By Amanda Harbrecht, Social Media Intern
It is easy to think of higher education and be overwhelmed by that high price tag. College tuitions are higher than ever, and funding your next step can be incredibly stressful. Filling out the FAFSA, the CSS profile, and applying for University-affiliated scholarships are some of the most popular options for financial aid, but they aren’t the only options. All too often students either forget about or discount outside scholarships. If you are unfamiliar with applying for scholarships here are a few things to know.
1. Start Early
There is nothing more frustrating than finding a scholarship you might be a great fit for, and then realizing the deadline already passed. Writing essays, accessing your transcript, or assembling a portfolio all take time. Start your search early so that you can stay on top of deadlines and requirements. You do not even have to wait until you are a junior or a senior. Many scholarships target younger students and hold the funding for them until they go to college.
2. Search Around
Today’s technology makes finding and applying for scholarships easier than ever. A great way of searching for scholarships is through an app on your phone. I would recommend Scholly. It was founded by college graduates who recalled their days of frustration with finding scholarships and devised an easier way to undertake the search. Today Scholly has helped its users find over $15 million in scholarships. There are also hundreds of great websites out there. You might already be familiar with CollegeBoard, but Scholarships.com, Fastweb, and Unigo are popular as well. These sites typically let you either browse by category or ask you to fill out a short questionnaire, which they will then use to match you with scholarships for which you are eligible. When filling out the questionnaire, try to be as specific as possible. The more specific you can be, the more options you will find as well as a lower playing field. Your guidance counselor’s office is another great resource in your scholarship search. Counselors can suggest scholarships from the area or ones with frequent winners from your school.
3. Apply. Apply. Apply.
The more scholarships you apply for, the better your chances! Don’t worry if you feel overwhelmed or unprepared. You might have to write 5-6 additional essays, but generally after that the prompts start to repeat. You want to be sure you essay applies to the prompt, but provided it does, you can revise and reuse that essay for other scholarships always making sure to use specific information about the organization and yourself to make you worthy of the scholarship. You have nothing to lose by applying, but there is so much to gain. Think of it this way: If you invest 20 hours in your applications, say you win $1,000, well then you’ve just made $50 an hour!
4. Be Aware
It is obviously important to work hard on your applications and present yourself in the best way, but it is also important to be smart with your online search. While there are many excellent scholarships out there, there are also some scams. You need to be aware that these sites exist. You should never have to provide a social security number or pay a fee to apply for a scholarship. You should also be aware that if you apply to the quantity of scholarships I am suggesting, then you are most likely going to get some rejections. That is perfectly okay. Do not be disheartened.
The diverse pool of scholarships means students can win based on any number of things. All too often students assume scholarships are only available for academic excellence, athletic skills, or racial affiliation. This is simply not true. While there are great scholarships offered on the basis of these attributes, there are also scholarships offered on the basis of intended major, state of residence, even on composing a creative tweet! The sheer volume of awards you are eligible for might surprise you. A final tip: all of the advice offered above is important, but do not underestimate the power and significance of putting together a thoughtful and creative application that makes you stand out from all other applicants.