Saving for College: Scholarships
Finding money for college in the form of scholarships seems to be as elusive as sleep is to the parents of newborns.
The idea that there is free money available to pay the ever-increasing costs of tuition, books, and housing seems like the perfect solution! I myself was able to complete my first two years of college work completely funded with scholarships. However, there are a few misconceptions about scholarships we need to clear up right from the start. You may think:
- You either need to be really poor, or really smart, to be awarded scholarships.
- Scholarship applications are so complicated and time-consuming, with so many applicants, it’s not really worth applying to them – the chances of being awarded are too slim.
- Scholarship deadlines have already passed for the upcoming school year.
- You cannot get enough scholarship money to pay all college expenses, so you should just apply for the loans and guarantee everything is in order to pay for school.
While there are many scholarships based on academic achievement or financial need, there are thousands that are awarded without any regard to these two categories. Volunteerism, career path, and member organizations such as the Boy Scouts are some of the ways you can find scholarship opportunities. You may even benefit from applying to those for which you are ineligible for at first glance. A local financial aid officer tipped my daughter that many specialty scholarships don’t receive any applicants that fit all their criteria, meaning sometimes that money is awarded to the best candidate who applied – whether or not they met the description.
It is true that many scholarship applications are lengthy and complicated. We encouraged our son to prioritize them with a blend of focus on the award size and the simplicity of the application. For instance, if a scholarship only awarded $25 to one winner, that was placed near the bottom of the stack. He can work really hard helping a family member with some manual labor and earn $25 for a hour or two of time. However, when the scholarship awards a larger gift or has a simple, one-page application with no essay requirement, we had him prioritize by applying to as many of them as possible. Set aside time to work on applications that require an essay or other open-ended writing so you are able to focus and present the best application possible.
It’s late in the year for many scholarship opportunities but it doesn’t mean there aren’t any: schools often have specific scholarships with spring deadlines. These are great for students who are just receiving acceptance letters & making decisions. There are also scholarships that offer awards more than once per year. When you find one that seems to fit you well but the application period has ended, add the scholarship link to your calendar so you can apply the following school year.
Whether or not you receive scholarships for $100 or $100,000, any money that you can use without loans helps your student now and for their future. According to the most recent Federal Reserve report on household debt and credit as described by Forbes, “student loan debt has the highest amount of delinquent debt compared to all other forms of household debt (mortgages, auto loans, and credit cards).” Don’t be afraid to apply for lots of little scholarships because every penny you get from these funds, is one less penny required from your family budget and your student’s future financial peace.
Here are a few parting tips to help you with the process of saving money for college with scholarships:
- practice essay skills, have a couple generic ready to tweak or adapt
- update your resume
- request letters of reference from employers, club sponsors, coaches, and church leaders
- track the name of the scholarship applied for, date submitted w/copies, date selectees will be announced
- search by school, family heritage, employers (both students & parents), member organizations, field of study
- keep up with any renewal information or reapply each year