How to Apply for and Win College Scholarships
8 steps to securing scholarships for college
With move-in day here and tuition bills arriving in the mail, many parents and students are wondering how to pay for all of those college expenses. If it seems as if college costs have increased exponentially in recent years, you’re right. From 2002-03 to 2012-13, published tuition and fees (at public four-year institutions) rose at an average rate of 5.2 percent per year beyond inflation.
For cash-strapped families, loans are a popular source of college funding, as are part-time on-campus jobs for students. But one funding source that families frequently overlook is the wide array of scholarships available.
If your child is not an all-state star athlete or valedictorian, don’t despair! Finding, applying for and winning college scholarships are all possible if you follow these helpful tips:
- Start early. Although the majority of college scholarships are available for high school seniors or those already enrolled in college, there are also many available for students in 9th - 12th grades. There are even some awards for middle school students.
- Identify your child’s strengths. Every child will not be a match for every scholarship. Identifying your student’s strengths — from art to science to marching band — will help you focus on the scholarships that your child has the best chance of winning.
- Think local. Large, national scholarships promising $10,000, $25,000 or more toward college tuition are tempting . . . and highly competitive. When searching for scholarships, think outside the box. Many local organizations offer smaller awards of $250, $500 or $1,000. While they won’t cover the entire cost of a four-year degree, smaller scholarships can really add up. So don’t overlook local resources like the Lions, Kiwanis and Rotary Clubs.
- Do your research. There are many convenient scholarship-listing services on the Internet. A quick Google search can get you started. Some of the most reputable search sites include FastWeb.com, Scholarships.com, Studentscholarshipsearch.com and Scholarshipexperts.com.
- Don’t be taken in by scholarship scams. Never pay for a “guaranteed scholarship.” All legitimate scholarships offer free submissions.
- Get organized. Creating an Excel spreadsheet will keep both you and your student organized. List by application deadline and include any specialized requirements. Some scholarships require extensive essays, high school transcripts, multiple letters of recommendation or even video submissions. Leaving ample time to create the perfect submission package is crucial.
- Follow directions. If the scholarship requires transcripts, include them. If the package offers “optional” essays, have your student write them. Send all requested elements in one package to avoid confusion and possible disqualification.
- Proofread. Once your student has created a submission package, proofread his work for vocabulary, grammar, punctuation and spelling. Extensive edits, if necessary, should be completed by the student. Under no circumstances should you or anyone other than the student write an application package.
It’s estimated that approximately $3.3 billion in scholarships are awarded annually by private sources like foundations, corporations and nonprofit groups. So while applying for scholarships can be a time-consuming process, the rewards can be tremendous!
Beverly Stewart, MEd, is the founder/president of Back to Basics Learning Dynamics, Inc. tutoring service in Wilmington, DE.