Winning a scholarship to business school may not be as hard as it seems. Finding the right one for you is an entirely different matter. The trick is to be a bit different and find a scholarship that few other students are applying for.
Even though there are thousands available — maybe one being offered right now in your own hometown — you probably haven’t ever heard about most business scholarships. That’s because, most often, they aren’t advertised too loudly.
So, where can you find them? More importantly, how can you win them?
THE GOOD NEWS: There are hundreds and hundreds of scholarship opportunities available to students studying business, and you’re probably eligible for more than a few of them.
THE BAD NEWS: None of them are going to jump up and grab you.
This article offers a practical game plan for those of you who are trying to track down and win scholarships that will help you on the path to a career in business. Get ready, though, because there’s a lot to do before you can even think about filling out applications.
Where to Look for Business Scholarships
Start a list… it could get big!
Begin your hunt with these organizations:
- High Schools, College and University Business Departments
- Community and Civic Groups
- Professional Organizations
- Your Employer, Local Businesses and National Chains
- Charitable Foundations
The first step for you will be to identify as many of these possibilities as you can. I’d suggest starting with a map-based search to really home in on the local ones.
Create a table, a chart or a spreadsheet with columns like “Sponsor,” “Scholarship Name,” “Contact Name,” “Email,” “Amount,” “Requirements,” and (very importantly) “Deadline.”
Of course, you only want to put your valuable time into applying for the scholarships which best suit your ambitions… or the ones you can make out to fit your ambitions (we’ll get to that in the section below on “Winning Business Scholarships”). For now, though, write down every scholarship you come across that’s even close to what you want or qualify for. Then, once you finish your list, you’ll be able to take a good, hard look at which options are most worth your efforts.
Hopefully, the ideas in the next section will get you going with a good list of choices.
The Most Excellent Starting Points
Online Scholarship Directories
Register for FastWeb.com if you haven’t already.
FastWeb.com is one of the oldest and most respected scholarship directories online. It uses information you provide in your profile to match you to thousands of dollars worth of scholarships. The more detailed you are in your profile, the more opportunities you’ll find.
Your High School
Talk to your high school guidance counselor to see what kinds of scholarships and awards are available for your particular business interest. Many counselors consider it part of their job to help you find scholarship opportunities, so they keep a file of them or a bulletin board with recent flyers they’ve received. This could prove to be a treasure trove of opportunities!
Very often, high schools themselves offer rewards for the best students, or the most dedicated individuals from clubs and activities, which could include a business-oriented club. If your high school doesn’t offer a scholarship or award, then at the very least, your counselor should be able to steer you toward other sources.
Most business departments offer scholarships to students attending their schools, either directly through the school or through businesses, benefactors and foundations that support the school. Many of them also offer scholarships to prospective students. This will probably be one of your best resources for finding scholarships.
If you’re attending or planning to attend a university, CONTACT YOUR PROGRAM ADVISOR to ask what scholarships are available – if you’re already attending, ask your Business Instructors, too. Don’t forget to look for scholarship opportunities on the Business Department’s web site or on a bulletin board near the department office on-campus, where they also are often posted.
Most universities do offer scholarships to students attending their schools – because they really, really want to keep them there. These kinds of scholarships are the easiest to find out about, but somehow they are overlooked by many students who could benefit greatly from the funding… and from the prestige of winning!
Your Employer (or Your Parent’s Employer)
Many, many businesses offer some kind of funding program for their employees and their employees’ children, as part of the benefits package. This might be in the form of “reimbursable tuition,” “continuing education” or even internal grants, scholarships or awards. This is particularly true for MBA programs because of the direct benefit to employers. Even if you’re only working part-time, you still might be eligible.
Yet, somehow, this is a fabulous financial outlet that is overlooked year after year by many students (and the parents of students!). If you’re not aware of such a program, you should still ask your manager or supervisor, just in case it had slipped your attention earlier. All you have to do is ask!
Community and Civic Groups
Chances are, there are local community-based groups in your hometown or county that are involved in the business of supporting businesses (most notably the Chamber of Commerce, but there are many others). Very often, members of these groups pay dues, organize fund-raisers, and then… Guess what? They offer scholarships to local people, like you, who want to pursue an education in business!
Here are a few possibilities that we’ve seen, which you might want to check out:
- Rotary Clubs
- Lion’s Club
- 4-H Club
- Boy Scouts/Girl Scouts
If there are local chapters of any of these national and international civic groups, it’s worth checking to see if they offer scholarships of any kind and, specifically, if they offer scholarships for future business leaders like you. You could also ask business professionals that you know what local organizations they belong to. Hopefully, they will have contact information for the group, and they might even be able to put in a good word for you!
Professional Organizations and Associations
By definition, professional organizations are designed to promote their profession. In large part, that entails the development of future professionals, and scholarships are a great way for them to promote that.
There are swarms of professional organizations for every discipline imaginable in business, dealing with marketing, advertising, economics, finance, accounting, public relations, and more on a local, regional, national and international basis.
For your “scholarship ideas list,” here’s a small taste of the professional groups which we know offer business scholarships:
- American Institute of Certified Public Accountants
- Association of School Business Officials
- Institute of Management Accountants
- National Association of Black Accountants
- National Black MBA Association
- National Society of Accountants
- Washington Society of Certified Public Accountants
In your search, keep in mind that many national groups have local affiliates. And remember how much better your chances are when you start local! So, when you find an international or national organization, be sure to look a little more closely to see if there is a local chapter in your state or region.
Note: Sometimes, you may need to actually be a member, or student member, of a professional organization to qualify.
