Have you expanded your financial aid search to include scholarships? If not, what are you waiting for? For most people the best way to approach this is to set aside an hour or two a week. Think of it as a class period in financial aid. Keep this in your schedule and protect this time. Other things should not interfere with this schedule anymore than you would let someone talk you into having pizza instead of going to work. This time is when you ‘work’ on financial aid. You complete applications, type essays and search for sources of funding. Think about it. If you set aside 2 hours a week for a year and you are successful in getting a $1,500 scholarship, you will have made $14.42 an hour. If you get more than one scholarship your salary will continue to go up. Not bad when you consider that you can do all of this in your pajamas!
There are several key steps you should focus on when doing scholarship searches:
First, check out a couple of scholarship search sites. Start here, we post college scholarship listings periodically on FinancialAidFinder. Then pick a couple of scholarship search sites. My favorite is FastWeb.com. It takes about 15 minutes to complete your profile. Don’t worry, they don’t spam you. They use the information you provide when the process scholarship searches by key words. So if your grandparents were Lithuanian, or your father is a Teamster, or you are studying aeronautics, when there is a scholarship that is being offered to one of those groups-you get an email from FastWeb telling you there may be a scholarship of interest to you.
PLEASE NOTE: NEVER pay someone to provide a scholarship service. Reputable scholarship searches are free. The only way someone can GUARANTEE you will get a scholarship is if they have a scam. You pay the $500 and they will find you a $100 scholarship. It is a win-win for them. You lose.
When you sit down to complete a scholarship application, start by reading the instructions. There are always instructions. If the directions say type the application, double spaced on white paper; then do it double spaced on white paper. It seems like a no brainer, but you would be amazed how many students don’t follow the directions. I have served on dozens of scholarship selection committees. We always have more applications than we have scholarships to award and it is difficult judging who has the best story. To make the process less difficult, many scholarship selection committees start by eliminating those applications that did not follow the directions. Pay close attention to deadlines. Very few groups will accept an application after the deadline.
Many scholarship applications will ask you to a personal statement. Sometimes they want to know more about you, sometimes they want to know why you should get the award, and other times they ask you to write on a specific topic. When you have completed your essay, ALWAYS ask someone to read it. If you are lucky you have a professor who is willing to look at it and provide feedback. Write in an active voice not a passive voice. Remember, everyone thinks they deserve the scholarship. What makes you so special? Why should they invest their money in you?
Don’t make the mistake of disqualifying yourself for a scholarship. Just because the scholarship is offered by the local Business Women’s Association doesn’t mean they only award women or people in business. Read the entire announcement. You shouldn’t apply for a scholarship earmarked for Nursing students if you are studying Engineering, but read the scholarship announcement and see what type of applicant they are seeking.
Don’t forget to check out the college you will be attending. Check out the scholarship office. Large universities and private colleges have a substantial amount of scholarship funds that they disburse to their students. Most scholarship offices have web sites and/or bulletin boards where they post scholarships currently being offered.
There are lots of scholarships out there. They won’t fall from the sky. You have to be willing to put in the effort.