Every year, billions of dollars in scholarship funds are offered to entering college freshmen. Parents, rejoice! But the trouble, of course, is finding them. Some are well-advertised while others stay hidden and require some digging or show up in unexpected places you might not think to look. The scholarship search and application process are lengthy, demanding tenacity, time management, and care on your child’s part — and patience on yours! But success in the process begins with where and how you start. Here are six places you can guide your child as he or she begins the journey to finding great scholarships.
1. School counselors
The best place to start is with a person-to-person connection. Your student should meet with an academic counselor at his or her school and take time to talk through the process of applying for scholarships as well as best places to begin looking. Together they can formulate a list of places to search, a set of goals, and even begin to construct a timeline. The best thing about in-person assistance is the casual conversation and interactions that help counselors know your child and his or her needs, hesitations, strengths, and fears. Your child will be free to ask questions as they arise, and the counselor will know your child’s academic context well, drawing on the wisdom that comes from a history of helping other students.
Search algorithms are powerful, and the latest scholarship-finding tech tools can be a fantastic supplement. There are many helpful resources online, some of which you’ll find below. But chatting with a professional first gives your child the chance to get a customized head start in the scholarship search.
The whole point of a scholarship search is that as little as possible of the cost of education is coming out of your pocket. But did you know you can rustle up funds from employers, social clubs, religious affiliations — even your bank? Depending on where you work and live, your employer and banking institution may offer scholarships, and many religious organizations and groups like Rotary Club, Lion’s Club, and Shriners do the same. Many times, these opportunities are not well-advertised. So make some inquiries at work and in your social, faith, and business circles, and see what you find. Ask other parental figures in your child’s life to inquire in their circles about scholarship opportunities. You may also find some comrades along the way who are about to send children off to college too. Who knows? You may find more than just financial support by beating the local bushes.
3. Colleges of choice
As your child starts to put together a list of schools, he or she can research what scholarships each of these schools offers. This will involve online research and keeping an organized list of results. But in each case, it would be great for your child to give the admissions office a quick phone call, just to make sure the research bases have been covered. It takes longer, and phone conversations feel scary to the texting generation! But it’s great for building connections and maturing social skills. He or she will also be able to ask questions in real time and might even make a positive impression that could be significant later.
4. Beyond grades
We certainly want your child to make the most of academic accomplishment, and PSAT/NMSQT® and SAT® test scores make a big difference in landing scholarship opportunities. But don’t neglect other scholarships that correspond with what makes your child unique apart from academic achievement. Your child’s cultural heritage, extracurricular interests, quirky talents, artistic gifts, and moral and religious perspectives are just a few areas by which he or she can reap the benefits of scholarship funds from a surprising variety of organizations. Many of these opportunities sit under the radar, just waiting to be found. YesCollege.com provides a list of “100 Unique and Weird Scholarships” for everything from interest in choral music to the ability to construct the most creative sandwich— if only the sandwich scholarship had been available when your child was six! These unique opportunities might even inject a little extra fun into the scholarship application process.
5. Trusted scholarship sites
There are several dependable scholarship search sites online that offer initial searches for free. Top choices include:
The free search options may suffice for your child’s purposes. Some sites, however, offer a tiered system of membership that will provide additional services for a fee. Some sites also allow your child to keep track of scholarships for which they have applied. A little exploration should turn up the websites and features your child finds most helpful.
6. Scholly app
Scholly, a scholarship-finding app, won on the show Shark Tank a few years back and is now available as a monthly paid service for students. It has gained strong national attention and boasts some big backers including NYU, CNNMoney, and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. The benefits of Scholly include platform simplicity and mobility and a proven track record of effectiveness. Scholly’s creators are young and still sensitive to the needs of current students and have honed the app’s features to make it as easy as possible to find a maximum of scholarship funds while keeping the monthly fee low.
From test scores to tech-savvy, heritage to odd hobbies, no aspect of your child’s life need be estranged from the scholarship hunt. Leverage those personal connections, organize the research process with technology, and support your child in keeping up grades and spirits, and you’re on your way to a rewarding scholarship search!