Thursday, November 12, 2015

Tips for National Scholarship Month

Happy National Scholarship Month! College costs are on the rise (a recent calculation from Bloomberg estimates tuition costs 1200% more than it did in 1978), but a college education is more important than ever. According to the National Center for Education Statistics, a young person with a bachelor’s degree can expect to earn about $20,000 more each year than a peer with only a high school diploma. Loans are one option, but we encourage young people to apply for as many scholarships as possible; it will cost only time, and students could end up earning substantial funds to put toward their school fees.

 courtesy pictures of money via flickr:cc

Here are some helpful tips for scholarship applications, culled from the National Scholarship Providers Association and our own research:
  • Many scholarship providers send information to high school counselors. Students should visit their counselor’s office periodically to check for scholarship opportunities applicable to them.

  • High school seniors should talk to representatives from the admissions or financial aid departments at their college (they may have to wait until they are accepted) to find out what kind of financial aid is available. Those who know what they’ll major In should communicate with that particular department as well; sometimes, departments will offer (or know of) scholarships available for students in certain fields of study. 

  • Fill out the FAFSA as soon as it becomes available in early January (a very recent change permits using information from the prior year, allowing families to have the required information to submit earlier than in the past). Students should do this ASAP; there is evidence that those who complete the FAFSA early receive more scholarship money.

  • Students should use resources like and Local organizations like the Rotary Club, the Lions Club, community foundations, and private foundations are also good sources for scholarship information. Other websites that may be helpful are and, for all things dealing with financial aid. 

  • If a student knows what she will study or what line of work she will go into, she should look into organizations—both local and national—that may offer scholarship money to young people studying to enter particular fields. Insider tip: Local scholarships tend to award less money but a student’s odds of being awarded a local scholarship are much higher. Students should prioritize accordingly and be sure to apply for as many local or smaller scholarships as possible.

  • Look into work-study opportunities, or consider a working part-time. Lots of time in college is unstructured and many students find they have time to take on a job. And studies show that students who work part-time tend to develop better time-management skills, often leading to better grades.

  • Here’s another insider tip: After a student has been accepted, received his financial aid package, and been awarded any private scholarships, he should crunch some numbers to determine whether there is a large gap between amount of aid he has earned and the amount of tuition he and his family can afford to contribute. If he will not be able to afford college even with aid, he should ask his school about options for appeal. Many colleges have an appeal process that may yield more aid if a student’s campaign is successful. There is no guarantee, of course, and students should not take advantage of the system unless there is genuine need.

Finally, a cautionary note: DO NOT pay for scholarship or financial aid information. Frequently, these are scams, and even if some of these for-profit services are legitimate, there are too many free resources to make the cost worthwhile.

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