Navigating Cyberspace

In today’s wonderful world of technology and instant information, finding an abundance of well-known scholarships is as easy as typing a few key words into Google’s search engine. Cyberspace is home to numerous absolutely free databases that will list—and even help you organize and manage—hundreds of available scholarships. Each of these sites works on a variation of a system where you:

  1. Log in (or not).
  2. Enter lots of information about yourself (or just a little).
  3. Generate a list of scholarships that you qualify to win (or scroll through a standard list).
  4. Save a collection of your favorite scholarships (write them down, if the site doesn‘t have this feature yet).
  5. Click to learn more information (or to be transferred to the organization’s own website).
  6. Apply for your scholarships right there online (when available).

But before you get too excited and break your mouse double-clicking like a maniac, I must first warn you about a few obstacles you might need to navigate during your online quest for college money:

  1. Many of the sites require you to create an account and sign in using a valid email address. Any time that you share email account information, you run the risk of being barraged with spam and/or legitimate messages from the administrators. It is also sometimes difficult to unsubscribe once your name is on a list. If you don’t want to jeopardize the sanctity of your main inbox, it might be a good idea to set up a free email account specifically to use during your scholarship hunt. I recommend a user name such as YourName_Scholarships@….
  2. If you don’t want a lot of junk flooding into your NEW account, stay observant during the sign-up process and click the boxes to opt out of receiving additional promotional e-mails.
  3. Websites need a source of revenue to survive, and primarily the hosts depend on ad links to make ends meet. There’s no harm in this. You come to their site to look at scholarship lists; the owners make money just because you were there seeing the advertisements on the page. It’s a win-win scenario for all. Still, always beware of false created to direct you to places that you don’t necessarily want to go. Many scholarship search sites are affiliated with a loan company or some similar business, and exist merely to expose you to their own products/services. There is no harm in this, either, but the self-promoting can sometimes reach very annoying levels of extremity.
  4. Many scholarship search engines are not kept up-to-date. Don’t get excited about the perfect opportunity until you determine that the advertised scholarship is not already a week (or several years) past its deadline for submissions.
  5. Don’t expect too much from the “customized list” of scholarships given to you based on the facts that you entered about yourself. The technology to edit awards that you are unqualified to receive is primitive, at best. You will invariably be ineligible for half the scholarships displayed on your screen! Experiment with adding/deleting information within your profile and observe the resulting changes (if any) or stick to websites that allow you to browse their ENTIRE scholarship list independently.

While you are browsing the Internet, try simple keyword combinations to catch less well-known opportunities that the big databases may have overlooked. Try entering the word “scholarship” along with your town, your county, your state, your dream college, etc. And one last tip: follow me on Twitter for regular updates on how to find the scholarships that are right for you.

Photo by NASA on Unsplash

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