2014 Scholarship Search Reviews
If you've ever searched Google for the phrase "scholarship search service", you know that there are over 1 million results. Some are good, some are mediocre, and others are simply a waste of time. So, how do you know which ones are the best to use? Clicking on the first one or two results doesn't necessarily mean you are using the best search service available, which could mean you are missing out on potential scholarships. So, we've done the homework for you, and put several of the highest ranking scholarship search services to the test. Here's what we found...
- Download a printable version
Before we get started, it might help to understand what we consider to be a "scholarship search service". For our purposes, any website that provides a way for you to answer questions about yourself in order to match you with scholarships is considered a scholarship search service or scholarship search engine. The key factor is that the service does the work for you by providing a list of awards for which you are eligible to apply.
The most important quality of a scholarship search service is that it provides you with accurate matches based on the profile or search criteria you provide. After all, these services are supposed to save you time. You don't want to waste your time with a scholarship search tool that is giving you a list of awards for which you are not eligible or are no longer valid. You also want to be sure that your scholarship list contains actual scholarships rather than a bunch of surveys, offers or rewards programs. Keeping this in mind, we used the same profile for each search tool, sorted by deadline date, and checked the first 20 listings for accuracy.
|Scholarship Search||Eligible||Ineligible||Rating||Points (1-8)|
Ease of Registration
In our experience, the tools that require more information upfront tend to be more accurate in their results. So, it doesn't hurt to spend a few extra minutes completing your profile to ensure you don't waste your time sorting through scholarships you can't use. For example, both ScholarshipExperts and Scholarships.com require the most steps to register, but scored higher marks for accuracy. Zinch, on the other hand, had only one step to complete before receiving results, but was much less accurate. Even with leaving several sections blank, the two tools with the most steps seemed to filter their awards better.
|Scholarship Search||Steps||Points (1-8)|
One of the most important things to consider when deciding which scholarship search service to use is how easy it is to communicate with the company. There should be, at minimum, an address provided and an email or phone number listed. If they are on social media, this information should be located on the homepage or "contact us" page. You shouldn’t have to hunt or dig through a website to locate this information. Services should make it easy for you to contact them, just in case you have an issue with the website or a question about a scholarship listing. And if you're wondering why Chegg received higher marks than SchoolSoup and Scholarships.com, it's because they are the only service to offer a live chat option and list their actual office hours online.
|Scholarship Search||Address||Phone / Email||Points|
Easy Opt Out
Whenever you register for a scholarship search service, pay close attention to how easy it is to opt-out of communications. Most will give you the option to opt-in or opt-out during the registration process, but Zinch, Chegg and Cappex all required you to accept their terms upfront. This means you'll need to take the extra step of finding out how to unsubscribe or change your preferences after creating your account. You can review potential scholarships on several sites without registering, but you will only receive minimal information. Registration is required to see the full listing or to access the actual link to the scholarship application, except in one case. College Board actually allows you to search its database without creating an account or providing any personal contact information. This is why we gave it an extra point for being so user-friendly.
|Scholarship Search||Opt-in / Opt-out||Points (0-2)|
Advertising in a necessary evil for most scholarship search services; this is how they are able to provide their services to you free of charge. Some, however, are a little more aggressive than others. For example, clicking on a scholarship listing in Fastweb often took us to an advertisement first before we could view the details of the award. Scholarships.com and ScholarshipExperts also placed numerous banner advertisements and links throughout their search result pages. Our research found that Chegg, Cappex and College Board all provided clean pages, which allows you to focus on what's important — scholarships!
|Scholarship Search||Ads on Page||Points (0-1)|
There are a few other features that can make your scholarship search a little easier to manage. These include the ability to sort your scholarship listing by deadline date and/or award amount, clearly listing how many scholarships are included in your list and the potential cash value of the awards, and other unique options that can enhance your experience.
All of the scholarship services, except SchoolSoup and College Board, allow you to sort your awards, but two went above the typical search parameters. Chegg actually provides a way for you to identify scholarships that do not require an essay or those that have an online application. Cappex takes it a step further by allowing you to sort based on how many people apply or how much work is required for the award. This is great if you don't want to spend a lot of time on an application that 30,000 other students are also submitting. When it came to listing the number of potential scholarships, Scholarships.com was the only tool that did not provide this feature. ScholarshipExperts, Chegg and Zinch not only included the number of potential scholarships, but also the value of those awards.
In general, most of the scholarship services have similar features and tools, but we did take note of some unique features offered by two of the services. Scholarships.com includes a comment section under each of its award listings, which gives you the chance to review comments by other students or add your own. This could give you a heads up about potential issues with the application or provider, which could save you valuable time. Zinch also provides a way for you to connect with other students by including a share button. Just one click and you can forward the award to all your friends. In addition, Zinch will also reward you for adding a new scholarship to its database. If the award meets the criteria for inclusion and you are the first to submit it, you could receive a $5 gift card.
|Scholarship Search||Ability to Sort||# of Awards||Potential Value||Unique Feature||Points (0-4)|
After tallying all the points, it was clear that three scholarship search services ranked above the pack: Cappex, ScholarshipExperts and Zinch. Even if you simply factor in the three most important aspects (accuracy, ease of registration and social skills), these tools still perform better than their peers. It’s important to remember that no one scholarship service will list all possible scholarships available in the universe, so use several to ensure you are finding as many as possible. Be sure to check back regularly, too. New awards are added throughout the year, so you may miss a golden opportunity if you only check back at the beginning of each semester.
|Scholarship Service||Accuracy||Sign-up||Social Skills||Opt-out||Ads||Sort||Awards||Amount||Feature||Total Points|