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  • Jean O'Toole

How to Search for a Specific Scholarship Category

The most popular question my team and I receive on a daily basis from students and parents from throughout the United States is:

“Are there any scholarships for ______________? How do we search for scholarships for____________?”

The “blank” in the statement is usually something very specific such as:

· A health condition or physical disability

· Participation in a specific sport

· Parent or guardian life history

· Involvement in a specific club or community group

· Religious affiliation

· Ethnicity or cultural background

· Age

· Level of education

With thousands of private scholarships from companies, organizations, individuals and foundations that are offered each year, it is highly likely that there are scholarships for the category they are searching for. Each year some scholarships are discontinued for various reasons and new are scholarships are created. Scholarship seekers are advised to take the following steps when searching for specific scholarships:

1. Start easy and quick with using Google in a SPECIFIC manner. It is a waste of time to use search engines such as Google to search for large category scholarships such as Community Service, or STEM. Searching for large categories of scholarships on search engines such as Google will generate such a massive amount of search results that it will cost you time and energy sifting through the information. If, however, you were to search a specific category of scholarship such as Heart Condition Scholarship 2021, your search results will be relevant and useful.

2. Reach out to organizations and associations related to the specific scholarship category. Local, regional and national organizations and associations are a tremendous wealth of information of scholarships related to any and every specific category. To identify organizations that can serve you, search for “the specific category + association” and “the specific category + organization”. For example, searching for Connecticut Autism Association, then searching for New England Autism Association and finally National Autism Association. Email associations and organizations to inquire about scholarships opportunities or referrals of organizations, who may have scholarship information. Circle back to the organization or association every 4 months to check if there are any new scholarship opportunities. It will also keep you in the minds of the employees or volunteers who work at those associations or organizations. When or if a new opportunity does emerge in that outreach community, they may think of you.

3. Connect with former scholarship recipients, who won scholarships related to your specific category. Search with the key word “recipient” or “winner”. For example, searching for Lutheran Scholarship Winner 2020, will generate specific results with names of recipients. Connecting with recipients via social media can lead to learning about many more scholarships that they found in their own prior search.

Scholarship awards are free monies that you do not have to pay back. They do however require some time and energy to pursue them. It doesn’t have to be a huge amount of time invested in the process in order to be successful. Smart uses of time, such as researching using the steps mentioned here, will serve a scholarship seeker tremendously.

We recommend designating 90 minutes a week, which can be broken up in small allotments, to pursue scholarships.

The scholarship pursuit is exciting, because there really are opportunities around every corner.


Jean O’Toole is an educational consultant and author of the bestselling book, Scholarship Strategies Finding and Winning the Money You Need. Over the past 15 years, she has helped tens of thousands of students in the United States. Individuals collectively have been awarded millions of dollars by applying her scholarship strategies. In 2008 she co-founded Connections101, a company specializing in providing motivational tools for scholarship searching. It is her goal to empower students to design their paths to their future without college debt. For more information about Jean, visit


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