Parents and students hear my preaching over and over again – the best methods to reduce cost of attendance is to understand your Expected Family Contribution, exhibit academic strength in classes and standardized tests, and use data to develop a school application list balanced for admission and net cost.
However, affordability gaps exist and students that execute an excellent private scholarship campaign can help gain enough funds to meet the difference. Execution can be as simple as visiting your school’s counseling office on the first of every month and asking if there are any new scholarships available. Below are some additional tips from freelance writer, Lynette Mathews, a member of the National Educators Writers Association, to get started.
First, scholarships are typically awarded to students who have a specific plan for their future. Most committees do not want to award their funds to a student who has no plan as to how he/she will use the money. You might be the world’s greatest painter, history buff, or computer technician, but without a plan to build on your education and grow into the future, you may not see scholarships coming your way. Therefore, the first thing to do is to develop a plan. The plan should include a college education and a career after gaining a chosen degree. Remember that you can change your plan at any time; no one is going to hold you to it. Scholarship committees understand that as students mature, their dreams, goals, and passions grow and evolve with them. But these same committees would also agree that without a plan you may not go very far.
Ask yourself “How do I want to make my mark on the world?” It can be as local or as global as you’d like. Perhaps you strive to be the mayor of your small town, the governor of your state, or the President of the United States. Do you want to combine an interest in art with a passion for recycling to introduce a new genre of art, or take video-game entertainment to a whole new level? Perhaps you’d like to work with injured athletes to help them regain their strength?
Whatever it is that is driving your dreams, put together a formal plan.
Next, review your related skills, activities, classes, awards, or other steps you have taken or plan to take, to move in the direction of your goal.
Develop a list of the associated activities, classes, volunteer opportunities, jobs, books, and organizations that are related to your plan for future reference.
Stop by your school counseling office or visit the counseling section of your school website and ask to review the list of scholarships on file. You should take home copies of the ones that could potentially suit. Understand that schools receive new scholarships on a weekly or monthly basis, so mark your calendar to check once a month for new scholarships. Talk with your counselor, teachers, parents and friends about your search and let them know what types of scholarships you are looking for. Remember that most school counselors do not have the time available to research scholarships for you, but they may think of you if one passes across their desk that matches your criteria.
High School Website
Local School Websites
Church or Religious Community
Colleges of Interest
Next, log onto the counseling websites of other local high schools and community colleges in your area to see if they have any scholarships listed that could fit your profile. Talk to local businesses such as banks, radio stations, newspapers, and churches, and ask if they offer any scholarships to local students. Check-in with your parents’ employers to see if they offer any scholarships for children of employees. And last, look into filling out a profile on some of the online scholarship search engines such as www.Fastweb.com or www.scholarship.com. Make sure you are specific about your interests or you will get lots of junk email for scholarships that have nothing in common with your goals.
Sit down with a scholarship application and fill it out! Know that the first one will be the most painful. After a dozen or so, you will be completing them in fifteen minutes or less! Most applications require some type of essay. Typically you can use some form of, “How do I want to make my mark on the world?” essay from your original efforts. You may need to cut, paste, and edit it to make such an essay work for the specific question or series of questions that the application requires. Make sure you carefully read all the directions to ensure you meet all the criteria.
Once you earn your first scholarship—spread the word! Let your high school counselor know, write to your local newspaper, and email colleges of interest. You may be amazed how one little scholarship can grow into something more substantial once you get the word out. Once you have exhausted the local scholarship funds, begin to look for state or national organizations that offer educational funds.