Scholarship Hunting: The Savvy Scholarship Strategy
Most student aid comes from federal education loans and grants for college through the Free Application for Federal Student Aid program. (Make sure you apply for this if you qualify, by the way.) However, sometimes this doesn’t cover all the costs. So, “what now?” you ask. How about some free money? No, not from us, but now that we’ve got your attention, breeze through this article and see if any of our tips come in handy. I know you’re busy getting ready for prom and graduation, but it wouldn’t be the worst idea to devote some of your time searching for scholarships—it’s totally and completely free money, folks!
1. It’s important to have an organized system to find, apply and win scholarship money. The best place to start finding scholarships is to take a little visit to your school counselor’s office. I know—sounds lame, but they’ve got lots of valuable information that could land you a pretty hefty scholarship bundle that you won’t mind packing off to college. With your counselor, you can decide which scholarships will give you the best return on investing your time. Remember, this is just a starting point; you must progress and do a little searching on your own, too.
2. In the world of technology, the next place to visit after meeting with your school counselor is the Internet! When you are searching, be sure to keep some things in mind:
- What organizations/extracurricular activities am I currently affiliated with?
- What organizations or employers are my parents affiliated with?
- What is my ethnic background?
- What offices did I hold in school clubs?
- What do I enjoy doing most? What do I want to accomplish? How can I make a difference?
Some of these questions may sound strange to answer while preparing to write a scholarship essay, but people will give you a scholarship for all sorts of things. Don’t pass up any opportunity before at least trying.
3. Answering these questions could have you well on your way to preparing a well-structured response to scholarship essay questions. In preparing your essay, don’t let it intimidate you. Remember, the scholarship sponsor wants to read your essay and identify these three things:
- Is he/she competent/organized?
- Can I hear the applicant think in reading his/her essay? (I know this sounds weird, but it’s true.)
- Are they passionate about what they have to say?
So, to make sure you’re on the right track, take a walk down to your English teacher or school writing center’s office. Having an extra set of unbiased eyes looking at your essay could help catch some mistakes before you mail your application to be considered for the scholarship.
4. When you begin applying, make sure you read all the instructions about how to apply. Many applications get tossed just because the applicant didn’t follow the simple instructions.
5. Next, have your transcript/grade sheet handy when applying. Last, make a grid or Excel spreadsheet with a detailed list of all the scholarships you are applying for with their deadline, materials to include and requirements listed in the columns so you’ll have a quick way to keep track of your progress.
Below is a list of Web sites to aid in finding scholarships. These will be very helpful when enrolling for college and looking for some extra cash. Good luck with your search and rock ‘em, knock ‘em dead in college!
- www.FindTuition.com/Scholarships – Scholarship database
- www.FastWeb.com – Scholarship database
- www.ScholarshipAmerica.org – Scholarship database
- www.gmsp.org – Gates Millennium Scholars
- www.CollegeNet.com – Scholarship database
- www.salliemae.com/scholarships -Scholarship database
- www.uncf.org – United Negro College Fund
- www.Scholarships.com – Scholarship database