Applying for scholarships is one of the most important steps you’ll take on the road to preparing for college. Knowing exactly where to look for scholarships can save you a lot of time and, ultimately, a lot of money. If you’re in the process of applying for scholarships and your unsure where to start, check out the information below.
First of all, you and your family need to come up with a game plan as to how you’re going to approach the scholarship search. How much time you devote to your search could mean the difference between having a stress-free college experience, or else spending most of your time worrying about how to pay your tuition and/or living expenses. You need to approach the search as a job, and consider it as important a task as filling out the applications and writing the essays. You should also start as early as you can so that you can have access to as many sources as possible. Many scholarships have a limited amount of funds available so applying early can only work in your favor. The early bird gets the worm! Make sure that you have the standard information needed on most scholarship applications at your fingertips so that you can fill that portion of the form out as quickly as possible. This includes all of your vital statistics, volunteerism, job history, etc.
Next, you need to figure out what you want to do while in college, as well as your post-college plans. Having an idea of what you want to do after you finish college could help expand the pool of scholarships that you’d be eligible for. For instance, if you think you want to be a veterinarian, there are scholarships out there that are geared towards future vets. If you have an idea of what you’ll be majoring in, there are even scholarships geared towards people taking a certain major. If you excel at a certain sport, you could possible even qualify for a scholarship from that sport, even if you won’t be doing anything sports-related come graduation. Knowing these details in advance will help widen your pool of options.
Next, check out local scholarships. You can start at your high school guidance counselor’s office. Guidance counselors are like the town gatekeepers of scholarship knowledge. They’ll have lots of information about little known scholarships and scholarship sources that originate in your town, city or state. Again, check in with them as early in the process as you can so that you get first dibs.
Research the school aid section of your local library. It’s the perfect place to look because all of the information is in one section, and it very often includes info on scholarships for local applicants. If you have a dedicated librarian in the scholarship section, they may be able to give you important tips as well. Don’t hesitate to ask.
Do your research on national scholarships. These include ones sponsored by Gates Millennium Scholars, the National Merit Scholarship Corporation and the Robert C. Byrd Honors Scholarship Program. These are obviously open to students across the country so find out the necessary requirements for each and complete your applications earlier rather than later. Find out more information online at sites like www.scholarships.com.
Check out sources like your local churches and synagogues, credit unions, community service organizations, union, fraternal orders and professional organizations. You’d be surprised at how many of them offer scholarships to local applicants. Sometimes you have to be affiliated with the organizations, but oftentimes, they open their doors to everyone, so check them out anyway.
Find out if your parents’ employers (or your employer) offer scholarships for employees or children of employees. The human resources department should have that info. If your parents work at one of the universities you’re applying to, you’re in even better luck as you may qualify for tuition remission! But that’s another article.
Did you know that McDonald’s and Burger King have scholarship programs? Many fast food chains offer scholarship assistance to their employees, so don’t be remiss: find out if your employer is one of the ones that offer employee scholarship aid.
Online sources are invaluable and seemingly endless. You can do a simple Google search, but you could also sign up with free scholarship search services like www.scholarships.com. With services like this one, you enter your criteria and the site does the searching for you. Signing up with the search sites and doing your own independent online search is probably your best bet for netting the most results.