Imagine this – you’ve just finished applying to colleges. With a huge sigh of relief, you begin to dream about that TV show you’ve been waiting to binge watch. No more deadlines, no more essays with strange prompts. But alas, it’s not quite time to allow senioritis to step through the door. Goodbye college applications, hello scholarship applications!
It’s no secret that college can be very, very expensive. While most colleges offer financial aid and merit scholarship to its students, there are also many outside scholarships that students can take advantage of to help ease the financial burden of college tuition. Many students never apply to outside scholarships, and hence lose out on a huge pool of scholarship money there for the grabs. Here are three important things to keep in mind as you start the search for potential outside scholarships.
- The early bird gets the worm.
Aim to start the scholarship search process as early as you possibly can. Many scholarships have deadlines as early as September or October of senior year (and there are even some out there that are geared towards juniors.) Ideally, you would thus be applying to scholarships at the same time as you are applying to colleges.
However, because many students already have a boatload of work to think about and don’t have the time to commit to scholarships in the midst of college applications, at least try to start pursuing some scholarship websites as your college applications start winding down. If you wait until the spring, many potential opportunities will have already closed their doors on you because their deadlines were in the fall or winter.
And, of course, by no means should you wait until after the school year has already ended. By then the pickings will be slim and fiercely competitive.
- Identify what makes you stand out.
Under the assumption that most people aren’t world champions or cutting-edge researchers who’ve achieved amazing things in high school, it may be best to stray away from widely popular general scholarships that receive thousands of applications a year. Unless you know that you truly have a shot at winning one of the coveted slots, focus your attention on other scholarships that may be lurking on the edge but still offer plenty of monetary award.
Take a moment to reflect about what puts you apart from other people. Are you a child of a veteran? Do you identify with the LGBTQ+ community? There are many scholarships out there that have application requirements which greatly limit the pool of people who are eligible to apply. With less applicants, there is a higher chance of you successfully getting the scholarship. Your family life, prospective major, ethnicity, interests, background, etc. all are variables that may be used to help pick out potential scholarships. A quick search for ‘Women in STEM scholarships’ or ‘Deaf/HOH scholarships’ will immediately pull up a list for you to look through. Be proud of what makes you different, and take advantage of this opportunity to help you get some money to help with college expenses.
- Check your backyard.
Common scholarship search engines like Fastweb.com and Cappex.com can be an efficient way of matching you to scholarships, but many of the results are national scholarships that often receive a heavy amount of applicants.
Don’t forget to check your own backyard for potential gold mines. Sometimes the places we least expect offer the greatest reward. Perhaps the Rotary club across the street from your house has scholarships for those living in your town. Maybe your old elementary school has a scholarship available only for high school alumni.
Even looking for scholarships that are exclusive for students from your state will offer much more potential payback compared to applying only for national scholarships, simply based on the statistics of how many people apply. Ask your high school counselor if they have a list of area scholarships. Do a search of ‘(your city) high school scholarships’ or ‘(your state) high school scholarships’.
By applying early, identifying what sets you apart, and exploring local opportunities, you’ll be aiming yourself down a road of success for scholarship applications. For guidance and more resources on the college application process, you can contact a Empowerly admissions expert for free below.
Senior year can be a stressful time, but preparation and knowledge are the key to ensuring that you do well. Read about how you can afford a college education here in one of our recent Empowerly blog posts.