Yoo-hoo, all University of Washington-bound Ballard High students with the last name of Anderson: There's scholarship money waiting for you. If your name happens to be Andersen...

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Yoo-hoo, all University of Washington-bound Ballard High students with the last name of Anderson: There’s scholarship money waiting for you.

If your name happens to be Andersen with an “e,” you’re also eligible for the funds left by 1931 Ballard graduate Regina Anderson.

As for the rest of you — all you Smiths, Steins, Soyemis and DeSotos — you’re out of luck.

But not to worry. “There’s an incredible universe of scholarships out there,” says Douglas Breithaupt, president of the Seattle-based College Planning Network, a nonprofit that oversees $170,000 in scholarships and publishes The Pacific Northwest Scholarship Guide.

Indeed, there’s even one for students with mediocre GPAs. Honest. Those with a perfect 4.0 need not apply.

Some tips on unearthing scholarships that are a good fit:

1. Create a personal profile. Is your dad a union member? Are you in a band? The more traits you can list, the greater your odds of finding funds.

   Three good search sites

College Planning Network: www.collegeplan.org

Run by a Seattle-based nonprofit. Delivers the lowdown on local funders, such as Weyerhaeuser and the Seattle Swedish Club, as well as national ones. No personal information required to use the search site. You’ll also find notices of upcoming local college workshops.

College Board: www.collegeboard.com

After answering several personal questions, you’ll receive a list of scholarships that could be right for you.

EduPrep: www.eduprep.com

Unlike the College Board site, this one expects you to do a lot of thinking on your own — making it both more difficult and more thorough. First step: Come up with a key word that pertains to you. (Woman? Washington? Low-income?) Then type it in to receive a list of related scholarships.


Beware of companies charging you big bucks to tap into “billions of dollars worth of unused scholarships.” They don’t offer you anything you can’t find yourself for free — either through your school counseling office or on Web sites such as the ones listed here.

2. Visit scholarship Web sites (see box for three good ones). Many allow you to customize your search so you don’t wade through 2 million-plus awards with no relevance to you.

3. Stop by your school counseling office. You’ll find scholarship books, databases and helpful advice from a counselor. From there, you might also try your local library, a nearby college’s financial-aid office or the Center for Student Success at the foot of Queen Anne.

4. Look for small applicant pools. High-profile national scholarship funds, like the $20,000 Coca-Cola scholarship, attract thousands of applicants. Your odds are better with a local, less-publicized award. To learn the size of the pool, ask the scholarship contact how many applied last year.

5. Work the phone. You may discover that your mom’s workplace or your dad’s club offers a scholarship — or your call might even prompt them to start one.

6. Consider contests. Many inventor’s competitions, essay contests and cook-offs come with scholarship money. The Art Institute of Seattle, for example, hosts an annual cook-off that awards full or partial tuition to the winners.

7. Apply for several. “If you can identify 10 solid scholarship leads, you have a decent chance of getting one,” Breithaupt says. Sounds daunting, but many funders ask applicants for identical info and ask similar essay questions.

8. Take care with your essay. Avoid going over your activities and honors again; write about your passions, your roots. And tell a story. If you’re writing about your work with the Special Olympics, forget telling about the program’s attributes (anyone can get that from a brochure). Zero in a particular Saturday and your relationship with one particular child.

9. Recruit backers. You’ll want somewhat-objective references who can speak to different parts of you — say, your geometry teacher and the director of the soup kitchen where you volunteer. Again, you don’t want a cold list of your activities, but rather letters that talk more personally about you.

10. Report winnings. Schools are required to lower aid offerings to students who receive private scholarships. But most will reduce your loan amount rather than your grants.

If a college does subtract the money from your grant, “Make a fuss,” Breithaupt says. “Chances are the school will reconsider — or at least negotiate.”

   Best-bet scholarships

John C. Bigelow Scholarship. Targets kids enrolled at public schools in the Northshore School District (Inglemoor, Woodinville or Bothell high schools). Must have a 3.0 GPA and plan to attend a community college or public university. $1,500. Contact: Matt Birkeland, Scholarship Administrator, 425 Pike Street, Suite 510, Seattle, WA 98101-2334.

Yes You Can Scholarship Fund. Targets African Americans living in King or Snohomish counties. Must have a 2.5 GPA, financial need and plan to attend a public college or university in-state. Must also be willing to provide a yearly academic status report and to sign a promise note to help others in the future. $2,000. Contact: Vicki Breithaupt at 206-323-0624.

Yuri and Tatsuo Nakata Scholarship. Targets students of Asian heritage who attend Roosevelt, Cleveland or Franklin high schools. Must have a minimum 3.0 GPA, financial need and plan to attend a two- or four-year public or private university in the U.S. $2,500. Contact: Vicki Breithaupt at 206-323-0624.