Scholarship sites help students skate by

Laurel Kraus, Staff Reporter

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The stereotypical tales of college students surviving on nothing but SpaghettiOs and Easy Mac are bred from the unfortunate reality that students, for the most part, are dead broke.

Between paying for classes, books and rising gas prices, not to mention Oakland University’s most recent tuition raise in fall 2016, there doesn’t seem to be much left over to actually live on.

OU offers more than 140 grants and scholarships, but for students who wish to broaden their chances, there are other options.

There are many different scholarship search engines only, but not all are of a high quality.

Fastweb

Potentially the best-known scholarship search engine is Fastweb.com.

This site, like a few others, first asks students to fill out a profile about themselves, so that they can be best matched with scholarships to fit their needs.

“They’re always working to find new opportunities or to take scholarships down that maybe aren’t in existence anymore, which some of those other scholarship sites might have outdated information,” said Kathryn Randolph, a Fastweb content editor. “I would say ours is the most up-to-date, most personalized, and there are real people working behind the scenes to put everything out there.”

Fastweb has 1.5 million scholarships worth more than $3.4 billion available through its database.

Included within that are certain scholarships that feature a lottery-type winning system rather than requiring time-consuming essays.

“One girl on our website won $100,000 over five years,” Randolph said. “She won 22 awards through our site.”

Unigo

While there is often much overlap between various scholarship websites, Unigo.com employs its own special method.

Rather than simply being a scholarship search engine, the site itself offers unusual scholarship opportunities to interested students.

Founded on the ideas of easy applications and creativity, Unigo’s scholarships are offered once a month and require short written responses of 250 words or less.

Examples include October’s $2,000 Zombie Apocalypse Scholarship, which asked students how they would survive an apocalypse on campus, and August’s $1,500 Make Me Laugh Scholarship, which asked for a true or fictional hilarious story.

“They’re fun and easy, so it’s not a hardship to fit into spare time,” said Joseph Merante, the most recent winner of Unigo’s Make Me Laugh Scholarship. “Pretty shallow skill-wise, but the amount of award money reflects that.”

According to its website, Unigo has awarded nearly $500,000 in scholarships to date.

Cappex

Cappex.com — which, along with Fastweb, claims to have one of the largest databases — employs various helpful analytics to connect students with scholarship.

While the typical scholarship website offers details such as award amounts and deadlines, Cappex analyzes scholarships to provide even further specifics.

Users can find an approximation of how much competition they will face, as well as how long application for particular scholarships may take.

According to Mark Kantrowitz, Cappex’s publisher and vice president of strategy, the site is updated every day with more than 1,000 scholarship updates a week.

“Also on Cappex, if you click on the articles link from our top navigation from our website, you’ll find that we have a huge amount of information and advice,” Kantrowitz said. “We’re not just providing you with a list of scholarships, we’re also providing you with insights and tips on how to increase your chances of winning one.”

Other options

Other private scholarship website options include CollegeBoard.org and GoodCall.com.

No matter the website, students should always practice precaution to avoid scholarship scams.

“If you have to pay money to get money, it’s probably a scam, so if it’s not free, don’t use it,” Kantrowitz said.

For more information on OU scholarships, contact Student Financial Services at (248) 370-2250 or [email protected].