by Dee Bishop
If you have a son or daughter who is going to be entering college soon, you’ve probably begun to consider scholarships as a means to help finance his or her college tuition. Here are ten tips to give you a competitive edge in the scholarship search and application process.
- Search everywhere for scholarships for which your child might qualify. Start your search with your child’s guidance counselor by letting the counselor know your child is interested in applying for applicable scholarships. Search Google for “college scholarships.” Register free with Fast Web, a scholarship matching service, to be notified of applicable scholarships for your student. Network with others who are looking for scholarships and share your findings. Look everywhere, even unlikely locations such as summer intern programs or volunteer organizations that may have an attached scholarship. You might miss some good possibilities if you’re not alert to every option.
- Start early. Spring of the student’s sophomore year is good since some scholarships require community service. Starting early gives your child the opportunity to look for summer positions that will give him the experience needed to compete and may open up potential scholarships that you wouldn’t have been looking for if you didn’t start early.
- Get organized. Keep local or school newspaper clippings, school and church bulletins, and anything else that mentions your child and her achievements. Gather appropriate documents, pictures, letters that support community service hours, etc. and keep them all in one location. Create a spreadsheet listing each scholarship by name and include qualifications, documentation required, application deadline and other pertinent information.
- Have your child start a student resume beginning in ninth grade so he can easily keep track of high school accomplishments. That way when senior year arrives, you won’t have to struggle to remember what he did two years ago. The information will be right at hand.
- When asking pastors, counselors, teachers and others for a student recommendation, be sure to include the scholarship qualifications and criteria so the reference can include some of those points in the referral.
- Allow plenty of time in the application process. It will take 10 to 20 hours of search time, maybe longer, to locate potential scholarships. It will then take a minimum of two hours to complete each application. Giving yourself plenty of time will alleviate stress and help ensure the application is completed correctly.
- One-size does not fit all in scholarship applications, so be sure to read each individual application thoroughly to ensure you follow the instructions for that specific application correctly. This is especially important when applying for national scholarships that thousands of other students are applying for as well. Paying careful attention to detail will save a lot of wasted effort and frustration.
- Meet the scholarship deadline. That means getting your recommendations back on time, having all documentation in order, and allowing as much preparation time as possible. Missing a deadline will completely disqualify your child from the running so be sure you get the application in by the due date.
- Realize that you don’t get every scholarship you apply for, so if you need an additional $10,000 in scholarships, apply for $30,000 or more.
- Be prepared to apply and reapply for scholarships every year. Often, parents pursue freshman scholarships to get their children in college, then forget that those scholarships assist only with the cost of the first year of school. Unless your child is fortunate enough to receive a full, four-year scholarship, it’s likely you’ll need to repeat the process every year to get them through graduation.
While it may seem like a lot of effort, and may even be discouraging at times, diligently pursuing local, state and national level scholarships will minimize the parent and student financial responsibilities and will pave the way for your child’s college education with minimal expense and family hardship.