I once attended an out-of-town graduation at a small suburban high school. After baking in the sun on the bleachers for hours, the principal began handing out diplomas and announcing awards or scholarships that each student earned, as she offered her congratulations. As she began to run through the list of scholarships for one student, snickers began to grow around the stadium. The list kept going and going! I turned to comment to the parent beside me that the student must have been pretty spectacular. She replied that the only truly spectacular thing about the student was that she executed a magnificent scholarship campaign. She had gained enough funds to put herself through four years of college! As I questioned further to learn her secret, the parent said that the student simply made a point to visit the school’s counseling office on the first of every month and ask if there were any new scholarships available. That’s quite a start!
First, scholarships are typically awarded to students who have a specific plan for their future. Most committees do not want to award their funds to a student who has no plan as to how she will use the money. A student can be the world’s greatest painter, history buff, or computer technician, but without a plan to build on her education and grow into the future, your student may not see scholarships coming her way. Therefore, the first thing you should do is ensure that your child develops a plan! Her plan should include a college education and a career after she gains her chosen degree. Remember that she can change her plan at any time; no one is going to hold her to it. Scholarship committees understand that as students mature, their dreams, goals, and passions grow and evolve with them. But these same committees would also agree that without a plan your teen may not go very far.
Your son can begin to develop his plan by asking himself, “How do I want to make my mark on the world?” It can be as local or as global as he’d like. Perhaps he strives to be the mayor of your small town, the governor of your state, or the President of the United States. Does he want to combine his interest in art with his passion for recycling to introduce a new genre of art, or take video-game entertainment to a whole new level? Perhaps he’d like to work with injured athletes to help them regain their strength? Whatever it is that is driving his dreams, have him put it into a formal plan. Next, he’ll need to look at his related skills, activities, classes, awards, or other steps he has taken or plans to take, to move him in the direction of his goal. Have him develop a list of the associated activities, classes, volunteer opportunities, jobs, books, and organizations that are related to his plan for future reference.
Help your teen by taking a trip to the local office supply shop and investing in a stack of large envelopes, stamps, and printer paper. Gather up pertinent data such as her school address, student ID, high school transcript, and references so that she’ll have them handy when filling out scholarship applications.
Now that she’s ready and she’s set, have her stop by her school counseling office or visit the counseling section of her school website and ask to review the list of scholarships on file. She should take home copies of the ones that could potentially suit her. Understand that schools receive new scholarships on a weekly or monthly basis, so mark your calendar to check once a month for new scholarships. Have her talk with her counselor, teachers, parents and
friends about her search and let them know what types of scholarships she is looking for. Remember that most school counselors do not have the time available to research scholarships for her, but they may think of her if one passes across their desk that matches her criteria.
- High School Website
- Professional Organizations
- Local School Websites
- Church or Religious Community
- Colleges of Interest
- Neighborhood Businesses
- Website Searches
- Service Organizations
- Your Employer
Next, have your teen log onto the counseling websites of other local high schools and community colleges in your area to see if they have any scholarships listed that could fit his profile. Talk to local businesses such as banks, radio stations, newspapers, and churches, and ask if they offer any scholarships to local students. Check in with your own employers to see if they offer any scholarships for children of employees. And last, have your child look into filling out a profile on some of the online scholarship search engines such as www.Fastweb.com or www.scholarship.com. Make sure he is specific about his interests or he will get lots of junk email for scholarships that have nothing in common with his goals.
Have your teen sit down with a scholarship application and fill it out! Know that the first one will be the most painful. After a dozen or so, she’ll be completing them in fifteen minutes or less! Most applications require some type of essay. Typically she can use some form of, “How do I want to make my mark on the world?” essay from her original efforts. She may need to cut, paste, and edit it to make such an essay work for the specific question or series of questions that the application requires. Make sure she carefully reads all the directions to ensure she meets all the criteria.
Once your teen earns his first scholarship—spread the word! Remind him to let his high school counselor know, write to his local newspaper, and email colleges of interest. You may be amazed how one little scholarship can grow into something more substantial once you get the word out. Once he’s exhausted the local scholarship funds, begin to look for state or national organizations that offer educational funds.
The author, Lynette Mathews is a freelance writer and a member of the National Educators Writers Association.
She is the director of The College Planning Center, a resource for students and parents. © 2016