When I began looking at college for my daughter I quickly realized I could buy a nice summer home for what I would spend for a four-year degree.
Tuition had risen over 200% of what I paid per year in the ’80s. As a responsible parent, I had tried to put aside a few dollars for education early on – but sometimes life happens. The thought of accumulating a huge amount of debt from student loans during four years was disturbing.
I knew that I had to develop a plan to obtain financial assistance and do it rather quickly if I wanted my daughter to go to college. So, I decided to do what I do best – research and plan.
What I Learned
When to begin looking for financial aid is more important than where to look for scholarships. If you and your child wait until senior year of high school to begin looking for funding, you have greatly limited your success. I began looking at the different types of aid available and their requirements when my daughter was in eighth grade. That was when I discovered that I would not meet the requirements for federal aid. I had to develop another strategy. I began seeking scholarships.
I found out there were many scholarships offered by local entities in my city, county, and state that didn’t require students to have extremely high-grade point averages, extreme financial need, or great athletic ability. You may find that your area may have the same type of opportunities. While some of these scholarships don’t pay full-tuition (some may be as low as $100), they do provide enough funds to buy books, pay some room and board for a year or supplement other fees that are associated with attending a post-secondary institution. Most of the local scholarships I found didn’t require a parent to submit tax forms or wade through lengthy applications.
I spent a lot of hours seeking scholarships from various online sources and signing up for free scholarship searches that provided electronic notifications of scholarships for which we were eligible. Online services will provide information on scholarships based on your child’s career interests. NEVER PAY TO FIND SCHOLARSHIPS. You can find them on your own! Here are some places to look:
Clubs and organizations often announce winners of scholarships. Keep the names and contact information of these scholarships. Contact the club for requirements.
College-based scholarships are provided by the local/regional college to students who meet certain academic requirements. Most rely on SAT or ACT scores, high school ranking, choice of major or residence. Check with the college or university your child plans to attend. Don’t assume the college will automatically consider your child for the scholarship even if he meets all the criteria. It is still the student’s responsibility to apply and meet all deadlines.
Businesses and Corporations
Start with businesses and corporations in your town or in your state. Their requirements may be less stringent than some of the national companies. If your child has a particular interest, such as engineering or culinary, check with companies that supply those industries. They may have scholarships that are awarded to students interested in their industry. Contact the public relations department or check their website for information. After you have explored your options with the locals, begin to look for scholarships from the national companies such as Coca-Cola, Ford, and Microsoft just to name a few. An internet search may provide information about others.
Trust funds, memorial funds, foundations or individuals provide private scholarships. These scholarships may have very specific requirements such as residence, school, interests or hobbies. Check on the internet or your area phone book for foundation information.
Clubs and Groups in Your Community
Even if you aren’t a member of any local civic groups and organizations like the Optimist Club, Lions or Kiwanis – or even a sorority or fraternity – your child may still be eligible based on his involvement in the community. My daughter received a sorority scholarship, but I am not a member.
Professional Societies and Associations
Professional societies and associations offer scholarships to encourage students to choose majors in a certain field. Check with medical, public safety or teaching organizations with local chapters in your community. Use the Internet to find professional societies in the field that your child will be majoring. They may possibly be offering money to students.
Churches, synagogues or other places of worship often sponsor scholarships. Check with worship-oriented service groups as well. You may not have to be a member of the organization but believe or live their mission or tenets. Some will provide scholarships to students who plan to major in a particular religion or belief.
To provide for increased minority diversity, organizations such as the NAACP, sororities or fraternities and some civic organizations use race, ethnicity, religion or gender as eligibility requirements for their scholarships.
Check with your union or place of employment. Some of these scholarships are based on length of membership or employment; however, they are an excellent starting point.
Your Friends and Family
Many times your friends will see information through all of the above-listed sources. Have them on the lookout for you. I received quite a bit of information from friends regarding scholarships. (And who knows, maybe they’ll throw in a few dollars, too.)
On Campus Jobs
On campus jobs or work study is another option that schools offer. Students work a limited number of hours per week. The money earned can go toward fees, travel expenses or just spending money.
Ready, Set, Go
By the time my daughter had entered her freshman year, we had received a full tuition scholarship (for four years), a sorority scholarship (she was not a member), and a scholarship from our church. Those funds covered 80% of her first year room and board expenses.
We continued the process throughout her four-years. As she went through, we received more money from the college, she became a resident assistant that allowed for free room and board, and she received a part-time job as a student ambassador.
So, parents of ninth, tenth and eleventh -graders TAKE NOTE. Get to work EARLY. EVERY student should explore all financial aid options and meet with a financial aid counselor.
Remember, college and scholarship applications look for community involvement, academic achievement, social interaction, and a host of other qualifiers.
Get your child involved, get his grades “acceptable” and work on those entrance exam scores!!!!
And remember; keep looking for scholarships after your child is in school. Schools often provide scholarships to attending students, too.