Strategies For Finding Niche and Local Private Scholarships

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Niche and Local Scholarships


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Below is a summary of our Facebook Live discussion with Becky Ix on the topic of finding niche and local private scholarships. 

Presenter – Becky Ix, College Prep Advisor and author of Who’s Guiding You?

Becky advises families on all areas of high school tracks, testing, and programs as well as the college & financial aid & scholarship application strategic planning and processes. Her guidebook “Who’s Guiding You? Florida College Prep Guide” is available on Amazon for only $15 and is applicable to any student nationwide, it just has extra details about Florida programs. She also offers two custom organizers for College Applications & Scholarship Applications that you can purchase from her Facebook page “Who’s Guiding You”. 

The largest source of scholarships come directly from the colleges you apply to and are automatically considered for, called Institutional Scholarships. Therefore, it’s extremely important that you have researched the colleges that are the best economic fit for you to enhance your opportunity for Institutional Scholarships. Additionally, colleges often offer scholarships for their Admitted Students based on other factors like major & these will require separate applications. You can find these on each college website under “financial aid”. Okay Becky, why don’t you lead us into our topic for today on Private Scholarships.


Today’s Topic: Maximizing Private Scholarships

The primary reasons to apply for private scholarships include:

1 – Institutional Scholarships (from colleges) are highly competitive with 1000’s of applicants.

2 –Colleges require a student to be a top performer/tester whereas not all private scholarships do. Again harking back to what Debbie stated in the beginning why it’s important to research colleges to apply to first to maximize institutional aid. Private Scholarships do not all require you to be perfect, but that doesn’t mean one can be a slacker and pick one up either!

3 – Institutional scholarships may not be enough money to cover your total cost.

4 – Institutional scholarship offers come after college acceptances, which is late in the year so if you don’t get any or enough, you’ve missed time & opportunity applying for private scholarships.

5 – If your EFC is too high to qualify you for any federal aid (grants, WS, loans) or if you only qualify for loans – you’ve got nothing to lose by applying for private scholarships.

[What does EFC mean? Expected Family Contribution]

*If you know your EFC way ahead of Oct. 1st FAFSA opening filing date and you realize you won’t qualify for need-aid, then you can start the private scholarship search process sooner to get the jump on the competition. This is why it’s imperative to figure out what your estimated EFC will be as soon as midway through sophomore year in high school – please no later than junior year.

[What you need to know about the FAFSA before your senior year in high school]

6 – Private Scholarships are STACKABLE (add to each other) & PORTABLE (go anywhere) unlike most institutional scholarships.


For those fearing a college will reduce your financial aid award if you bring in Private Scholarships, what do you say to that Becky?

When you earn a private scholarship, yes it may happen, but if you cannot or do not want to write the check for what you owe then it’s a simple choice between the following (or a combination of the following):

1 – Taking out loans
2 – Student working during school (which WILL raise your EFC for next year)

3 – Apply for private scholarships which will NOT raise your EFC and if used properly, will NOT be taxed.

The two types of private scholarships that are usually NOT need-based NOR do you have to be a perfect applicant that we will review today are: Niche & Local Scholarships.


What is a Niche Scholarship?

A niche scholarship relates to a well-defined specific small segment of the applicant population that posses a unique skill, attribute, or commonality that nobody else in the general applicant population will possess. In biology, a niche refers to an organism’s specific position or purpose within a group of organisms with which it lives.

What groups of people do you think fall into both by nature and by nurture?

What role do you fill in your family, school, or community? What makes you unique? You may have a few niches you fit into but the more specific, the better odds you’ll have in attaining a scholarship. (Minority=big niche, Learning Disabled=smaller niche.) Some niches you are born into, some you create like volunteering. Go deep into your commitments; it’s depth not breadth that both admissions and scholarships will reward you for.

There are charities, foundations, civic groups and businesses that will give scholarships to specific niche students that align with their organization or corporate mission.

A. Examples of a “by nature niche” Learning Disabled (LD is not only qualification)

Rise Foundation $2,500
Theodore R. and Vivian M. Johnson $1,000-$5,000 (at a FL college)

Fred J. Epstein Youth Achievement Award $1,000 Ann and Matt Harbison $2,000

Anne Ford Thomas $10,000
Feldman Royal Law Firm $1,000

Judd S. Nemiro Law Firm $1,000

B. Examples of a “by nurture niche” Service/Volunteer (strong service record is not only qualification)

Prudential Spirit of Community Award $1,000-5,000
Comcast Leaders & Achievers Award $1,000
Alliant Energy Community Service $1,000
NHS Scholarship (NHS members with an outstanding service project) $2,325-20,125 FSU Service Scholar $2,400/annually (also could be under “local” category)

Kaire & Heffernan Community Scholarship for FL Students $1,000 + 500 to charity (also could be under “local” category)


What is a Local Scholarship?

Limited access by location aids in eligibility and less competition.

