Paying for college might be one of the most confusing and frightening parts of applying. In addition to filling out the FAFSA, which will help you to secure financial aid, you may decide to look at scholarships. Remember financial aid largely depends on your family’s income and other factors, but many scholarships are awarded based on your merit or interests. Don’t think that less than stellar grades means you can’t get any scholarships or awards. Follow these steps to give yourself a chance to earn scholarship money for college.
1. Start researching early.
No matter where you are in your college journey, you can start looking into scholarships. Check your potential colleges, your high school guidance office, your religious institution, your community center, your parents’ workplace, and anywhere else you can. Your high school’s website may include scholarship recommendations, and both College Board and ACT offer scholarships. If you have a passion, there are scholarships aimed at what you love.
2. Investigate everything.
You can get a scholarship for having all sorts of qualities. Of course grades and test scores are a key component, but not the only thing that scholarship committees look for. Some applications will require you to write an essay, submit recommendations, or send a resume. Brainstorm a list of activities you participate in or talents you have and look for awards in those areas.
3. Follow all steps and instructions.
You would be surprised at how many people ignore this simple advice. It pays to follow the rules, and it’s noticeable when you don’t. That includes submitting all requested pieces in a timely fashion, which may mean you need to work closely with your guidance counselor or teachers who are writing you recommendations.
4. Be confident and self-assured.
Whether you are filling out your application, writing your essay, or going on interviews, it’s important to have a good self-image, a high level of confidence in your abilities, and pride in your past achievements. Practice giving an “elevator pitch”: in 30 seconds or less, convince the audience that you deserve what you’re asking for—or at least convince them that you deserve to be given a chance. This is one time when it’s OK to brag about yourself. Don’t downplay your strengths and achievements.
5. Thank those who have helped you.
A handwritten note goes a long way and is often remembered. You’ll want to do this in the future when you go on job interviews. If you don’t have time for a note right away, send them a quick email; then, do your best follow up with a written note in the next week or so. Expressing thanks in written form helps reinforce that your supporters have made the right choice and lay the groundwork for you to reach out again.
6. Do not pay anyone to do this work for you.
Believe it or not, there are many scholarship scams out there. Fraudulent scholarship companies and other information you should be aware of are available at www.ftc.gov.