Businesses and National Chains
One creed that all successful businesses adhere to is that you have to keep your customers happy. A great way to do that is to show how much you care about them and their community once in a while. And guess what? For some of them, offering Business Scholarships or awards is a great way to do that.
If you’re really serious about pursuing a business scholarship, you should investigate as many big businesses as you can. Again, this information is not always readily available, so you may have to dig. Scan the web site, call the corporate office, write a quick letter — do whatever it takes to find out if you stand a chance. Note: Be sure to specialize in pursuing the big businesses that specialize in your area of interest (for example, you could look into Merrill Lynch for finance scholarship, or Wells Fargo for a banking scholarship – who knows what you’ll find).
The competition is pretty stiff to receive funding from charitable foundations, even from the local ones. That’s because they do a pretty good job of soliciting applicants, and the awards are often larger than the smaller groups. Nevertheless, there are hundreds of these organizations giving away millions of dollars every year. If you know of any locally, you should inquire. Or, you can take a glance at these, too:
- Educational Foundation for Women in Accounting
- Hispanic College Fund
- Colorado Business and Professional Women’s Foundation
Other Sources You Might Not Have Thought About
There are certainly many other types of organizations that offer funding for business students in the form of grants, fellowships and scholarships. That includes government agencies, education associations, fraternities and sororities, and who knows what else. Here are a few ideas to get you started thinking about where to look:
- Daughters of the American Revolution
- Government Finance Officers Association
- Military Benefit Association
Finding business scholarships is just the first part. Winning them is the next step.
Winning Business Scholarships
Trust me, as explained already, there are many, many scholarships for business students. But how do you land one?.
It’s not “Where to Look”… It’s “WHEN”
Start looking early!
And, I don’t mean just a few months before the semester, or even six months. I mean EARLY, as in at least a year in advance… You’ll be even better off if you scout out the possibilities, starting your investigation two or more years before applying.
For example, maybe you read in the newspaper about a local scholarship recipient – newspapers love that kind of stuff. Take note! Find out who won it and what they did to win it. Contact the sponsoring organization and find out the details for next year.
Same goes for scholarships you may come across on the web which have already been awarded, or when you see one for which the deadline has already passed. The vast majority of the time, these scholarships will be available again in a year.
Next: Think Local
Now, before you get any more specific, remember: Your best chance of winning a business scholarship is to focus on LOCAL organizations.
Sure, you can chase after the really big bucks that are widely publicized. But, your odds are far, far greater in your own area with a local group because you may only be going up against a few other students, versus the entire student population of the country.
Of course, these local awards aren’t as lucrative as the bigger, national and international scholarships. They usually come in the range of $250 to $1,000, and you might think that the monetary reward doesn’t justify your effort.
But remember: The effort might not be all that much, and it sure won’t hurt to put your award-winning performance on your application for colleges, or on your resume when applying for jobs.
When you give yourself plenty of time, you can “position” yourself much better to qualify for Business Scholarships.
In other words, if there are requirements that you may not have met or excelled in, you will have plenty of time to get it right and really impress the judges! Take a hard look at what past winners did to win, and learn from what they did right. Maybe even track them down to see what they did and how they did it.
If you start late, then it’s less likely that you’ll have done exactly what the judges are looking for, and you may have to stretch things to make it appear that you did. That isn’t the best position to be in – but if it’s the only chance you have, then go for it…just be very cautious about misrepresenting your knowledge and experience.
If possible (and it’s not always possible), do what you can to talk to some of the people granting the scholarships and find out, as specifically as you can, what they’re looking for. Often, organizations will have summaries of winning applications for you to review – definitely inquire about that!
Avoid the Crowds!
Most people turn their stuff in at the last minute, so don’t you dare be in with that crowd! When the application deadline approaches, you must get your stuff in early to stand out and be noticed.
First impressions last! If your application is strong, and you get it in the hands of the judges early, then there’s a much better chance that they will remember you. You need to show that you’re different from the rest, more deserving than the rest. An important way to do that it to get it done before the rest – one to two weeks in advance should be plenty.
Start early, think ahead. Your chances will be much better.
Reality Check #1
Be wary of emails from folks who tell say you must pay them in order to get a scholarship. The offers may sound enticing, but it is almost always a marketing trick.
The Federal Trade Commission warns scholarship seekers about scholarship scams and you’ll see similar warnings on almost all of the scholarship search web sites, so please take a look at what they have to say, for your own good.
Reality Check #2
You won’t find too many Business Scholarships that will provide a free ride the entire way through the college experience. Yes, there are some. But the competition is fierce, and with thousands of students applying, you’d better not bet your house that you’ll get one – no matter how good you are.
The most abundant scholarships are in the $250 to $2,000 range, and that’s mostly what you’ll find here on our site and referenced in this article. Before you scoff, remember that every little bit helps, and even the smallest scholarship will buy some pretty expensive books for a semester or two. Plus, most schools, scholarship foundations, and financial aid providers won’t place a limit on how many scholarships you can be awarded, so you could still get a good amount of money out of smaller scholarships if you’re persistent.
The Possibilities are Endless
As you can see, there are a lot of possibilities for finding business scholarships.
That doesn’t necessarily mean that you will find a dozen, or even a half-dozen, local opportunities just waiting for you to step up and cash the check. But you might! And without making a list as we’ve discussed in this article, your chances of finding any at all become much smaller.
You can see that there’s a lot of work involved just to find these opportunities… But that’s nothing compared to the work you’ll need to put in to win them.
The Bottom Line
There are plenty of scholarship money available in the field of business. You just need to find where it is and to show that you’re worth the investment. And, if you are dedicated to pursuing a business career, you may even enjoy the work it takes to stand out from the crowd.