As a rising high school senior, you have a lot on your plate for the summer. You have to narrow down your college choice list, and start gathering documents so you are ready to file the FAFSA when it becomes available in October. Another item that should be on your to-do list, though, is to think about applying for scholarships. Although some scholarships are granted by your college as part of the financial aid package, there are many others which are available that you need to search out and apply for on your own.
A scholarship is an amount of money that is granted to you to help pay for your college education. In most cases it does not have to be repaid, unless you fail to live up to the scholarship criteria. For most students, therefore, it is “free” money which can be used to help cover both the educational and incidental costs of college. In some cases, the amount of the scholarship can be substantial and can cover the entire college bill. In other cases, the amount of the scholarship is relatively small, but it can be used to pay for books, lab fees, and other smaller costs. In any case, it is money that is not coming out of your pocket or that of your parents.
Some scholarships have a rigorous application process, and require applicants to meet a number of criteria, while others are simply awarded on a lottery basis. Rest assured, though, that there is a scholarship out there for just about every type of interest, background, or ability – you just have to do your homework and find it. That is why you need to include scholarships as a critical part of your college search process. Seek out scholarships you think you might be able to win, list out their deadlines and application requirements, and add them onto your master schedule. Some might have deadlines as early as October through December, while others might have a little more application flexibility. Here are some other things you need to know about college scholarships:
• Think Big: There are some pretty impressive scholarships out there, and somebody is going to win them, so why not you? If you have big plans to change the world, you might qualify for The Paradigm Challenge. The VFW Youth Scholarship for the Voice of Democracy awards its first-place winner a $30,000 scholarship. The theme for 2019-20 is “What Makes America Great?” Deadline is October 31, 2019. The Coca-Cola Scholars Scholarship gives out 150 awards of $20,000 every year. Application period opens in August 2019. The list is quite extensive; you just have to look.
• Think Small: Not all scholarships are huge, but smaller ones can still be a big help. Plenty of smaller scholarships abound. Ask your parents’ employers, talk to your relatives and friends, check out local businesses and civic groups, or look into your religious denomination to find available scholarships.
• Think Outside the Box: Sometimes it takes a little creativity to find scholarships. There are scholarships by gender, ethnic origin, diseases, hobbies, and aspirations. The Vegetarian Resource Group offers two $5,000 scholarships plus one $10,000 scholarship; deadline is February 20, 2020. The Zombie Apocalypse Scholarship awards one successful survivor $2,000 towards his/her college education for unveiling plans to avoid the zombies, where you’d hide, and the top five things you’d bring to stay alive. Deadline is October 31, 2019. Tall Clubs International Foundation awards scholarships for tall students. Apply between September 1 and February 1.
There is plenty of scholarship information online, but be sure you are confident of the source. The U.S. Department of Labor, for example, has a free scholarship search tool you can use as a starting point. And don’t stop looking, even when you are in college. Some scholarships are only available to current college students.
You can begin accumulating college scholarships as early as 13, but the best time to apply is when you have time. The earlier you begin to apply, the more scholarships you will have a shot at winning.