The search for private college scholarships is an integral part of the college planning process. Even a small scholarship can help defray your college expenses and may allow you to turn down a loan or reduce the amount one needs to borrow.
High school seniors, haven't begun your college scholarship search yet? Now is the time to start! Deadlines for private scholarships for the 2010-2011 academic year for college bound students will start cropping up after the New Year and will culminate for the most part by July. If you are planning to conduct your own scholarship search, there are strategies that you can use to manage your search and improve the effectiveness of your search.
GET ORGANIZED! Your search could uncover 12 to 25 scholarships for which you qualify to apply and managing them all can be overwhelming without a plan. So you will need to develop a system for tracking each scholarship's application description and requirements, forms, references, deadlines and copies of all documents that you submit to support your application. It would also be wise to set up a calendar to plot what you need to do and when for all scholarships that you decide to apply for.
IT'S INVENTORY TIME! As you begin the scholarship search process, you will need to develop a list of your skills,interests and attributes. Don't be afraid to include your religion, ethnicity and unusual characteristics. Did you know that Pennsylvania's Juniata College has a scholarship for left-handed students? There is even a scholarship for little people from Little People of America Association and one for tall people from Tall Clubs International. Adopted or foster children will find that there are a number of scholarships or grants for them on the national, state or county/regional level.
RESOURCES- THE MORE THE MERRIER! There are a number of reliable internet scholarship search sites including http://www.finaid.org/ and http://www.fastweb.com/. You can also simply do a Google search for scholarships. To do a Google search enter the word "scholarship" and whatever topic/subject you want. For example: search for "orchestral music scholarships" and you will find a number of scholarships including the John Belushi Memorial Orchestral Music Scholarship and various scholarships at various colleges/universities such as the New England Conservatory,Truman State University and the University of Wisconsin at LaCrosse.
High school students should check with their guidance office, which keeps track of local scholarship opportunities. Don't forget libraries and bookstores are great resources for books that list scholarships! Use a variety of resources to maximize your scholarship options.
WORK IT OUT! Students who are employed part time may be eligible for scholarships through an employer. This is particularly true for those working for regional or national retail chains. Don't neglect checking with your parents' employers, as they may offer scholarships to employees' children.
MULTI -YEAR OR RENEWABLE SCHOLARSHIPS--- WHAT'S THE CATCH? While most private scholarships are one time awards, there are some that are multi-year awards or allow you to renew your award for a second year. Find out if there are requirements to maintain full-time enrollment and what constitutes full-time enrollment. Often recipients must maintain a minimum GPA to retain or renew a scholarship or grant, as well.
GET TESTED! It is important to take the PSAT in your junior year and the SAT or ACT test in your senior year because you may qualify for some important national scholarships. By taking the PSAT you could qualify for the National Merit Scholarship.
GO CLUBBING! Students and parents should draw up a list of clubs and organizations to which they belong. Often these groups will offer scholarships to members of their offspring. These can be social or religious in nature.
NAIL THAT ESSAY! If an essay is required, make sure your essay addresses the topic or question that is given. Have your essay proofread by a parent or teacher to ensure it is on target and grammatically flawless. Often you will be allowed to determine your on essay topic. You may recycle an essay that you submitted with your college application in part or in full, if it meets the scholarship's essay requirements.
PAY TO PLAY? NO WAY! Occasionally you will come across a scholarship that requires an application fee. You should not have to pay a fee to apply for a scholarship. This could signal that the organization or scholarship may be scam.
So strategize, organize and watch those scholarships roll in!