Last year, CBS Money Watch published an article, “Do College Scholarship Search Engines Work?” In the piece, some well-known scholarship tools took quite a beating, especially one of the most prominent players in the space, Fastweb. As someone who has used all of the services listed, I was surprised at how badly they fared, but then I realized that the article didn’t fully discuss how it arrived at its conclusions. Yes, it states that Money magazine recruited some teenagers to test the services, but if each was using different criteria to search for scholarships, the results could hardly be considered fair. For example, I found it unlikely that Fastweb would return zero ‘promising’ matches, considering many of its sponsored scholarships are open to just about everyone. I also took issue with the article’s failure to include ScholarshipExperts and Chegg in its results. Both are two well-known and deserving sites that should have been listed. So, I decided to do a little research of my own to see how several of these services would compare using the same data points.
I used the following basic student profile to keep things simple and realistic:
- High school junior
- 3.2 GPA
- SAT scores of 540 (reading), 540 (essay) and 650 (math)
- Education and drama/theater as potential majors
- Resident of Florida
- Florida State University and the University of Central Florida as selected schools
And unlike other reviews of scholarship search services, which typically used two or three factors to determine a rating, I decided to score the tools based on the following eight characteristics:
- Ease of registration
- Difficulty of opting-out
- Social skills
- Amount of advertising
- Ability to sort awards
- Visibility of number of awards matched
- Unique features
In the interest of full disclosure, I not only used ScholarshipExperts.com to find scholarships when I went back to college in 2004, I currently write for them as well. With my bias well in hand, I went in to these reviews fully expecting ScholarshipExperts to beat its competition. However, to my surprise, that wasn’t the case. After the dust settled and all the points were tallied, Cappex took the top spot. I was impressed with their clean format, 95% accuracy rating, and unique features like the ability to sort my results by competitiveness or the amount of work required to complete scholarship applications. ScholarshipExperts (also a 95% accuracy rating) and Zinch tied for second place, each scoring only a point lower than Cappex.
To see all of the services and how they ranked, check out our 2014 Scholarship Search Service Reviews. The full report will help you prioritize your search and give some guidance on what to look for in each of the tools we compared.