Can this freemium service help you win scholarships?

Scholarship Owl





  • Keeps track of scholarship applications
  • Quickly apply to multiple scholarships
  • Hundreds of scholarships


  • Free search is limited

I went to college for five years and graduated with a Bachelor’s, a Master’s degree, $35,000 in student loans but also a job. I had a Computer Science degree but timed my graduation with the dot com bubble bursting. Yay me.

So I stayed an extra year, picked up an M.S., and managed to score a decent job.

I was thankful that my loans were only $35,000. Back in the late 90s and early 2000s, a year of college was a staggering $30,000 a year.

Today, the cost to attend Carnegie Mellon is north of $70,000.


I’d be lucky to graduate with a five-figure debt.

One of the reasons why my debt was lower was scholarships. I wasn’t one of those scholarship geniuses that won a lot of scholarships. I wish I knew the game back then.

I did manage to score a few thousand dollars in scholarships thought. A few thousand is better than nothing. I considered myself lucky.

Many companies offer scholarships to their employee’s kids. Some professional organizations offer scholarships to students entering their field of study. Many of these private academic scholarships are hard to find. You only hear about them through word of mouth.

If you are looking to win a scholarship and for a competitive advantage, you need to know about Scholarship Owl.

So is Scholarship Owl legitimate? Is it worth the money?

What is Scholarship Owl?

ScholarshipOwl is a scholarship application and search engine.

You fill out a basic profile and template of information. Based on that information and your own research, you can quickly apply to multiple scholarships without filling out the same information over and over and over again. The search engine will help you find scholarship awards that are similar to the ones you’ve applied to.

The competitive advantage you get by using a platform such as ScholarshipOwl is enormous. You will save time, discover scholarships you never knew about, and apply to them very quickly so you can increase your chances of winning the scholarship.

There are many scholarships that will demand more than what was in your profile. For those, provide more information like writing an essay or answer a few more questions specific to that award or organization.

After you’ve submitted an entry to a scholarship, ScholarshipOwl keeps track of your applications so you can follow up if you don’t receive confirmation. Sometimes forms don’t get sent, sometimes errors happen, it’s nice to know they’re on top of it so your hard work doesn’t go to waste.

Signing up for Scholarship Owl

The basic profile asks for your level of education, gender, DOB, ethnic background, citizenship, name of your high school, enrollment status, enrollment date, college, GPA, graduation date, major, degree, career goal, online study interest, military affiliation, whether you played sports, and your address (they accept PO Boxes). I created myself from 20 years ago (but with a Maryland address, rather than a New York one) to see what it would show me.

As you sign up, you may see this pop up where you can directed to another site (I suspect these are partnerships based on what you enter on the first screen):

By doing so, you’re entered into their “No Essay Smart Owl Scholarship” that is worth $7,000. Every month, Scholarship Owl awards this scholarship to a US resident age 16+ and enrolled (or will be within 3 months) in a qualified high school, college or university in the United States.

As for the other scholarships, ScholarshipOwl found:

That’s a lot of scholarships!

When you take away the massive Barbizon College Tuition Scholarship Program, you’re left with a more realistic $334,289 in available cash on 226 scholarships.

You don’t have to pay for a membership to see this list of scholarships. You can click on View T&C and it’ll take you to the website hosting the scholarship for more details.

No Essay Smart Owl Scholarship

When you sign up you’re automatically entered into the monthly $7,000 scholarship. Those who sign up for an account on ScholarshipOwl are entered for that month’s drawing. It’s more of a sweepstake than a scholarship though there’s no entry fee. It is open to all US residents who are 16 years or older and enrolled in a qualifying high school or university within three months.

The odds of winning change because you’re up against people who sign up that month. It’s hard to know how many sign up.

Search for Scholarships

What do you pay for?

No such thing as a free lunch!

As we learned, ScholarshipOwl is free to use but it isn’t free if you want to use the platform to apply to scholarships. They have a 7-day free trial on each of their plans so you can give it a test run before paying. The screenshot shows four columns but it’s three payment plans for one paid service tier plus the Elite service.

The paid service has three payment plans. If you pay monthly, it’s $20 a month. If you pay quarterly, it’s ~$15 per month. If you pay twice a year, it drops the price down to $10 per month. For those plans, you get access to the scholarships and the ability to apply online.

