Pursuing a college education in the US is, to make a redundant statement, pricey. The expenses can seem monumental if you also account for everything else that must be paid for: accommodation, books and living expenses. Yes, your costs will vary depending on the school you attend.
However, the best bet for many students to lower college expenses and make ends meet is getting a scholarship or a grant. The latter is usually need-based (for instance, low-income students), but you could secure a scholarship (typically merit-based) based on academics, athletics, etc.
Steps to Find a College Scholarship
In this article, we discuss a rock-solid approach to finding the right scholarship that can sail you through your post-secondary years.
- Research: The first step is to zero down on suitable scholarships for which you might be eligible. For instance, do you have great grades or high PSAT scores? You might qualify for an academic scholarship. Do you have a talent for sports? It is possible to find athletic aid for sports like football, basketball and even surfing. In case you hail from a minority (say, Pacific Islander American), you might qualify for scholarships offered to brilliant students from underrepresented groups.
- Prepare: The next step is to complete the requirements for scholarship applications. This usually includes creating your profile, submitting an essay (if required) and sharing letters of recommendation. The methodology of applications keeps changing, so, you might have to share poems, videos, etc., instead of the standard essay.
- Check: This step could make or break the deal for you. Print out the scholarship submission guidelines and inspect them closely. Have you followed all the instructions? Does your essay meet the word count? Is it interesting enough to appeal to the reader? (This is someone who must peruse dozens of essay from students as eager to land the scholarship as you!) Are your recommendation letters worthwhile, i.e., they come from trustworthy people like your teachers? Be careful of the need to over-compensate; no one likes to skim through ten letters of praise when all they asked for was one.
- Submit: Make sure you meet the deadline. You can start the submissions really early—even as soon as freshman year—by creating a profile and updating it as required. In case you are already in school, you might still be able to find a scholarship. Some colleges hand these out to deserving students who could prove beneficial to their industry/major in the future.
Tips to Avoid Disappointment During/After Scholarship Applications
At this critical juncture in life, it is the simplest thing in the world to let a tiny mistake eat into your plans. For instance, is the scholarship really going to be worth it if you burn out in the process? The rewards must be proportional to the effort you put into the application.
Academic experts also implore students to read the fine print carefully. Some scholarships have a clause that requires students to perform excellently at college (i.e., maintain a certain GPA).
You should be willing to account for this contingency. Additionally, check how the funds will be handed out to you. It is possible that the aid might be a one-time affair. The scholarship should match your financial plans not only to survive college but also sail through with flying colors.
Best College Scholarships Websites and Resources
When you are searching for scholarship websites, you should consider local- as well as national-level resources to expand your ambit. In recent years, many new service providers have sprung up to cater to students and parents.
As education becomes more expensive by the minute, finding financial help at the right time is more crucial than ever.
However, a number of fake websites have also jumped onto the bandwagon, attempting to swindle students and extend little help. Caution is your friend.
Here are some of the top, trustable resources you should definitely explore:
It offers a free application process to students who wish to avail of financial aid for college or grad school.
Applying here is almost a prerequisite for scholarship seekers as it covers a wide gamut of schools in the US.
You will need to refer to personal records/documents such as your social security number, tax information (yours or your parents, in case you are dependent on them), driver’s license, etc.
Remember to be mindful of both the individual deadline set by your school of choice and the federal deadline. FAFSA shares a Student Aid Report (SAR) detailing the data you have submitted and allowing you to make corrections/updates as required.
As and when you receive aid by any of the participating schools, you will get informed on the next steps.
It allows you to create a highly personalized profile, based on which is matches you to targeted scholarships. Fastweb claims to have a rich database of more than 1.5 million scholarships, so the chances of finding the perfect match are terrific.
The website is smartly designed to let you track the entire process with ease—from viewing scholarships you have applied for to ones in which you aren’t interested. In fact, it makes the job even easier by letting you browse schools that appeal to your sensibilities.
When you have handy information about the fee-structures you can expect, making tough college-related decisions is simpler.
Other useful resources on this portal include information on internships, part-time jobs and student loans. Basically, if its money that is keeping you up at night, here is a systematic way of dealing with it!
Essentially a knowledge-based website, FinAid provides helpful content on subjects like types of financial aid and options available beyond regular scholarships. For instance, you can look for assistance extended to minorities, international students and students with disabilities.
The website also focuses on generating savings by other means such as Section 529 plans (Qualified Tuition Programs). Besides this, you can browse through all the details related to FAFSA applications, deadlines, guidelines to maximize your chances, etc.
Not only is the information complete and simple to understand, but it is also dependable and easy to apply for both students and parents.
The best part is that accessing this resource is completely free. What a bonus for scholarship seekers to save precious bucks that can go toward financing a college education instead!
This is a not-for-profit organization aiming to help students find admissions to their desired colleges through tailored searches, resources on financial assistance, and targeted events for networking. A nifty EFC calculator (Expected Family Contribution) enables you to understand your likelihood of securing monetary help.
As many as 6,000 institutions are part of College Board, which makes it an incredible place to expand your horizons. You can browse different colleges based on location, major, etc. as well as test your skills by taking SAT practice tests.
CollegeBoard is heavily focused on research and periodically brings out studies on subjects concerning scholarship seekers.
For instance, their “Parent Worry Index”, which interviewed thousands of parents across America, found that finding financial assistance for college ranks behind another glaring source of anxiety: finding a college that fits the student’s interests and caliber.
The website matches you to the right assistance not only from colleges and universities but also from foundations, corporations, etc.
This is a useful resource to find detailed information on various institutions—over 4,000. For example, you can read up on admission stats, enrollment data, etc., in addition to tuition and financial aid.
Some of their student guides are truly exceptional, such as application checklists, tips to write winning essays, and complete application timelines. It is worth printing this stuff and pinning it onto your fridge for reference.
Scholarships.com is best known for its efficient search algorithm that allows you to hunt by a variety of filters: major, athletics, GPA, etc. Their algorithm also covers first in family, ethnicity, veterans and LGBTQ students.
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Pursuing a college education in the US has become incredibly expensive, making it even more critical to find the right financial aid to fuel your ambitions.
Finding a good scholarship can make all the difference between attending your dream college and making do with choices you didn’t want to take up.
The turf, however, is crowded with competitors, many of whom are likely to be as deserving. Your best solution to securing monetary help is to plan and lay the groundwork early.
While you may have an excellent academic record or be stellar at sports, you will secure a scholarship only if that application gets submitted on time.
Several resources are now available for students seeking financial aid, from the ever-popular FAFSA to newer tools like Scholarships.com.
While some resources are free, others might require you to pay for their services. While applying for scholarships, ensure to draft out a clear strategy that encompasses the effort you will put in as well as the expenses you are willing to incur.
It isn’t difficult to fall for scams—of which there are multiple—or be short-changed. When in doubt, turn to your school, teacher, mentor or parents for advice.