Mistake #1: Not starting soon enough.
At one time or another, everyone procrastinates, but when it comes to scholarships, this tendency can cost you money.
"I think the biggest mistake is that students wait too long," says Mary Watkins, director of recruitment and retention for the graduate school at the University of Cincinnati.
She suggests undergrads start their search for scholarships during their junior year. If you're in the work force, you should plan on beginning the search process 18 months before you want to walk back into the classroom. This approach makes it less likely that you'll miss crucial deadlines. Start right now with a listing of scholarships at www.students.gov.
Mistake #2: Avoiding your homework.
There are no short cuts when it comes to finding potential scholarship opportunities for graduate school.
"You're going to have to go to the Internet and search," Watkins says. "There's not one definitive source."
Instead of wishing for a magic bullet, start looking at financial aid opportunities that match your life and interests. Check into scholarships awarded by area of study, where you live, and even the church you attend. Worried about scams? Go to the Federal Trade Commission's Scholarship Scams site for advice.
Mistake #3: Overlooking obvious resources.
"You should be contacting and communicating with your program of interest at different schools," Watkins says. "Let them know you're interested in all forms of financial aid."Many of these awards are made by a selection committee rather than an application process, so you need to be in close touch with a program to get your hat in the ring.