As a high school senior planning for college, there are so many different things to consider, especially how to pay for it all. As tuition costs continue to rise, there has never been a better time to apply for financial aid, especially scholarships. Unlike loans, scholarships don’t need to be repaid, which makes them very desirable.

Here’s my biggest advice for college-bound students.

My biggest advice to students who are planning on going to college is to seek out scholarships early on. It’s very easy to tell yourself that you’ll get to the scholarships at some point, but if you haven’t set aside time to apply for them well in advance of deadlines, you could miss out on a bunch of great opportunities.

A few pro tips:

When I first started thinking about applying for scholarships, I knew I was on the right track, but I also felt a little lost as to how exactly I should begin applying for them. I knew I had tools at my disposal — I just hadn’t found them yet.

A good starting place is to check your high school’s website, as many schools post specific links to find resources that will help in the hunt for scholarships. High schools also have a great resource in the form of counselors, who can help answer any questions you may have about scholarships.

My school counselor recommended the Iowa College Access Network (ICAN) website, which has pages dedicated to college planning and financial aid. (ICAN is a member of the National College Access Network – click here to view the full member directory, which lists organizations and resources by state.)

Another great website that I’ve enlisted in my scholarship search is They have over 3.7 million scholarships in their database, adding up to $19 billion in financial aid.

The College Board and Khan Academy have partnered up on a scholarship program. After studying for the PSAT test on Khan Academy, I was automatically entered for a $1,000 Practice Scholarship that they award in certain months. It required very little time on my part, but it’s money that I could possibly receive, which is awesome.

Searching and applying for scholarships in Kuder Navigator®.

All of the websites I’ve mentioned were great resources, but I was finding that a lot of the scholarships that were listed weren’t ones that I was eligible to apply for, which became frustrating. When I began working at Kuder and started exploring the different features in Navigator, I didn’t really know what to expect, but I was very happy with what I found. Navigator is a great resource for searching and applying for scholarships!

I clicked on the “Plan for Education” tab and was excited to find the “Search for Scholarships and Grants” section, which turned out to be super easy to use. Kuder’s scholarship and grant search is provided by Peterson’s, one of the largest databases of college scholarships available. The database includes more than 5,500 programs offered by 2,100+ unique state, corporate, and private sponsors. You can also use filters to narrow down your search and customize scholarship opportunities. Some of them are incredibly easy to apply for and don’t even require an essay.

I love the fact that I can put in filters like my gender, GPA, ethnicity, state, special interests, and more. By doing so, it tailors the scholarships that would show up to only those matching my filtering options, which saves me so much time.

The filters don’t stop there though, as I’m able to select the range of award money needed, the type of school I plan to attend (2-year, 4-year, Trade/Technical School, or University), and the major that I plan to pursue. I don’t have to worry about scholarships popping up that I’m not qualified for, so I have a lot more time to focus on actually writing the scholarship essays.

My favorite feature within the “Search for Scholarships and Grants” section is probably the ability to “favorite” scholarship opportunities for later. The ability to favorite allows me to apply all my filters and find scholarships that suit me in just a few minutes.

I’ve starred a bunch of great scholarships to apply for at a later date, and now whenever I have time to apply for one, I simply go to the “My Favorites” tab, which stores all of them. This feature has saved me both time and stress.

It’s important to remember throughout the process that everyone’s journey to college is a little bit different, but applying for and receiving scholarships can make the process much easier.

P.S. You can use Navigator for more than scholarship searches.

By the time I began my internship here at Kuder and learned more about the resources that are available in Navigator, I was already committed to attending Iowa State University, but for those of you struggling with identifying colleges, Navigator is a great place to start. The “Find Schools” and “College Match” tabs are especially valuable and can take into account many important factors like tuition costs and distance of schools, all while factoring in your college entrance exam scores. There is also a tab called “Learning About Financial Aid,” which details student loans, scholarships, FAFSA, and more. So check it out!