As the spring deadlines approach, here’s how to increase your chances of getting college money.
If you’re a college student or are in your senior year of high school looking for scholarships to help fund the cost of your education next fall, don’t delay your search.
Most scholarships have deadlines in the spring, now is the time to apply. Don’t despair because you don’t think you have the grades to qualify. There are thousands of scholarships, including many that do not depend on academic performance or qualifications or financial need. You can receive money for your field of study, extracurricular activities, geographical area or your ancestry.
“Scholarships are awarded based on a large number of criteria. You just have to know how to find the right scholarship for you,” says Abril Hunt, national coaching manager for ECMC, a nonprofit that provides financial education to high school and college students. They also work to reduce student loan default rates.
In fact, the chance of you getting some kind of scholarship is pretty good. According to the 2018 Sallie Mae How America Pays for College survey, 3 out of 5 college students received one or more scholarships.
But don’t count on scholarships to cover all school costs. Very few students get a full amount to cover the total cost of tuition, fees, accommodation and food, says a financial aid expert, Mark Kantrowitz, editor and vice president of research at Savingforcollege.com.
But applying for and getting a variety of scholarships can add up to a considerable amount. In the 2017-18 academic year, the average spelt amount of those who received one or more scholarships was $7,760, according to the Sallie Mae survey. Families reported that scholarships helped cover 20% of university expenses.
Keep in mind that some schools and private scholarship organizations require you to complete the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) application to be considered for a scholarship, even if the award is not based on your family’s ability to pay.
Smart strategies for finding scholarships
Here are 5 ways to maximize your chances of getting money that can make a big difference to your college bills:
Start at your university
Universities are one of the largest providers of scholarships, says Kathy Ruby, director of college finance at College Coach, an organization that offers a college admissions consulting service. Eager to get a diverse student body, universities use “free money” to recruit students based on specific characteristics, such as their GPA, their main specialty, or where they live.
Generally, private universities offer more merit scholarships than public universities because they have larger grant funds. The average amount awarded per student for scholarships at 4-year private universities is $13,591, more than double the $5,932 awarded by 4-year public universities, according to the Sallie Mae survey.
But many state universities, especially in the southern and western regions, offer generous scholarships to those who come from other states but have solid academic backgrounds. For example, the University of Arkansas ‘ New Arkansan Non-Resident Tuition Award Scholarship covers most of the difference between tuition costs for in-state students and those from neighboring states who have a GPA of 3.3 or higher.
You can increase your chances of getting a scholarship if you apply to universities where your exam scores place you in the top 10% of the class. Visit the College Board’s website called Big Future to learn how your academic profile compares to that of other students admitted to the universities you wish to attend.
As you research and visit universities, ask admissions officers if you are a good candidate for scholarships, and what kind of profile students who commonly receive merit help have.
” The criteria universities are looking for change every year, ” says Ruby.
Find what best suits your needs
Have a strategy when submitting your applications. Scholarships with few criteria or very broad criteria will have much more competition.
Invest your time looking for scholarships that really match your experience and interests. Use the free online scholarship search services that can help you find a good option for you, including Cappex, College Board, Fastweb, and Scholarships.com. you’ll need to fill out a profile to identify what makes you different, and the services will introduce you to potential scholarships that are right for you.
Get highlighted from the page
Most scholarships require an essay. A telling story can catch the attention of the judge reviewing your application. For example, many programs value voluntary community service. But if you don’t have time for volunteer service because you work, are a single parent or caregiver, or have other challenges, explaining your unique situation can help you stand out from the page and move away from the other candidates.
Write about something that you are passionate about or that demonstrates your special skills
It can be cooking, baking or your school’s theater program. Scholarship providers like to see applicants who have struggled to overcome challenges, obstacles or difficulties and who have learned from these experiences. ” They like to see how students have survived adversity, which can be an indicator of how they’re going to be able to handle college challenges, ” Hunt says.
You can also learn from previous scholarship winners. Request copies of winning essays from the organization that administers the scholarship program.
Think big and small
National Scholarships are often more lucrative than those in your community, so focusing on them is a good way to start.
However, you may have a better chance of getting a local scholarship, because you are likely to compete against fewer students. Talk to your high school counselors to find out which organizations they collaborate with. If you’re already attending college, visit the financial aid office and ask for the list of outside scholarships other students have received, says Hunt of ECMC.
Common sources include churches, civic organizations such as Rotary Clubs, and local businesses. Companies are another common source, so check with your local Chamber of Commerce or your parents ‘ employers.
Go the extra mile and look for past winners or attend allotment ceremonies to see who usually wins the awards.
Focus on your career
Some professional organizations offer scholarships to attract people to enter the field, especially in professions that are difficult to fill.
Try the Department of Labor’s search engine, CareerOneStop, which provides more than 7,500 scholarships for undergraduate and graduate programs.
For example, the American Association of Equine Practitioners has a list of 8 scholarships for those individuals studying veterinary medicine or equine studies. The Coyote Rock Ranch in Oregon awarded 3 scholarships of cada 75,000 each in 2018 to veterinary Equine Studies students. The American Concrete Institute provides support to students whose studies relate to concrete such as construction management, or industrial design.
In addition, there is the John Kitt Memorial Scholarship from the American Association of Candy Technologists, for college students who have demonstrated an interest in confectionery technology, including research, work experience or formal study.