So you are applying to college (or already in college), congrats! This is a great achievement, but one that can easily turn into a financial burden. Not many of us can afford tens of thousands of dollars each year to continue our education, but there are so many routes to help fund your educational goals. Think big. Think scholarships.
Where to do I start?
Online scholarship sources
Scholarships. By now you’ve probably heard the word a couple hundreds of time. They hold a bit of mystery and they may seem out of your reach. But don’t worry, there are a plethora of scholarships and a lot of them are simpler than you think. To start let’s look at some of the main websites you can find scholarships on:
Each of these websites have their own little quirks. Fastweb will target scholarships based on your strengths, interests, and skills. Additionally, it has a lot of great resources for schools that are within your budget, financial aid tips, and career advice. Scholarships.com will also search for a ton of scholarships and give you tips about colleges and financial aid. Lastly, Zinch is probably one of the most user-friendly and fun databases to use. Zinch will help you find scholarships, remind you about scholarship deadlines, help you with college admissions, and they tell you about several scholarships that almost anyone is eligible for.
Note: it is really hard to get funded through these websites. So why share these with you? Well, they help you start your scholarship research. These sites help you narrow down what scholarships would be best for YOU. It isn’t impossible to get funded through online scholarships. There are actually thousands of scholarships every year that NO ONE applies to. So don’t give up. (There is hope: Yelena Bosovik signed up for 100 scholarships to help pay for her college tuition.)
Do your research and apply for what is right for you.
But don’t just apply online. Here are few other ways to succeed on your quest to find funding.
The most paramount tip I can give you is ask around! Ask counselors, people in your community, and the university you are going to (or are attending) about scholarships. At my university, the incoming freshmen are eligible for a plethora of scholarships. There are scholarships for having a high school GPA of over a 3.5, scholarships for varying income levels, incoming majors, living on-campus, etc. The average freshman comes in with almost half of his/her tuition paid for just from the scholarships through the university. There are also a ton of opportunities in many cities to win scholarships (music, arts, writing, sports, and leadership positions). Don’t be afraid to ask around to find ways to finance your education.
The daunting part: Applying
Don’t let this stress you out! What is the worst thing that could happen? You may not get it. Okay, well you are back to where you started. It’s okay. There are other resources and other scholarships you can apply to. Just don’t give up.
For the formal scholarship
As a general rule you’ll need a few items:
- High school transcript
- Scores from SAT/ACT
- FAFSA Information
Know your FAFSA: You need to fill this out each year or you can lose your funding! Mark on your calendar to fill this out each year so you don’t lose previous scholarships or loans!
- Several people who would write you a good recommendation
- A rough draft of a personal statement
- Include goals for education, career, and personal life
If you are applying to the more formal scholarships, you may be asked to write an essay. These tips will help you write a stellar essay.
Win them with your words | Essay Tips:
- This is a time to tell the world how awesome you are. How often do you get to do that?! Remember you weren’t just in French Club in high school. You were promoting cultural competence and expanding your horizons by becoming immersed in another culture.
2. Tie in your goals with the university goals/scholarship goals
- Do you take part in sustainable ventures and your school or scholarship is about promoting green initiatives? Write about it! Have you already started to expand your education before college (shadowing professionals, workshops, etc.)? Perfect, scholarship committees love that!
3. Don’t be afraid to dream big
- So you’re about to be in college, and you’re 18 and have no clue where you’ll be in four years let alone some major you’re going to pick. That’s okay too. You’ll probably switch your major. It’s part of the college experience. So use this time to dream big on what you want to do. Do you want to study abroad in Thailand and learn about mosquito prevention methods? If it is even on your radar, let the scholarship committee know. One caveat to this tip is keep to a theme. Don’t say you want to be a doctor for two years, then an airplane pilot for a year, a teacher the next year, an explorer for a while, and then a shoe repair woman after. While you would lead one of the most fascinating lives if you stuck to this plan, nothing kills an essay more than when a student writes that they have no idea what they want to do in college or are simply confused as to why/where they are even going.
Food for thought: Don’t get hung up on the word “scholarship”. Money is money, and it can be found in various ways. One of my roommates submitted a short story to a local contest and won $2,500 for it, and another one of my guy friends entered a cannoli eating contest and won $1,000 that went to pay for his books. Random ways to get money, but they all add up!
Also don’t forget about companies like UChic, who fund young women through product sales.
Maybe you will try your hand at eating cannoli’s and karaoke contests. Or maybe you will work really hard at signing up for as many formal scholarships as possible. Either way, you’ve got this. Now all you have to do is get started!