Hunting scholarships online? Guard your privacy



Dear Joe, Thanks for having a very informational column. I am presently at a four-year college in Pennsylvania majoring in biology. However, I work full time and it affects my studies. I have received some small scholarships, which help. How do I find schools that offer full tuition for free or work-study jobs in my major? I plan on becoming a physician. -- Sharon


Dear Sharon,

My advice: Keep looking for scholarships. They are available in pretty much every shape and size, and, depending on where and how hard you look, a large portion of your tuition can be funded by scholarships.

Most scholarship money comes directly from educational institutions. Awards may be offered either on a collegewide basis or within a specific major. Different factors affect your eligibility for these scholarships, including, in many cases, your financial need. To find out about these awards, as well as work-study opportunities, investigate college Web sites and contact the financial aid offices.

The College Board's Web site is an excellent resource for researching ways to pay for college. Not only does the site provide advice ranging from standardized testing to financial aid, but it also features a searchable database of scholarships offered by both individual educational institutions and other organizations.

Free scholarship-search sites elsewhere on the Internet are your next best bet, especially if you have a good idea of your program of study and career goals. These search engines typically invite you to fill out a questionnaire. They match your characteristics to available scholarships and provide you with instructions or links for applying. A caution for Web sites with this type of "matching" system: They find only those scholarships that fit a certain profile, and you do not know which awards you might be passing over. Some scholarship sites let you search their databases by entering keywords, and this can produce better results if you know what you are looking for.

Most free scholarship sites make their money through advertising or by selling your name to marketers of college-oriented products. Be sure you understand the Web site's privacy policies before submitting your personal information. You do not face this concern with scholarship databases published in print or on CD-ROM, which are often available at your local library.

An example of a substantial scholarship that fits well with your course of study is the Barry M. Goldwater Scholarship and Excellence in Education Program. This scholarship is available to undergraduate sophomores and juniors, who are majoring in fields such as chemistry, biology and physics, and who intend to pursue a career in the sciences. Each year, 300 students are chosen to receive awards up to $7,500.

If you are taking on student loans, you should investigate loan-repayment programs for individuals who work in certain health-related services after graduation. Possibilities include the National Health Service Corps, National Institutes of Health, and the Association of American Medical Colleges.