State – County – City

1. State

For state scholarships, check state DOE Programs website for these.
Florida Bright Futures up to full FL public college/university tuition + most fees + book stipend, which is appx. $6,000/annually

South Carolina Palmetto Fellows Scholarship up to $6,700/annually
Oregon – Ford Foundation Scholarship for Sons & Daughters of Employees of Roseburg

Forest Products Co. $3,000-5,000/annually

2. County

Pathfinder (Palm Beach & Martin Cty., FL) $2,500-4,000 *not to be confused with National Pathfinder Scholarship through the National Federation of Republican Women

Kantner Foundation (Palm Beach & Martin Cty., FL) up to $20,000 Frederick and Grace Brecht Scholarship (Brevard Cty., FL) $1,000

Leadville Legacy Foundation (Lake Cty, CO) $1,000

Legacy Foundation (Lake Cty, IN) *Offers 3 types of scholarships: 20 scholarships through 1 app ranging in awards + Lily Endowment Fund full tuition/fees/book stipend for 4 years + External Scholarships they manage funds for but applications are through external sources they provide a booklet on.

3.  City

Check for these types of clubs online and once you view their national website and scholarship programs, you can usually input your zipcode to find a local chapter to find who to get your applications to and how to get the local club to sponsor you if needed. You can even often times apply to neighboring town chapters & most of these clubs/orgs do not require a membership!!

Elks (some membership req’s): Most Valuable Student $4,000-50,000, Legacy Awards $1,000/annually, Emergency Educational Grants, Weigel Medical School Scholarship & local chapters can sponsor anyone for any amount they’d like and you don’t have to have an Elk family connection

American Legion (military components): Samsung $1,250-10,000 (selection from Girls & Boys State Program Delegates), Legacy up to $20,000, Baseball amount varies, Oratorical $1,500-18,000, Eagle Scout of the Year $2,500-10,000, & Shooting Sports Scholarship $1,000-5,000

Kiwanis International Key Club (high school membership req) $500-2,500
Kiwanis International Circle K International (college student membership req) $500-2,500

Zonta International (local sponsor req) Young Women in Public Affairs Scholarship $1,000-4,000 & Jane M. Klausman Women in Business Scholarship $1,000-7,000 & Amelia Earhart Fellowship for Women in Aerospace $10,000/annually


How do you locate a Niche or a Local Scholarship?

A. NO to large scholarship search engine “Top rated sites”: Peterson’s, Unigo, Fastweb, Cappex, Chegg, The College Board, Niche,,, & Scholarship Monkey.


1 – Filtering tools on some of these sites is non-existent or not adequate so you may have to sift through all scholarships making it easy to get lost and overwhelmed. Not very productive!

2 – You’ll be filling out lots of profiles/surveys/creating accounts which leads to junk mail overload. If you’re going to use these – create a separate email for this purpose.

3 – You’ll get sweepstakes pop up’s =spam as well as loan solicitations.

4 – These sites depend upon the individual scholarship providers to update their scholarships so much of the information is outdated.

Money Magazine conducted a student satisfaction survey on all of these sites and found their results “mediocre at best with Fastweb faring the worst”.

B. YES to asking school guidance and look up on your school guidance website as well as other high school websites, your boss, your parents’ boss, a coach, extended family connections. Ask for specific niche scholarships based on your unique criteria you share and ask them for local ones only offered in your area.

C. YES to Google specific local or niche scholarship by name of niche (ex. Learning disability scholarships, for even more results combine location with niche like Oklahoma residents that have an LD can apply for the Dream Institute Higher Education Assistance Program).

*Focus on smaller, multi-qualification, multi-component scholarships (essays) and it will be easy to see a 25% ROI (20 apps results in 5 wins = $15k).


How do you prepare for applying to multiple scholarships?

A. Organize all components in one place like a binder (show mine) & organize the scholarships you find by their due date’s in that binder

B. Gather all docs you may be asked for ahead of time

1. HS transcript (be aware of school summer office hours for requesting transcripts)

2. College transcript (for HS students don’t forget DE transcripts & be prepared to pay for official sealed copies)

3. Recommendation letters (request during school year – get before summer)

4. Copies of all hs and college awards

5. Copies of IEP/504 Plan/College faculty proof of disability letter

6. Copies of 1 family member’s military forms including DD214 or DD1300 or VA Disability paperwork

7. Copy of student birth certificate and driver’s license

8. Know student social security number

9. ACT/SAT/SAT Subject test scores printed out

10.Copy of college acceptance letters

11. Resume

12. Essays (staple the specific essays to each corresponding scholarship application or info page if it’s done online and write any login for an online app on the top of that page)


Anyone who would like additional information from Becky Ix, please follow/contact her through “Who’s Guiding You?” Facebook page and you’ll find a copy of her book “Who’s Guiding You?” on Amazon for only $15 or go directly to Becky via her Facebook page to get her package set which includes the guidebook and her 2 organizers for college applications and scholarship applications for $100 and get the FREE 30 min. consult! 

Becky can be reached at [email protected] and you can follow her at Instagram (whosguidingyou), twitter (@flcollegeprep) and pinterest (whosguidingyou).


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