By Joe Messinger, CFP®
November 13, 2015
If you could earn $50 per hour, wouldn’t you? What am I talking about? I am talking about the process of finding college scholarships. The process isn’t easy. It might not be quick. But if you spent 20 hours searching and applying and earned a $1,000 scholarship, that’s $50 per hour! Pretty valuable when you look at it that way!
(Need a refresher on the definition of scholarship? Check out our College Financial Terminology 101 blog. )
Fact is finding and winning scholarships is not always easy, but because students think of it as too hard, they do not even try. You have to do the work! Know the deadlines and requirements for each application and set goals for yourself like “I will apply for at least 15 scholarships by holiday break”. You can’t control how many of them you will receive, but you can control how many you apply for. Find the ones suited to you and realize the smaller value awards are often a lot less competitive and receive far fewer applications than large national awards. Winning five $1000 scholarships is the same as one $5,000 scholarship! Here in the Midwest we raise our kids to be humble and not to boast and brag. Well, this is one time that students need to brag on themselves and be proud of their accomplishments and what they have to offer the world!
Several myths exist around the winning of scholarships…
Myth: Scholarships are only for low income students, perfect students, athletes or minorities. Although scholarships exist for all those groups of students, many more are available for those with special skills, with volunteer or work experience, for certain areas of interest, or for membership in certain groups as well as many other reasons. Keep track of all the activities, special projects, etc. during high school. They’ll be useful later when searching for scholarships suited to your student.
Myth: If you are in one of those categories in the first myth (low income, perfect, athlete, minority), the scholarship money will find you. Actually, you will still need to get out there and look—it is not automatic. Just like any scholarship they are highly competitive and your application has to stand out.
Myth: You should start looking for scholarships in your senior year. Wrong! Some scholarships are awarded as young as 13, and the earlier you get started the better. One scholarship site www.raise.me will award money for achievements throughout your high school career (if you choose to go to one of the participating universities).
Myth: You need to pay someone to find the most scholarship money for you, and they have access to billions of dollars unclaimed every year. The truth is many free resources exist on the internet to help you find scholarship dollars, and it is a myth that billions remain unclaimed every year. A good place to start is in your student’s own guidance office and through their online resources (like Naviance). Also check with the financial aid office of the colleges you are interested in.
Other free resources you can take advantage of are…
www.fastweb.com is a great scholarship search website where you can create your own free account, and they will provide you with a whole list of potential scholarships.
Scholarship America hosts a variety of large corporate scholarships as well as local scholarship opportunities.
The College Board also has a free scholarship search where you can plug in your specific qualifications to receive a list of potential scholarships.
Did you know that the Columbus Foundation is the 7th largest community foundation in the country? They also have over 200 scholarships for Ohio Students!
Looking for some unusual scholarships? Here’s a selection.
Many scholarship applications require the completion of an essay (although some do not). And while I’m not the authority on writing and grammar (I’m a numbers guy), you can find free resources on the internet with helpful tips and guidance like these from Fastweb: essay tips part 1 and part 2.
Don’t get discouraged if you don’t win every scholarship you apply for. They are extremely competitive. Be realistic and realize how competitive they are. Keep in mind that grants and scholarships from the colleges and universities themselves make up over 80% of total scholarship dollars today. Work hard to identify schools willing to pay for you to attend their school!
So keep that $50 per hour in mind as you search for scholarships and wonder if it is worth it. Every little bit helps to avoid too much student loan debt.