For parents and students alike, much of what comes to mind when thinking about college involve dollar signs. This often-stinging association checks out, with the average yearly cost at any four-year institution at a staggering $35,331. Despite the cost, most parents dream of sending their kids off to college and many do that successfully. Making this possible, college students collectively receive over 1.7 million scholarships annually to fund their higher education.
Emptying your savings for higher education costs might be avoidable. Get started on making yourself part of that statistic and minimizing your college monetary burden with Test Prep Score’s curated guide on scholarships.
Unlike loans, scholarships are essentially free money, since you will not need to repay them once you graduate. They might cover the entire cost of tuition or maybe a one-time award of a certain sum. Schools, employers, private companies, nonprofits, and other community organizations offer these awards. Colleges will award financial aid at need-based and merit-based levels, which you can earn based on academic achievement, group belonging, unique talents, traits, or interests.
Be sure to start your scholarship search early. This process could begin anytime from the summer before your senior year. Most opportunities have strict deadlines, and you want to explore and apply for options you are a match for before it is too late. As far as where to start, you should begin your search with local scholarships, since those tend to be less competitive. You can then expand your reach as you continue to apply.
In terms of resources to tap into, a place to start is looking specifically at scholarships offered by your target school. To do so, contact the school’s financial aid office or look for information on the school’s website. You could also talk to your high school’s college counselor. They might turn you toward general awards offered by federal or state agencies, or other possible fund sources based on the scholarship type you wish to pursue.
When you narrow in on specific scholarships in your search, explore the grades, extracurriculars, and income requirements to ensure you are a good match. Also, make sure scholarship opportunities are legitimate to avoid scams. The two most prominent red flags pointed to by financial scam experts are upfront fee requirements for application or if you receive emails regarding your receipt of funds for which you never applied.
The right time to apply depends on specific deadlines, with some landing as early as a year before your first year of college. Alternatively, you can apply for other funds while already enrolled in college. Either way, keep an eye out on dates! Since deadlines vary and you might apply to multiple institutions, tracking due dates in your calendar could help keep you organized and prepared in this process.
Application requirements also vary by scholarship. Be sure to find information on scholarship websites about which documents the application calls for. These often include transcripts, a resume, letters of recommendation, and a completed FAFSA (Free Application for Federal Student Aid) form. Preparing these forms in advance could enable you to apply early and avoid missing awards due to depleted funds. There is only a finite amount of funds, so to get the highest sums possible, you must be prompt in applying.
A personal statement is a key prerequisite for many scholarships. The financial aid office wants you to write on a certain topic or explain how receiving the award funds will help you give back to the campus community. In any case, since this is your chance to leave a personal mark on your application, leave yourself ample time. In addition, follow prompts closely, as scholarship committees may read thousands of essays and will not appreciate having to decode yours.
Once your application is in, you will have to patiently wait to hear back from the financial aid office. If you do receive a scholarship, the funds will apply towards tuition costs; however, your college may send the funds to you via check. In any case, let your school know what awards you earn. Other student aid combined with those scholarships cannot exceed the total cost of attendance.
For extra help in securing funds for your higher education journey, seek out tutoring services near you at Test Prep Score to receive expert aid in your scholarship search, essay help, and application assistance. Every dollar counts and small reward amounts can certainly add up.