Most incoming college students are understandably concerned about going into debt to pay for their education. The good news is you can reduce how much it costs you to earn your college degree. Follow these simple tips to earn lots of scholarship money, and you’ll be well on your way to lowering your college costs.
1. Start early. There’s no need to wait until junior year to start applying for scholarships. Starting early gives you more time to research and complete scholarship applications. Plus, starting early shows those who are awarding scholarships that you’re a motivated student!
2. Use a scholarship matching tool. Sites like Scholly, Cappex, Unigo, and Fastweb search through vast databases of the latest scholarships and deliver you a list of scholarships that are best suited for you. Before you apply, carefully read the scholarship rules. Focus in on the scholarships you’re a good match for, and rule out the ones where you don’t meet all of the requirements. Not to worry—there will be plenty to pick from where you’re a good fit!
3. Apply for scholarships, big and small. Don’t overlook scholarships with smaller awards. The more you apply to, the better your odds of winning. And they can quickly add up to help cover college expenses.
4. Don’t be afraid of scholarships that require essays. Many students shy away from scholarships that require essays, but a well-written essay can be your ticket to standing out from the crowd. If you don’t have great writing skills, consider working with your high school guidance counselor or attending a writing workshop to help you develop a memorable essay.
Hint: You may be able to reuse portions of your essay for more than one scholarship application. Just be careful to follow the scholarship rules, including essay word count.
5. Look beyond your grades. You don’t have to have a 4.0 to qualify for scholarships. In fact, some scholarships don’t take grades into account. Regardless of whether you have top grades or not, it’s important to find a way to stand out from the crowd on your scholarship applications. Before you start filling out the application, think about why you should be that scholarship winner.
What special talents or skills do you offer? Perhaps you can demonstrate your perseverance in the face of adversity as a first-generation student or your leadership skills on the basketball court are what make you unique. Whatever it is, make sure you highlight your strengths and personality in the application. You can also reinforce this message through letters of recommendation from teachers and community members who know you best. This could include your employer, pastor, coach, high school counselor, or other adults who know you well.
6. Network. Ask your parents to check with their HR department about scholarships for family members. Also, get the word out to your parent’s friends, your employer, and others in your community that you’re looking for scholarships to help pay for college. Your odds of winning are likely to be higher if there’s already a personal connection. There are usually a lot of scholarships offered locally that are not particularly well advertised. You can often find these through your high school counselor, in the local paper, or at the library.
7. Keep applying. Keep looking for new scholarships each year that you’re in school. There are scholarships available for high school students, undergrads, and graduate students. Some scholarships allow you to enter multiple times. For example, you can enter to win CollegeWeekLive’s $1,000 scholarship once a month.
8. Follow your passion. Don’t just do extracurricular activities for the sake of looking good on your applications. Find an area where you excel or that means a lot to you and focus on that. Your passion will shine through when it comes time to describe your extracurricular activities in your scholarship applications.
9. Ask for help. Your high school counselor is a great sounding board when it comes to scholarships. They can help you choose which scholarships are the best to apply for, and they often will take the time to review your submissions and provide guidance on improving them. You can also learn a lot by checking out who won the scholarships in previous years.
10. Practice your interview skills. Many scholarships require an in-person interview. Being a good interviewee takes time, so practice answering questions about your background, interests, achievements, and aspirations. Remember, an interview also requires a certain degree of social skills, so the more comfortable you are chatting with the interviewer and answering questions, the better the interview will go. Don’t be nervous though. There’s no right or wrong answer. Your interviewer wants to get a real feel for who you are, so ultimately, the most important thing to remember is to be yourself!