5 Tips to Navigating Scholarships

Nearing the end of applying for colleges, you are likely exhausted from jumping through the hoops of all the application processes. Unfortunately, the good fight is not over. There’s still one gawk-worthy question left to answer: “How will I pay for college?”

Close up of a scholarship application

There are many avenues available to help you pay for college: loans, out-of-pocket money, help from your parents, and grants. However, one of the most beneficial ways to pay for college is through scholarships. Scholarships are essentially free money awarded to you based upon academic performance or in relation to a specific activity, or application. Applying for scholarships is time consuming, but ultimately worth it in the end. Use these five tips to help in your search to find the perfect scholarships.

1. Find your scholarship niche. One of the most daunting parts of applying to scholarships is confronting the question of: “What sets me apart from the other applicants?” When applying to general scholarships, based on GPA and general requirements, this can be a hard question to answer. Narrow the playing field for yourself by applying to scholarships more specific to you. This means investigating what opportunities are out there involving your extracurricular activities, volunteer experiences, current part-time employment, and even where you bank. The more specific the scholarship is, the smaller the pool of applicants will be, giving you an increased chance to be the one selected for the scholarship.

2. School specific scholarships. Have you figured out your top five colleges? If so, start researching on their websites for any scholarships applicable to incoming students, where you can receive scholarships may shorten the list of the schools you want to attend. To start applying to school specific scholarships, do some investigating on their admissions page – they will likely include links to their available scholarships and financial aid. You may even be able to narrow your search even further by visiting the websites of the internal programs in the University. Perhaps you will find a scholarship for the College of Education, or the College of Arts and Sciences. In the end it doesn’t hurt to look for that “just-in-case” scenario.

3. Career center collection. If you are one of the many students graduating from high school and also are currently on the hunt for that great scholarship opportunity, then don’t overlook the resources that are right in front of you. That’s right, your high school career center does more than just help you find part-time jobs. Visit your school’s career center and investigate any scholarships that they are recommending to students, or that previous students have applied for, this will at least give you some leads on applications that students have had success with previously. Typically most career center suggested scholarships will be locally based as well, giving you a regional pool of applicants to compete against versus a national one. The smaller amount of applicants means the greater the chance of you receiving a scholarship.

4. Google knows all. Most likely, the first place you think of starting your scholarship search is the all-knowing internet. And why not? There are numerous websites that filter in scholarship application, after scholarship application. While fastweb.com and Chegg.com are great resources for traditional and also quirky scholarship applications, one thing to keep in mind is you will be competing against a national pool of candidates. It’s not impossible to win a scholarship at one of these websites, but it is a lot less likely.

5. Apply, apply, apply. Quality still stands over quantity. But that should not stop you from continuing to applying to multiple scholarships up until you start college. The more applications you have in circulation increases the chance that you will receive money to put down on tuition costs. Try setting a goal for yourself to have two well-rounded applications in every week, that way if you miss out on some you can count on the chance to be selected for others.

Figuring out the funding behind your college career is difficult. But once you have all the right pieces in place you will have practiced overcoming one of the biggest difficulties that adults face every day – combating debt. Set good savings strategies now, so you can benefit later.

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