The college search process for many high school students is clearly underway. Whether you're a senior and getting ready to send those applications, a junior dreading the spring entrance exams or an underclassman hearing about college fairs for the first time, if you are a high school student you have inevitably entered the college-prep zone. Scholarships will absolutely assist, but you need to know where to look, what to look out for and the reality of what kind of money is available to you.
4 things you need to know about scholarships
- Where To Search For Scholarships
- Understand What Merit Means
- Be Prepared To Work For Your Scholarships
- Reapply Every Year
Understand What Merit Means
First, if a university gives you a merit based award it is usually due to the strong academic portion of your application (Grade Point Average, Rank and College Entrance Exams). Over the years, many colleges have stopped giving out full merit based scholarships, so these will likely cover only a portion of your tuition. That being said, students can continue to look for other scholarships. Keep in mind when you hear about a student earning an $80,000 academic scholarship, it is over the course of four years. Therefore, the student is receiving $20,000 per year. That may sound like a large sum, however if the schools tuition is $50,000 each year, the student is still responsible for $30,000 annually.
Where To Search For Scholarships
Websites such as Fastweb, Collegeboard, and ScholarshipOwl are good tools to get you started. These sites allow students to set up a profile and some have scholarship search tools. If there is a match, they contact you via an email. You can also browse through the thousands of scholarships available on the internet and apply to whichever seem fit. All of these scholarships can and will have different requirements. Some may want an essay or a resume, others a piece of original art work, while others may require you to be a certain gender or an ethnic background. Read the fine print before putting the time in to apply.
Your high school's college advisors office will also be a place to check out scholarship opportunities. Many community awards and even large corporations send scholarship information directly to each high school. High school counselors will post links onto their school's website or provide scholarship packets in their office. You need to make it a point to seek out these awards, especially if you are in a school with a large population of students.
Be Prepared To Work For Your Scholarships
Most scholarship applications will require an official copy of your transcript, so as always keep your guidance counselor abreast of your scholarship applications. Never wait for the deadline date to get yourself organized, because if your counselor has an emergency or isn't available, all your hard work becomes a waste of time and you will hear about it from your parents until the day that all your college debt is finally paid off! Also, use your intuition during this process. If a scholarship seems too good to be true, it probably is. Your full social security number (may need to provide last 4 digits for identification purposes) and credit card information should never be requested during the application process. If you were to win the award, then you may need to provide more personal information.
Reapply Every Year
Finally, and this is HUGE... if one of the only reasons you can afford the college of your choice is due to these little scholarships that have added up, you MUST reapply for them every year of your college career. Most private scholarships are one-time rewards. Most students aren't in the mindset to apply for scholarships once they are in college, but you absolutely can. You must be diligent in your efforts and of course, organized. Students who go above and beyond in senior year making their dream college their reality without the same eager attitude during their first year of college might not think to reapply for these rewards. Once they realize the cost of the next three years, they may be forced to transfer and that can be heartbreaking.
Scholarships are out there if you search. It can be an overwhelming task, but in the end it is absolutely worth it. Many scholarship applications are very basic and can be done properly in a short amount of time. It is up to the student (and/or parents) to be active in this process if you want results.