When students are looking to fund their education, they may reach out to private organizations for scholarships. Private organizations typically have unique criteria and requirements for the applicants. Making it much different than applying for federal or state financial aid. The experts at Communityforce have put together this list of things you should know about private scholarships:

Find lesser-known scholarships

Utilize as many online scholarship websites as possible. These websites offer a pool of different scholarships many students may not even know about. There is a high probability your school will advertise or promote different scholarships, but that leads to increased competition with your fellow students. Search to see if local groups such as community outreach organizations, athletic centers or churches offer scholarships. These programs will probably not have many applicants if they are not promoted at your school, translating to less competition.

Make sure you meet the requirements for the application

One benefit of private scholarships is they can appeal to a specific demographic of students. For example, there are a number of scholarships specifically for women, minorities or lower class students. A scholarship may look amazing because you have the required GPA and experience to be awarded it, but finding out shortly after reading the requirements it is for a different demographic can be a let down. Finding private scholarships is much different than federal or state aid because the criteria for the funds is more specific.

Private scholarships means less financial aid

A college will typically reduce the amount of financial aid a student receives when they are awarded a private scholarship. If a student wins a $2,000 scholarship, the university will cut the financial aid by $2,000. It may seem unfair, but there is the benefit of taking on $2,000 less in student loan debt.

Private scholarships don’t have the highest funding

The largest funders of higher education are grants and scholarships supplied by the federal government. According to U.S. News & World Report, the federal government supplies 44 percent of scholarship grants, colleges provide 36 percent, state government scholarships make up 9 percent, employers account for 7 percent and private scholarships come in at only 4 percent.

Be aware of scams

Most scholarship scams will disguise themselves as private scholarships. According to Daily Finance, the total number of scholarship scam victims in the U.S. is more than 175,000. A scam can disguise itself as a private scholarship because private funding is usually less publicized than federal grants. Naive new college students are much more vulnerable to scams than experienced students. This is because new students may not know how the application system works. There are a number of warning signs for scholarship scams. These are: the organization asked for your credit card information, the scholarship is “time sensitive” or the winner will be chosen soon, you won a scholarship you never applied for and vital contact information cannot be found. Be smart in your private scholarship search and don’t end up a victim.

Keep an eye out for unusual scholarships

You will be surprised at the number of scholarships awarded for uncommon reasons. Unusual scholarships have extremely specific qualifications, but if you meet the requirements they can be a good opportunity. For example, if you are a male over 6’2″ or a female over 5’10,” then the Tall Clubs’ $1,000 International Scholarship is an option for you. Interested in fungi? The Mycological Society of America’s $2,000 scholarship for future mycology (fungi) researchers is relevant to you. Finding a unique private scholarship shouldn’t be your No. 1 priority, but if you come across one you qualify for, by all means fill out an application.

Remember it all adds up

Even though private scholarships may not offer the most money for your college education, the funds will still help. Imagine you won three private scholarships worth $1,000, $500 and $750. A small scholarship may not seem like it is worth the effort, but you will be thanking yourself when you incur $2,250 less student loan debt.

For more information on scholarships, please visit Communityforce website!