Finding Your Own Funding: How to Get Started
Planning the Process
Finding the right scholarship opportunity can demand a significant commitment of your time. Pour yourself a cup of tea, put on some comfy clothes, and prepare to spend significant time surfing. Some questions to ask yourself before you begin:
- What kind of support do I really need (tuition and books, research or creative project support?
- How much support do I really need?
- How much time can I devote to searching for and applying for scholarships without impairing my ability to do well in my schoolwork?
If you are facing a significant gap between your school needs and your funding capability (or are just trying to reduce the amount you have to borrow to finish college or begin graduate or professional school), then you will probably want to focus your energies on scholarships offering larger amounts-say, $1000 and up. National scholarships and scholarships offering large amounts of funding are more likely to be more competitive, so don't put all of your hopes on one particular application. You are putting a lot of effort into even one application, so why not get more use out of that terrific personal statement? Your best strategy is to make a list of the programs for which you think you are a good fit, look at their due dates, then think realistically about how much time you can devote to applications. Decide how many for which you can apply given the time and effort you are prepared to spend.
The keys to your best candidacy
- Plan ahead. Organize your applications by deadline and requirements; a spreadsheet might be helpful here.
- Be realistic about your time. Applying for two or three programs that require extensive applications, and completing strong and polished applications, can take up nearly as much time as a class. So,
- Look for programs that are the best fit for you. Read their guidelines carefully and make sure you meet their minimum requirements in terms of major, gpa, or experience. If you don't fit, it's best to focus your energies elsewhere. Close, or questioning? Contact SAGA.
- Communicate with your recommenders early in the application process, and be clear with them about when the deadlines are and what the requirements are for submission of recommendations (remind them that the SAGA office is here to help with questions and concerns of any and every sort).
Don't forget to visit the SAGA office early and often-contact Dr. Monique Bourque by phone or email, or drop by her office in 307 Collins. We can help you decide which programs might be the best focus for your energies, and assist in every phase of the application process from editing assistance to coordinating hard copies for mailing.
Here are some general search engines that may help you locate funding possibilities. For more links to databases and links to lists of specific programs, be sure to consult the lists of programs aimed toward particular interests or backgrounds on the SAGA national scholarships page. Does your major have a professional association? Don't forget to check their website-they may offer scholarships or support for research or conference travel. Do you belong to an honorary society such as Alpha Lambda Delta, or a sorority or fraternity? Check the national organization's website-many offer scholarships that are open only to members.
The Financial Aid Office at Willamette has a small database of opportunities that includes some unusual and area foundation opportunities. It's searchable by year, major, and other criteria.
Community of Science
Despite the name, the database includes funding for a wide variety of disciplines, including small amounts for undergraduate projects, funding for tuition and books for undergraduates and graduate students, dissertation research support, and postdoctoral funding opportunities.
This can be useful because the database allows a keyword search, which can be extremely helpful in allowing you to avoid casting too wide a net.
Don't forget to consult the SAGA website for lists of programs geared toward specific interests: there may be excellent opportunities there for you.
Whenever you are ready to talk about options, and whenever you need assistance with any part of the funding process, contact the SAGA office:
Dr. Monique Bourque
307 Collins Science Center
Some more web resources at Willamette that can help you get started: