Friends often ask me, “What can I do now to help my high school aged son/daughter to get prepared for college… more specifically, to find scholarships to pay for college!” Let’s face it, the cost of college can be a shock to the system. In fact, costs have surged more than 538% since 1985 meaning that earning that college degree is 4.5 times as expensive as it was 30 years ago when some of us (my fellow parents) went to college. Before you double over with chest pain, there are ways to help pay for your child’s education. Let me share a few easy tips and tricks to help you create a foundation for your search that you may find helpful regardless of your child’s grade. And remember, the earlier you start, the less stress you will face when it comes to being crunch time.
Organize your essays
I’m sure you (meaning, your student) have written a ton of great essays throughout your high school years but did you know that some of these could be the foundation for scholarship essays? Create a folder on your desktop and start saving these by category (volunteerism, future goals, etc.), stash these jewels for future use!
Organize your search
All scholarships have a deadline and if you miss, the opportunity is gone. Get ahead of the game by creating a tracking system to manage the due dates. Find one that works for you so you will actually use it; I suggest an excel spreadsheet that can be sorted by month, scholarship title, and basic requirements. Post this in a visible location so everyone is keeping track.
Organize your scholarship materials
Keep all of the scholarship information in one place, either on the computer or in a folder, so you can easily find it when the magic due date rolls around.
Organize your supplemental pieces
Almost all scholarships will require letters of recommendation and/or a resume. Don’t’ wait until the last minute to ask your references for that glowing letter (no one really appreciates that last minute plea). And if you can, get a “generic” version” so you can use it for multiple scholarships. Make sure you provide your reference with your resume so they can mention all of the great things that you have accomplished. If you aren’t sure how to create a resume, your guidance counselor will have resources to help you get a head start!
Start your search
Where should you look? EVERYWHERE! A note of caution as you start your journey in search of $$$, if you search the internet for college scholarships, I promise you will become overwhelmed to the point of throwing your hands in the air (yes… we have been there!). Chances are that the scholarships promoted through the big name sites are a shot in the dark so only you can decide if you want to spend your time filtering through the thousands of ones listed. A better use of your time would be investigating locally including your employer, local clubs/organization (Elks, Lions, Woman’s Club, etc.), local foundations, your school’s scholarship listing, other school’s scholarship listings (in your neighboring counties), local newspapers and more!
Check out the college where you may want to attend, they often have an immense list of scholarships that you could be perfect for. Here is a tip– get a graduation program from your high school and check out all of the scholarships that past grads received, that would be a great starting point!
Federal and state funding are a HUGE source of funding for college, check back for tips and tricks about what it is, how can you get it and the steps to getting started!
Contact College Placement Consulting for a free interest meeting if you would like more information on how we support students and parents through the entire college planning process.