Many people will say that their years in college were the best of their lives, and with tips for finding and applying for scholarships, there is an affordable path to get there. College is a milestone where students are able to explore new experiences, meet new people, and develop independence all while gaining a quality education. Unfortunately, beginning your college journey comes at a high cost. With an estimated student debt in the United States of $1.6 trillion (yes, that’s a lot of zeros!), many college applicants are working hard to find another way of funding their education: scholarships. Obtaining scholarship funding helps students attend college with less stress by relaxing their financial burden. However, while scholarship opportunities abound, they can sometimes be hard to find. Because Testive is committed to helping you achieve your college goals, we have identified some helpful tips to launch a successful scholarship search.
1. Start Early
Mark Twain once said, “If it’s your job to eat a frog, it’s best to do it first thing in the morning.”
In other words, you should plan on applying for scholarships at the beginning of your senior year. The scholarship cycle runs in three phases: fall semester, spring semester, and summer before college matriculation. The fall semester is when scholarship availability kicks off for seniors with deadlines usually in October and December. Additionally, the spring semester is often considered the high season for scholarships. The deadlines are typically spread throughout the semester with spring break a perfect opportunity to use free time to polish a resume and submit applications. Lastly, the summer months provide a few more last-minute scholarship opportunities. While there aren’t quite as many scholarship options available in the summer, there is also a reduction in the amount of students searching which can allow you a competitive advantage.
2. Visit Your School Counselor’s Office
A useful tip for finding and applying for scholarships: School counselors and academic advisors are great resources for scholarship opportunities. They often have information that is not readily available otherwise. Additionally, they can help give you tailored advice based on your academic profile, extracurricular activities, athletic ability, and cultural background.
3. Check College Websites
Visiting college websites is a great method for finding and applying for scholarships. They usually have portions of the website devoted solely to scholarship opportunities, search tips, and external application links. Specific departments may also have opportunities listed based on your choice of major or minor. For example, a student might find that he or she qualifies for an academic merit scholarship given by the university, a scholarship for those enrolled within the Honors College, and a scholarship for engineering students. Once you are accepted into a college, you should check with the financial aid office if you have additional questions about the scholarship opportunities available.
4. Find Opportunities Online and in Your Community
Scholarships exist for everything from academic achievement to writing left-handed. The tricky part is knowing where to find the opportunities. To start, there is an abundance of free websites that catalog available scholarships for students to browse including Scholarships.com, Fastweb, and CollegeBoard. Scholly is also a great option, but does cost between $3.75 and $7.99 per month. These and other similar websites allow for a simple, tailored approach to searching for scholarships. In addition, local organizations within your community may have scholarships for college-bound juniors and seniors. Foundations, community groups, religious organizations, and businesses all are viable options for your scholarship search. Additionally, many companies offer scholarships specifically for the children of employees. Keep an eye out for postings by community service groups and ask family and friends if their businesses or organizations have opportunities available.
5. Apply to (Almost) Everything
Some students are able to acquire several hundred thousand dollars in scholarship money before heading off to college. It is a good idea to apply for as many as possible as there is no limit to the amount of scholarship money you can earn. Once you get started on your applications, you will find that many of the requirements are redundant and you can re-use material such as your resume or personal statement. The amount of scholarship money you earn often directly correlates with the amount of scholarships to which you apply. So, even if a scholarship seems like a reach, it is usually worth the effort. You never know what might happen!
6. Keep an Eye Out for Scammers
Unfortunately, not every scholarship application is what it appears. There are thousands of students and parents that fall victim to scams every year. Many of these offers have “unclaimed money” and require “fees” to match you with a scholarships. However, those offers are rip-offs and never fulfill their “money back guarantee.” The Federal Trade Commission has more information on how to avoid these scams detailed here.
7. Stay Organized
One of the most important parts of the application process is staying organized. This tip for finding and applying for scholarships includes monitoring deadlines and keeping updated files. Missing out on potential financial support because of a missed deadline be very frustrating. Most scholarships do not have any flexibility in deadlines due to the amount of applications received.
Using a planner or setting phone reminders is a good way to stay on top of application due dates. It is also helpful to organize relevant files so that they are readily available for applications. This includes, transcripts, letters of recommendation, essays, personal statements, and even tax returns. This will help save time and reduce stress by having critical information readily available.
In conclusion, the most important part of your scholarship search is a positive attitude. Although you will most likely receive a few scholarship rejections, don’t let that sideline your motivation. Persistence is key in receiving as much scholarship aid as possible. Additionally, if you would like help obtaining a more competitive ACT or SAT score for your scholarship applications, then Testive is here to help. A great place to begin is an online practice test. Register today to begin your college admissions journey with a free practice test.