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Friday, August 17, 2012

Scholarships: Where to Start

Let's be completely frank: college is expensive. The task of paying for college is no longer reserved for Ivy League families or students who fell on hard times but now is a universal struggle. But for years, thousands of people and companies have been giving out free money. That's right. FREE MONEY. Before you assume that this post is a scam, think about it. Scholarships are a wonderful source of free money. So why not take complete advantage of them? Here are some steps that I took (and still taking) to help pay for college!

Step 1 - Become a Detective 

There are a multitude of resources that exist for students looking for scholarships. Check your school's newsletter, look in your local newspaper and use websites such as and Fastwebs. Don't be fooled into thinking that scholarships only exist for students of color or lower income families. Scholarship foundations are looking for like minded individuals to help. Enjoy community service? Are you an active leader? Involved in Girl Scouts, Boy Scouts, Key Club, NHS? There are scholarships for all of these different activities and organizations.

Key Advice:

  • Use newspapers, newsletters, websites and Google to find scholarships
  • Find scholarships that fit your activities. Avid bassoonist? Search "bassoon scholarships" or "musical scholarships"
  • Ask around. Chances are your parents or relatives work for a company that gives out scholarships

Step 2 - Become a Professional Organizer

Chances are that if you spend an entire day searching for scholarships, you will start to feel a bit overwhelmed. What I found helpful was creating an Excel spreadsheet just for scholarships noting the scholarship's name, supporting foundation, due date, mailing address, if an essay was required and recipient requirements. I always had a copy with me anytime I worked with scholarships.

Key Advice:

  • Find a new scholarship? Make sure you write down important information where you keep all or your scholarship information
  • Create a calendar that details due dates. September and October dates are sooner than you think
  • Make sure you have a safe place for storing your applications

Step 3 - Become an Applicant

You can find scholarships and organize for days but don't forget to actually apply. Trust me, it happens occasionally! In Step 2 you identified important information about your scholarships. If they need recommendation letters, ask your teachers, coaches and community leaders. Begin that essay now, waiting will only make it easier not to start. Send your transcripts, SAT/ACT/AP scores as needed.

Key Advice:

  • Ask for recommendation letters early! At least 2-3 weeks before your scholarship is due
  • Proof read your essay multiple times. Nothing makes up for sending your Coca Cola scholarship to the Dr. Pepper foundation
  • Research your school's policy on transcripts. Be familiar to when they are available and how much they may cost

Step 4 - Be Thankful

How would you feel if you gave away free money to people you thought were deserving but they never looked back? Make sure you always say thank you to the scholarship foundation and the people who were involved in helping you along the way!

Key Advice:

  • I might be old fashioned but hand written cards with a personal message are the best way of saying thank you
  • Don't forget to thank those who wrote your recommendation letters!
  • Give the scholarship foundation updates on your progress through high school and school
Last Minute Tips
  • You won't win every scholarship that comes your way. No one ever does so it isn't an excuse to give up!
  • Apply as early as you can. You never know if they decide to close the application period earlier
  • Don't be discouraged by scholarships that seem small. Hundreds, if not thousands apply for the $10,000 scholarship which makes it harder for you. A few $500 scholarships really do add up
Do you have any advice regarding scholarships? Have an amazing scholarship success story? Feel free to share below in the comments!

Good-luck on the Hunt,

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