Tips for Finding Scholarships

As many high school students may not yet know, there are numerous options out there to find money for college. For the few who have saved or accrued assets over the years, they may decide that it makes sense to liquidate their holdings and pay out cash from their accounts. For others who have not accumulated substantial savings, it may mean holding a part-time job while completing school, which is a difficult but feasible prospect. For the majority of people, however, financing a college education means taking out loans and applying for scholarships. While obtaining loans is certainly the easier option of the two, it is also the more costly in the long term. Acquiring scholarships or “free money,” on the other hand, while more difficult, can often be achieved if properly planned for in advance.

So what options do you have for finding such funding?

One “free money” choice is to figure out at an early age what your child is good at and enjoys doing, be it in an academic, athletic, artistic, or altruistic realm, and have him or her follow it through to the highest possible level. Your child can then ideally combine his or her time, energy, determination, and passion to show admissions committees that he or she deserves the most desirable form of financial support – an institutional merit scholarship. The important thing for students to remember is that they should pursue their activities rigorously, so that when committees review their applications, they see them as candidates who can contribute something special to their campus. This is certainly one of the most difficult paths to follow, and for some, it is easier said than done. Nonetheless, the pay-off can be high.

While the previous option applies to a small fraction of the population, many other free money opportunities exist to help defray the costs of higher education. As some of you may already know, many local, national and international organizations offer scholarships to high school-aged students for a variety of reasons. It may surprise you what these reasons are, so it is definitely worthwhile investigating online resources. Some useful websites include: www.finaid.org, www.fastweb.com, and http://go.salliemae.com/scholarship/. One word of caution, however: some colleges count external scholarships against internal grants, meaning they will deduct the amount your child earns from a foundation from they amount that the college awards you. As such, you should contact the financial aid office of each school to ask them how they handle external scholarships.

Other opportunities, such as Americorps, T.E.A.C.H. Education Grants, or R.O.T.C. may also appeal. They provide students with financial support in exchange for a set number of years of service following graduation. I would caution, however, that if your child’s professional goals are unrelated to these programs, they may not be the most appropriate matches. For example, spending six years educating students in low-income neighborhoods as a result of accepting a T.E.A.C.H. Education Grant may be too much of a professional detour if your student is interested in pursuing a medical, law or doctoral degree. Everyone must, thus, fully understand the commitment these programs entail before accepting their financial support.

Whichever scholarship option your child wishes to pursue, he or she should remember to start searching early and to check out the duration, terms, and deadlines, so that he or she can make the most of every opportunity out there!

Posted on June 30, 2013 at 10:37 am

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