How to Pay for College With the Help of Scholarships

Searching for college scholarships can be confusing. Here’s how to get the most out of your scholarship hunt.

In 2022, approximately 73% of families with undergraduate students took advantage of scholarships and grants, according to a Sallie Mae study. It’s easy to see why: The cost of college has increased by 180% over the past 40 years, making scholarships an indispensable component of families’ and individuals’ plans for financing their college education.

The scholarship search process isn’t simple, but diligent legwork and a bit of research can pay off tremendously. Consider these tips to find the college scholarships that are the best fit for you.

Getting Started

When searching for scholarships, start by contacting the financial aid office at the colleges you’re interested in attending for descriptions of the various scholarships they offer.

Next, research the wealth of free information available on the internet. Sallie Mae’s Scholarship Search enables you to sort through six million scholarships worth up to $30 billion, while the U.S. Department of Labor’s scholarship search tool allows you to browse nearly 9,000 scholarships. Both help you narrow results based on criteria like residency and personal interests.

Here are a few other places to gather valuable information:

  • Private organizations such as foundations and local businesses: Check your high school guidance counselor’s office, local career center, local newspapers and community foundations to find organizations that offer college scholarships.
  • Employers: Both your employer and your parents’ employers might offer scholarship programs.
  • State and federal government offices and websites: Many states provide college scholarships specifically for residents. Meanwhile, you can apply for federal aid by filling out a FAFSA application. Each year, over $120 billion are disbursed through the U.S. Department of Education for grants, loans and work-study funds for college.

Finding the Right Scholarship for You

Scholarships exist for a wide range of activities and interests, including blogging, web design, cosmetology and more. You might be surprised by how many different scholarships are available for students with niche interests, including dart players, e-sports competitors and evens fans of science fiction.

And scholarships aren’t just available for those entering college; about half of available scholarships are open to students already enrolled in college. Search for scholarships during your junior and senior years of high school as well as during each year of college.

While some scholarships are awarded based on financial need, others are merit-based, which means you earn them for meeting certain standards set by the scholarship provider. Those standards might be based on maintaining a certain GPA, or on a mix of academic achievements and a unique interest or talent, such as athletic ability. Scholarships are also available to students with certain backgrounds. For instance, government organizations like AMVETS and the American Legion offer scholarships for veterans and their families. Many scholarships are also available for minority students, first-generation college attendees and those from other historically underrepresented backgrounds.

Some scholarships might cover your tuition for a whole year, while others may be worth just a few hundred dollars. All college scholarships are worth applying for because at the end of the day, every little bit counts when it comes to reducing your education costs. According to Sallie Mae, American families saved 26% on the cost of college by relying on scholarships and grants for the 2021–2022 school year.

Timing Is Everything

Each scholarship has its own deadline, so don’t put off your search. If you’re a high school student, begin researching scholarships during your junior year and applying for scholarships during the summer before your senior year, because many scholarship deadlines occur a year before the fall term begins. If you’ve missed that timeframe, don’t worry. There are likely still scholarships out there that you can apply for now.

Three Things to Do

  1. Learn how to uncover a wide variety of scholarship opportunities from experienced professionals at Regions Bank.
  2. If you’re confused by the process of applying for federal aid, listen to this podcast that demystifies everything related to FAFSA.
  3. Bookmark these helpful tips on student financial aid and finding college scholarships.


This information is general in nature and is not intended to be legal, tax, or financial advice. Although Regions believes this information to be accurate, it cannot ensure that it will remain up to date. Statements or opinions of individuals referenced herein are their own—not Regions'. Consult an appropriate professional concerning your specific situation and for current tax rules. Regions, the Regions logo, and the LifeGreen bike are registered trademarks of Regions Bank. The LifeGreen color is a trademark of Regions Bank.