Getting scholarships to help pay for college can significantly reduce the financial burden on you and your family. Many schools apply scholarships to your tuition account by reducing the amount of self-help aid you need to use, such as work-study and loans. These free you up to concentrate on your studies and to not commit your future income to repaying debt. Apply for college scholarships during a few key times of your academic career; read on for details.
Take advantage of all your free time during the summer before your senior year begins to start applying for college scholarships. Use scholarship search databases, such as those found at Fast Web and Scholarships.com, to locate potential scholarships and sort them by their deadlines. Start with those that have the earliest deadlines and work toward the ones with the later deadlines. As you have time during your senior year, continue applying for scholarships you locate through these websites.
When you are applying for colleges, also apply for scholarships from that particular school at the same time. Contact each college's financial aid office to find out what scholarships are available and what supplementary application you need to submit. Many schools just need the Department of Education's Free Application for Federal Student Aid and the information on your application to get into the colleges, whereas others have specialized applications for their scholarships. Get these scholarship applications well before the school's admission application deadline because some will require you to write additional essays, and you want to be sure you have enough time to complete them.
Although students tend to focus on getting scholarships for their freshman year of college, there are many that are available for applicants who are current undergraduate students. In fact, some scholarships are only available for upperclassmen. Continue searching for and applying for scholarships during your academic breaks from college. These help you to maintain the same amount of gift aid each year and avoid going into sticker shock when you and your family have to shoulder more of the cost in years when you don't have any scholarships to help.
If you go into college not knowing what you are going to study, look for scholarships again after selecting your major. Many scholarships can only be used by students who are studying a particular topic. Therefore, as soon as you know what field you will study, update your profile at scholarship search websites so you can find scholarships specific to that field. Apply for any scholarships you find before their deadlines.
Undergraduate students often get grants to help pay for college, but not as many grants are available for graduate students. Therefore, the year before entering graduate school is another time to apply for scholarships. Contact the department chair of your graduate program to find out about the scholarships that you should consider applying for. Some might be through the graduate school, whereas others will be through outside agencies.