How to Get a Scholarship 101: How to Find the Right Scholarship and Save Money on Tuition
As nearly 70% of students now graduate in debt, we're officially in a student debt crisis. Thankfully, with the help of scholarships, students have opportunities to offset that debt and even avoid it altogether.
By focusing on how to get a scholarship, you can ensure that you can pay your tuition off soon after graduating, if not before. Here are five tips to ensure you get a scholarship that suits you.
1. Start Early
If it's not yet your senior year, now's the time to start looking for scholarships. While you don't have to apply quite yet, it's important to turn over every stone you can to find the scholarships out there. Most scholarships are reserved for high school seniors but there are many available to younger students.
When you start your search early, you can start comparing them to one another. One that might see suited to your career path might offer $500 and get you started right away. But, a scholarship that takes a little more work to find and to fill out could offer you five times as much.
You also might only be able to apply for some scholarships based on your GPA. Finding out about them now means you have the opportunity to lift your GPA between now and when you apply.
An early search means there's no scrambling at the last minute. Every day counts in those last months before you finish high school, so it pays to have a plan.
2. Ask Around
If you're heavily involved in one program or another at your school, you're not the first one to need scholarships for college. There are students who came before you who tried out a number of different scholarships. They probably had to talk to their teachers and ask for recommendations.
Ask your teachers what they know and what they can help you with. They might have a list for you to go through, if only you take the time to ask.
Talk to the guidance counselor at your school. One of the things they have access to is a database of information, either third-party or their own, of where you can go to search for scholarships.
Leave no stone unturned when it comes to finding a scholarship. If you have friends in the administration, in professional fields, or who work at local civic organizations, ask them. They'll be happy to help you if you've worked hard and have been a contributing member of your community.
If you haven't yet, now's the time to start!
3. Look at School Websites
There's no higher education institution that's unaware of how expensive college is. Whether they're a need-blind institution or not, they know that students need options to pay for housing, books, and tuition.
Most schools have a huge database of scholarship programs that are available to students.
Many of these scholarships are specific to a line of study or a certain type of student. They come from endowments created by alumni who have become rich and successful or who have bequeathed part of their estate to the school.
To honor their legacy, schools give out money under the name of those former students or civic leaders. If you fit a certain list of criteria, you might qualify for one of these scholarships.
There are also outside scholarships schools are aware of. They'll be offered by businesses or corporations who do business with the school. If there's a pre-med program that has helped with medical research, hospitals and medical companies will offer scholarships to entice premeds.
4. Ask Around in Your Community
If there's an Elks club, a Shriners club, or a chamber of commerce near you, there are potential scholarships you could apply for. If you have an interest in the arts or music, there could be scholarships available from local arts organizations or museums. For students interested in ecological research, a local parks conservancy group could be offering money to interested students.
Look into who is near you, what major foundations are based in your city or town, and ask whether they offer scholarships. Many foundations offer scholarships to honor young local talent. They end up being awarded to people who the board knows if no one seems interested and there's no competition.
Churches, credit unions, and neighborhood associations are the types of groups that award scholarships. If you've had any relationship with them in the past, you'll have a leg up. if you haven't, now's the time to start volunteering, helping out, and getting involved.
When it comes time to award their scholarships, they'll look to you as a potential recipient.
5. Identity-Based and Non-Academic Scholarships
There are lots of scholarships which are awarded specifically to certain kinds of students. If you don't have a perfect GPA, you might still be able to write a moving essay helping you pay for the school of your choice.
If you have a disability, are in a minority group, or have performed extra-curricular activities to benefit others, you could be awarded a special scholarship.
Ask your school and see if there are scholarships available to people who share your race or identity. There might be an association at the school with funds reserved for students like you. If you also have an interest in studying a particular diaspora you're connected to, you might be able to pay for your studies with your interests.
While these scholarships still go to students who show a certain aptitude at school, you don't need to be perfect at everything. If you're a brilliant writer who stinks at chemistry and you want to study creative writing, you don't have to worry.
Figuring Out How To Get a Scholarship Takes Time
One hour of searching after dinner won't be enough when figuring out how to get a scholarship. You'll have to do a fair amount of calling, emailing, and researching to uncover the right scholarship for you.
If you want to know which extracurricular activities impress scholarship committees the most, check out our guide.