A Summer Project: Outside Scholarships

If you’re inside escaping from the [heat, humidity, bad air quality], here’s a project for you. And by the title, “Outside Scholarships,” I don’t mean that you now have to go outside….

Institutions of higher education offer scholarships to their applicants. (Note that you must actually be an applicant in order to be considered for institutional funds.) As part of your college search, you may have already begun looking at what scholarships are available at the schools you are considering, and learning about the criteria and application requirements for those institutional scholarships.

“Outside” scholarships are those that you find on your own, that are not offered by educational institutions, whose funds you can use wherever you ultimately enroll. Finding and applying to these scholarships is a great project for the summer—especially if the weather is more conducive to indoor work!

As with everything in your college search, make a spreadsheet to track the scholarships. Include: 

  • the name of the scholarship 
  • the website link
  • the deadline to apply
  • the criteria for qualifying for the scholarship (for example, you must be a resident of a particular city, or want to study a specific major, or have a particular ethnic or religious background, etc.)
  • the application requirements (most music-related outside scholarships will require an audition)
  • the application fee amount, if any
  • the amount of the award

While many outside scholarships seem “small,” several of them can add up. (The record holder in my experience is a flute student who won a total of $20,500 in outside scholarships prior to enrolling in a specific institution!)


I put myself in your shoes to do some searching, and have some tips to get you started.

Tip #1 – If you find a website that guarantees to find scholarships for you as long as you pay them, do not use that website. There are several free aggregate websites that you can use (I typed in “scholarship search website” and found lots of links), or just put your own website research skills to use. You should not have to pay a website to locate scholarships for you.

Tip #2 – Many companies offer scholarships for the children of their employees (and for employees themselves, sometimes). Again, you have to do your research, but in this case, just go to the website of your parent’s employer and see what you can find. The Human Resources office of the employer also may have information. 

  • Examples: Burger King, CVS, Home Depot, Wells Fargo

Tip #3 – Check out local organizations; in particular, music clubs and foundations. You could start with the National Federation of Music Clubs, which offers scholarships for specific music areas (composition, music therapy, sacred music, etc.). 

  • Other examples: The Cleveland Foundation, the St. Louis Community Foundation, the Utah Music Foundation

Tip #4 – For any scholarship you receive, you should thank the donor. This is often a requirement of receiving the funds, but it’s always the proper thing to do. People who give money to help students go to college do so with a strong belief in the good they are doing. They want to know that their money is helping someone. Even if the amount is small—$500 can buy your books for a term or two!—let them know that you appreciate their support. 

My own true story: For my freshman year in college, I was awarded a small scholarship by the local music club, based on an application and an audition. At the end of my freshman year, I performed for the club. The growth in my playing after a year of studying in college was so obvious that they doubled my scholarship for the second year. And yes, I did thank them!

Every bit of funding helps. While it takes effort to find and apply to these scholarships, whether the award is $500 or $5,000, together all the awards help make it possible for you to pay for college. 

Kathleen Tesar

Kathleen Tesar, BM, MM, EdD, is the Associate Dean for Enrollment Management at The Juilliard School. A former professional violinist, she was previously the Associate Dean at the Colburn School Conservatory of Music in Los Angeles, and Director of Admissions at the Eastman School of Music of the University of Rochester. She presents frequently on topics related to performing arts admission, and is co-author of College Prep for Musicians (Bosler, Greene, Tesar).