Finding Scholarships to Pay for College
Right now the reality has set in for many juniors who are very soon-to-be “rising seniors.” It’s their time which means the pressure is on.
Hopefully, most juniors have their college lists fairly well-defined and have even visited a selection of their schools. If not, make sure to use your summer wisely by visiting as many college campuses as possible. But the reality of the cost of a college education has now also settled in and most juniors have committed to applying for scholarships to defray the costs of a public or private institution.
The best thing about scholarships is that they are not LOANS. Loans need to be paid back, with interest.
Applying and competing for private scholarships—money from private companies, groups, and associations—is a great way to help pay for school because it’s money you don’t have to pay back. There are many scholarships available and lots of competition for each one, but if you put in the time and keep trying, you may just get some “free money” for college.
4 Steps to Apply for Scholarships
1. Narrow your focus.
Check your school, the institutions where you’re applying and the big scholarship sites including:
2. Decide which scholarships to apply for.
Make sure you meet the eligibility requirements, and apply for scholarships that match your personal interests. And remember, even a small award can go a long way toward paying for your books, meal plans, computers, and other expenses associated with college.
3. Complete and submit the application packets.
Depending upon the scholarship you are applying for, your application packet may be a simple online form or it may require letters of recommendation, essays or transcripts. The most important thing is to plan ahead—know what’s required and set aside time to get started early.
4. Go back to step one and do it again.
You never know when a new scholarship program will become available, or when a change in your profile information will result in more scholarships in your match list. An increase in your GPA or SAT scores, a change in your intended major or advancing to the next grade in school could all trigger new scholarships being added to your list.
Remember, as long as you are a student in high school or college, you can apply for scholarships. So don’t forget to continue applying for scholarship money, even after you are enrolled in college. continued
Here are a few summary tips to help you stay organized and make your scholarship applications stand out:
• Check the detailed requirements to make sure you’re eligible and see what’s required to apply.
• Narrow your list of scholarships to focus on the ones that interest you most.
• Arrange the scholarships by the deadline date, and set a goal to submit the application several days before the deadline.
Prepare your application packets:
• Read all application instructions and requirements carefully, and create a “to-do” list for each scholarship.
• If letters of recommendation are required, request them 4–6 weeks before the deadline.
• Begin any essays at least 2–4 weeks before the due date.
• Create or update your Activity Resume. Include your resume with your applications to stand out from other applicants.
Stand out from the crowd:
• Have a trusted parent, teacher, or friend read and critique your work before sending it to the scholarship committee.
• Re-read the rules of each scholarship and double-check that you’ve fulfilled all the requirements and completed all parts of the application packet.
• Consider adding a personal cover letter to the scholarship committee. This alone could set you apart from the other applicants.
• Keep a copy of the entire packet for your records.
• Confirm with each scholarship provider that your application was received.
• Send thank you notes to anyone who wrote you a letter of recommendation. By expressing your gratitude,you are more likely to receive help from them in the future.
• If you win a scholarship award, always send a thank-you note to the scholarship provider. You may also want to send a note when the scholarship concludes to let the provider know how their award contributed to your educational experience.
Bierer is an independent college adviser based in Charlotte. Send questions to: email@example.com; www.bierercollegeconsulting.com