Ten Tips For Finding Scholarship Money For College
Written by: Kristy Welsh
Last Updated: October 11, 2017
As you may know, student loan debt now exceeds credit card debt for the first time in U.S. history. Though a number of factors play a part in this, key among them is the rising cost of tuition. So consider these 10 tips for finding FREE scholarship money for college, thus minimizing debt and the years-long stress of paying it off.
1. Start Looking for Scholarships Your Junior Year
Many high school students and their parents don't start looking for scholarship opportunities until their senior year of high school. However, this can be a disadvantage, as deadlines are looming and the pressure is on to not only find all the scholarship opportunities out there, but also to apply in a timely, effective manner. Instead, start looking before January 1 of your junior year. This will give you plenty of time to get a feel for the field and start a master list of scholarships you definitely want to apply for, including deadlines you don't want to miss. Of course, continue looking into your senior year, as you never know what new opportunities may arise.
2. Consult With Your High School Guidance Counselor About Scholarship Opportunities
One of the most important roles fulfilled by a high school guidance counselor is help that extends beyond graduation — scholarship recommendations. After all, it's their job to not only know you well, but also to know of scholarships best-suited to your personal aptitudes and achievements.
3. Consult With Your College Financial Aid Officer
Whether you've already applied and/or been accepted, do not hesitate to make an appointment to see the financial aid officer at the college(s) you have in mind. Ask about scholarship opportunities available to all students, as well as those that are program-specific.
4. Apply to Colleges Early
Often, colleges will only share all of their scholarship opportunities with students who have already been accepted into one of their programs. For this reason, do not wait to apply. Plus, if and when you apply and are accepted to multiple schools, availability of scholarship opportunities may prove a determining factor in where you go.
5. Look Online for Scholarship Opportunities
There are a number of websites devoted to matching up students with scholarship money. Though you may browse these options on your own, be sure to avoid any site that asks you to pay a fee for this information. There are plenty of reputable sites that provide this service for free, such as Scholarships.com and FastWeb.com.
6. Bury Your Nose in a Book
Though the internet is an invaluable resource, sometimes it's nice to have a good-old-fashioned book at your fingertips. Some of the most reputable ones for scholarship listings include The College Board Scholarship Handbook; Kaplan Scholarship Books; and The National Research Service's Guide to Private-Sector Scholarships, Fellowships, Grants, and Loans for the Undergraduate.
7. Check for Scholarships Offered by Local Businesses and Organizations (the closer to home the better)
The Chamber of Commerce is a great place to start, as if your employer and that of your parents. Often times these are relatively small scholarships — starting at $1,000 — but every dollar makes a difference, especially if you were to be awarded multiple scholarships of this size.
8. Fill Out Scholarship Applications to the Best of Your Ability
This means reading instructions carefully, answering questions as fully and accurately as possible, and, of course, submitting your application before the deadline date. And if there is an essay portion, don't let that intimidate you. In most cases, the eloquence of your writing is less important than your sincerity and attention to detail.
9. Don't Limit Your Scholarship Search to Your High School Years
Whether you're already in college or haven't been in school for years, there are plenty of scholarship opportunities for you to explore. Talking to a college financial aid officer is a great place to start.
10. Never Give Up Before You Try
Many students and their parents assume only straight-A students or star athletes win scholarship money. Nothing could be further from the truth. There are many types of scholarships out there, each with their own specific list of qualifications, of which grades and athletic ability are not given top priority.