Apply, Apply, Apply
Most scholarships are awarded based on merit and/or a set of eligibility requirements. Many can be won by writing a powerful essay or a creative story.
Others may be specific to the training program or college department at which a student plans to enroll. The more funds that students apply to, the more likely they are to receive additional money to help pay for their education. Be fearless. Some rejection should be expected, but persistence pays off.
Many types of organizations are interested in helping students pay for college or career school.
Potential sources of scholarships:
- Federal, state, and local governments
- Religious organizations
- Fraternal or civic organizations that you or your parents belong to
- Nonprofit organizations
- Private or family foundations
- Colleges and universities
Need vs. Affiliation
The majority of scholarships are merit-based, meaning they are awarded for good grades, high test scores, participation in extracurricular activities like music or sports, volunteerism, or a combination of these things. However, some scholarship (particularly those managed by schools) are need-based. Meaning that they focus on assisting students who need additional support to make continuing education viable.
Submitting a FAFSA is essential in establishing need.
Still, other scholarships will be made available only for students that are active in clubs, religious groups, or other (typically) nonprofit initiatives. Sometimes these community-focused organizations focus on helping students of a particular ethnicity or other intrinsic characteristic; like having a parent who was in the military.
Most students will be available for a combination of all three types of scholarships.
A Penny Saved is a Penny Earned
There are lots of free search engines available to help you find scholarship opportunities. There’s no reason to pay for publicly available information, so avoid websites that charge a fee of any kind. Also, ask your counselor about any local awards they might know of from businesses or service organizations.
Start looking for opportunities as early as the spring of your junior year so you can plan which scholarships you’ll want to apply for in the fall of your senior year. Planning ahead will also give you the time to start putting together your resume, drafting a personal statement, and gathering references. You’ll probably need all of those things to apply.
Once you’ve started the application process, be sure to follow the instructions for each scholarship opportunity closely. Plan to tailor your standard essay or personal statement to speak to the specific areas each organization has outlined as being important to them. They’re asking you to tell them about yourself, but you also need to demonstrate that you’ve done a little homework and are a good fit for their award. Remember to read and follow the directions closely and submit all materials on time.
If you are awarded scholarship money, you will need to coordinate closely with the college you plan to attend to make sure they know you are accepting the award. Checks for scholarship funds are almost always written directly to the college or university you plan to attend. And, don’t forget: accepting an outside scholarship will affect your financial aid package from the school, and may affect your federal financial aid.