The Elite package is $499 and they only have 100 spots each month. You get a personal admissions coach, access to training sessions and tutorials, a professional essay review, plus unlimited applications each day.

Types of Scholarships

To really understand scholarships, it’s important to understand the different types.

There are a lot of different types of scholarships:

  • Need-based Scholarships: These are scholarships awarded based on financial need. Eligibility is based on the financial situation of the student and his or her family. This takes into consideration their assets and their income. Your athletic ability and your grades don’t factor into these scholarships.
  • Merit-based Scholarships: Merit-based scholarships are based on a student’s talents and interests, which could range from academics to artistic to athletics. This is the most common type of scholarship. Any student can apply because it does not have any needs-based component. It is awarded based on merit though, so if you aren’t an accomplished oboe player then I wouldn’t apply for an oboe scholarship.
  • Athletic Scholarships: Athletic scholarships are a subset of merit-based scholarships awarded to students who are looking to further their athletic careers to the next level.
  • Artistic Scholarships: Artistic scholarships are a subset of merit-based scholarships awarded to students who are looking to further their artistic careers to the next level.
  • No Essay Scholarships: No essay scholarships just refer to a scholarship with no writing requirements and are less common because it requires very little work on your part. It also means there’s less opportunity for you to differentiate yourself since an essay gives you a chance to explain or illustrate something about yourself.
  • Minority Scholarships: These are scholarships where there’s an added requirement beyond merit or need, like a particular background or family heritage that makes you eligible.
  • “Unusual” Scholarships: This is not technically a “type” of scholarship but these unusual and obscure scholarships are just hard to find. By definition, anything on ScholarshipOwl’s website is likely no longer “hard to find” (since they found it!) but they may have requirements that make them obscure.
  • Employee Family Scholarships: A lot of companies will offer scholarships to the children of their employees. When I was younger, my dad’s employer offered half
    a dozen merit-based scholarships where the awardee had to be the child of a full-time employee.

This is not an exhaustive list of the different types but can give you ideas for where else to look.

Search for Scholarships

Is ScholarshipOwl a Scam?

This is a 100% legitimate question but Scholarship Owl isn’t a scam. It’s a paid service that facilitates scholarship applications. They don’t require you to pay to use it and they even give you a list of scholarships with links to the scholarships. You could use it for searching and then apply for them manually.

The “No Essay Smart Owl Scholarship” doesn’t require you to have a paid membership, you can win it without paying.

For those reasons, I don’t think they are a scam.

Whether they are worth it is another question…

Is Scholarship Owl Worth It?

I don’t give Scholarship Owl a rating in this review because I can’t use it myself. I’m now over twenty years removed from applying to colleges so I don’t want to spend time applying (and potentially winning but then declining) to scholarships.

You are paying for a scholarship search engine with a tracking feature that will keep you up to date on the status of your scholarship applications. For those scholarships where you don’t need to write an essay, you can mass submit them and use the tool to follow up.

It seems like you could try it for 7-days to see if you like the service. If you do, it’s cheap at $10-$20 a month. Just remember to cancel if you don’t want it anymore because the fees are non-refundable.

There are alternatives to ScholarshipOwl including Chegg Scholarships, Scholarship America, Scholarship Points, and Cappex. Some have fees and others don’t. You can give them all a try to compare their offerings.

Check out Scholarship Owl

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About Jim Wang

Jim Wang is a forty-something father of four who is a frequent contributor to Forbes and Vanguard's Blog. He has also been fortunate to have appeared in the New York Times, Baltimore Sun, Entrepreneur, and Marketplace Money.

Jim has a B.S. in Computer Science and Economics from Carnegie Mellon University, an M.S. in Information Technology - Software Engineering from Carnegie Mellon University, as well as a Masters in Business Administration from Johns Hopkins University. His approach to personal finance is that of an engineer, breaking down complex subjects into bite-sized easily understood concepts that you can use in your daily life.

One of his favorite tools (here's my treasure chest of tools, everything I use) is Empower Personal Dashboard, which enables him to manage his finances in just 15-minutes each month. They also offer financial planning, such as a Retirement Planning Tool that can tell you if you're on track to retire when you want. It's free.

>> Read more articles by Jim

Opinions expressed here are the author's alone, not those of any bank or financial institution. This content has not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.

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