Undergraduate scholarships are easier to get than you might think, particularly if you are willing to spend some time doing research and hunting for what you want. I know, because when I studied at Oakland University in Michigan,I received an undergraduate scholarship to study abroad at an Oxford college. There is no way I could have gone without the scholarship, and I hope to encourage other students to really look into what may be available to them.
First, you should know that there are different kinds of scholarships, grants and loans. Grants and loans are dealt with on a state and federal level, and can be obtained by filling out and submitting the FASFA, or federal application for student aid. This can be filled out and submitted online, and if you need help most schools have someone on staff in the financial aid department who can assist you. Weather or not you are trying for a scholarship, you should also apply for student aid. Many students are able to cover tuition, books, school supplies, and housing by using a combination of all of the above.
Scholarships are a different matter. Some are offered by the individual schools, while others are offered by organizations outside of the school. If you are applying to a college or university you haven’t attended, ask your admissions counselor if they know of scholarship programs available within your school. If you are already attending, go back and check with admissions and financial aid each semester, often they become aware of newly available things before the general student body. It is very good to have a conversation with the head of your department if you have chosen a major, as they will know more about scholarships that apply to your particular degree program than admissions or financial aid will. There are many scholarships offered by individual schools for the students that pursue their education at that institute, but there are even more than may be available which relate to particular degrees and career fields. In my experience, the heads of individual departments as well as the professors usually have the most up to date information about relevant and related scholarships. For instance, a professor of music is more likely to know about a scholarship for students in the recording industry offered by a particular record label, than faculty in another department where that would not be as relevant.
Check out on campus community organizations for more information about scholarships and other educational perks that may apply to you. If you’re a woman, talk to the people in your women’s studies department about awards offered to ladies pursuing a degree. If you’re an athlete, research assistance to those who are talented at sports. The possibilities are endless. Think about your background; often scholarships are offered to people of a particular culture from groups that want to support those of a particular heritage. Think also about your special skills. There are many scholarships that are talent based for those who are gifted at writing, drawing, sports, music, and other specific skills. Consider also any disadvantages you may have as a student. If you are disabled, there are programs that give awards to those with special needs.
Your best information may come from those you can network with directly at your school, but you should also spend some time doing outside research. The Internet and your local library can be the source of a wealth of information, and the effort could turn out to really pay off. Also keep your eye out, and your ears open. I wound up applying for that scholarship to go on a study abroad program I was interested because I saw a flier about it, and then looked into it more. All I had to do to get offered the award was display an interest and a need, and write a good essay about why I wanted to go. If you look deliberately enough for an opportunity, it may arise.