How do I find college scholarships?

While most teens would rather not put much thought into how they are going to pay for college, if you need to rely on scholarships, and help from places other than your parents or your part time job, high school is the time to look. There are numerous scholarships available to high school students, some only available during certain years of high school. There are essay contests, pageants, and all sorts of other ways to get college scholarships in high school. The following is a guide to finding college scholarships while you are in high school:

  1. The first and most important thing to do when in high school if you want college scholarships is go into your counselor’s office, and meet with your counselor. Do this your freshman year of high school. Tell them that you are interested in applying for any and all college scholarships that come available, and enlist their help. That is what they are there for, but unless you make sure they know you and what you want, there is a good chance you won’t get it. They should get some information about you so that they know which scholarships will apply to you when they do come available. For example, some are specifically for low income families, families of certain races, etc.  From this point, your counselor should make you aware when they hear of or find any scholarships you can apply for, and should get you all the necessary forms, and make sure you hit the deadlines. Of course, counselors are busy and have a lot of kids they are over, so check back in with them every couple of months, and stay on them to look for scholarship opportunities for you.
  2. The second thing you must do is not just leave your fate in the hands of your high school counselor, but take the time to do your own research. If you type “college scholarships” into a search engine online you will find hundreds of opportunities. Spend an hour a week or so browsing these opportunities and determining which ones you could, and should apply for. Some will require you to write essays, etc. Do it. Do not let the prospect of a little work keep you from trying for a scholarship. Think of it this way, an essay may take you a few hours to write, but if it gets you a $2500 college scholarship, even if it took you 25 hours to write, you are making $100/hour, which is way more than you would make working in a job to earn money for college. So, the time and effort is worth it, even if you do not get every scholarship you apply for.
  3. If you know what college you want to attend, and have the grades, test scores, etc. to get in, contact the school directly to find out what scholarship opportunities they offer, and what you would need to do to be considered. For example, they may offer academic scholarships, so you can work hard to get your scores and grades up enough to qualify for one.

How to stay aware and apply for college scholarships

graduation caps falling from the skyThe average cost for a four-year college education in the United States is around $40,000, and that doesn’t include room, board, or other living expenses. If you’re thinking of going to college, it’s a good idea to begin thinking of ways to pay for it as early as possible.

One way many students can pay for college is through scholarships. Scholarships are funds awarded to students based on a number of different merits, including athletic ability, academics, or other criteria. Some scholarships will pay the entire cost of college to well-qualified students, while others will pay a few hundred or a few thousand dollars. The earlier you begin thinking about scholarships, the better, and it’s not too early to start researching them your freshman year.

The following tips will help you find a scholarship:

Talk to your guidance counselors.
One of the first places you’ll want to gain information about scholarships will be your career office or guidance counselor at your school. Your career office or guidance counselor at your school will be an excellent source to help you examine different forms of scholarships that you can apply for. There are many scholarships you may not even be aware of, and you needn’t be a star athlete or have a perfect grade point average to get one. They can also help you with the application process, which is a timely and sometimes confusing process.

Look at scholarships offered by your college of choice
The best place to look for scholarships is the college or vocational school of your choice. Get on the school’s website and search, or call and ask for information. In addition, check into the department of the academic program you are applying to; for example, if you plan on majoring in English, ask the English department if they offer any scholarships.

Enter contests
There are many contests communities and schools have that offer scholarship money as a reward. These range from races to writing and essay contests to 4-H competitions. Keep your eyes open for any contests you may be interested in winning. Often, these don’t award full scholarships, but every amount helps when it comes to paying for tuition.

Keep your grades up
Scholarships are very competitive. The attractive thing about a scholarship is that unlike a loan, you never have to pay it back; that’s why so many students apply. However, there are limited funds, so often times only those students who are best qualified to receive scholarships will get them. For example, let’s say a scholarship calls for a 3.0 average to be eligible, but the majority of the applicants have at least a 3.5. You have a 3.2. While you’re still eligible to apply for the scholarship, you may be weeded out early on in the process. Make sure to keep your grades up by studying and devoting enough time to school. That doesn’t mean you can’t have fun, but be sure and strike a balance.

When it’s time to apply, go over applications carefully.
When it comes time to apply for your scholarships, give yourself plenty of time to apply. It is recommended you budget 10-15 hours for each application. Make sure to get it in by the deadline, and proofread your applications several times for mistakes in writing or errors in information.