First-generation students benefit greatly from scholarships. Scholarships may be specific to your college or university, offered through local groups or organizations, or offered by large companies. With all of these groups to explore, finding scholarships right for you can feel like a huge task – especially if you’re going through the college admissions process alone or with little support.

At Georgia State, we understand the unique challenges of locating college funding for first-generation students and their families. Whether you’re an incoming freshman or a current student, we’re here to help you identify scholarships that will help you pay for your education.

What To Watch For

As you search for scholarships, be sure to avoid online scholarship services promising to match you to scholarships for a fee. You shouldn’t have to pay to connect with scholarships. There are many free methods of searching for scholarships including using your local library, browsing nonprofit webpages ending in “.org”, and going directly to the webpages of companies or organizations that have a presence in your community.

Think Big

Think big, too. Visit the webpages of global companies and see if they offer scholarships for students. Many companies, like The Coca-Cola Company or the Ford Motor Company, offer scholarships for students entering college. There are also scholarship search portals that list every available scholarship – local and international – that matches your criteria. The College Board, the organization overseeing the SAT, provides a free scholarship search that helps you view scholarship opportunities you may not have known about.

Writing Essays

Most scholarships require students to write personal statements or essays expressing their interests and goals. It’s a good idea to write several drafts of an essay before you submit it and well in advance of deadlines. This way, you’ll catch any mistakes and make sure you’re communicating the idea or message you want to send. Even the best writers make simple mistakes when they’re in a hurry. It’s also a good idea to have several people read your essay. Ask a teacher, counselor, parent, older sibling, trusted friend, or mentor to take a look. They can also help you catch errors and give you feedback on what you’ve written.

Understanding Merit-Based Grants

Merit-based grants are awarded for academic achievement in high school and, like scholarships, help you pay for the cost of college. Colleges and universities award these grants after you’ve applied for admission. That means these grants don’t require a separate application because the schools already have your information. Not all schools offer these grants, but many do. It’s a great topic to approach with counselors at individual schools as you begin calculating your costs.

It’s common for students to receive a combination of merit-based grants and other forms of financial assistance in their financial aid package from a college or university. If you’d like to learn more about grants that are awarded based on students’ demonstrated financial need, please see our section about the FAFSA.

Know Your Timeline

It’s helpful to mark the deadline for each scholarship in a calendar or day planner. This simple tip will help you keep track of your progress and prevent due dates from sneaking up on you. Marking deadlines will also keep you mindful of making sure any additional materials required for scholarship applications – such as teacher recommendations or high school transcripts – are submitted on time.

In addition to these tips and ideas, be sure to visit Georgia State’s Scholarship Resource Center.