October is typically a frenzied month in the life of a high school senior who wants to attend college the following year. Applications for early decision and early action admissions are looming, and the financial aid season has begun with the arrival of the FAFSA and CSS Profile. That certainly keeps our seniors on their toes but, rolling around somewhere in their mind, might be the question of how to pay for everything if they get into a great college but don’t receive sufficient financial aid.
Many don’t want to turn to student loans because they are concerned about taking on large debt loads in a time of such financial uncertainty. So that is where the concept of independent scholarships, or those not awarded directly by the college, come in. Although there are any number of scholarships with deadlines throughout the year, a large number do want you to apply by some time in December. That can put an extra layer of stress on the student to cram everything into a few short months. Here are a few tips to get you ready to meet those scholarship deadlines:
• Create Your Own Deadlines: Research your list of possible scholarship opportunities, and list out the application deadline for each. Then work back two weeks and set that as your own personal deadline for applying to every scholarship. This gives you plenty of time to look at requirements, think about essays, get letters of recommendation, and submit the actual application, while still leaving a little wiggle room for errors, letters that don’t arrive, and revisions.
• Set Up a Balanced Opportunity List: Many students will go directly after the big-money scholarships, but there is certainly going to be a lot more competition. Try to build a balanced opportunity list that has a few of the big-name contenders, but also a few smaller opportunities where your chances to win might be better. Look for the generic contenders where everyone has an opportunity to win, but also find a few that apply only to those individuals with your unique personality and skills. Don’t forget the local scholarships that can help bring in a few extra dollars, and look for some scholarships with later application deadlines when your head might be a bit clearer for applying.
• Check Out the Requirements: Some scholarships have very few requirements, which makes applying a breeze. But others have more requirements, like a video or project, which could take more time. They might be less competitive because other students have time constraints, too, but really think about how long it will take you to complete everything required to submit an application.
If you never worked within deadlines before, you will certainly have to do that now. Gaining the ability to meet scholarship requirements builds life-long deadline skills. The three-month CFAA Scholarship Program can help you locate scholarship opportunities that are personalized to your background and capabilities, and we will even help you find some with varying deadlines.