GPA or higher will give you a decent shot at qualifying for a variety of scholarships.
Although a strong GPA helps increase your chances of getting a full-ride scholarship, you don't need a perfect 4.0 to be qualified. In fact, GPA requirements are most commonly set at a 3.0 average, with what's considered to be a "good GPA" typically being a score between 3.5 and 3.8.What is the 5 strong scholarship? ›
The mission of the 5 Strong Scholarship Foundation is to increase the retention and graduation rates at partnering Historically Black Colleges and Universities by assisting in the enrollment and success of academically promising student leaders until graduation.Why is there only 11.7 scholarships? ›
The 11.7 is in place because of calculations driven by Title IX. The NCAA put in other options to fund athletes in equivalency sports.Can average students win scholarships? ›
While many scholarships award outstanding academic, musical or athletic talent, there are ample scholarship opportunities for average students from every walk of life are available.What happens if you win too many scholarships? ›
What happens to leftover scholarship money. If you earned scholarships and grants that add up to more than your total cost of attendance, your school may send you a refund of the leftover scholarship money. Keep in mind, you may have to pay taxes on that amount.How often do people actually win scholarships? ›
Only about 1 in 8 college students wins a scholarship, and the average amount used to pay for college is about $4,200 a year. Very few students win $25,000 or more in scholarships each year (only about 0.1%). Among the students who win scholarships, 97% win $2,500 or less.