First things first: money for college is available but don’t expect it to fall into your lap. You’ll have to ask for it. Second, consider your eligibility. A scholarship isn’t granted to anyone who wants a college degree. There are certain eligibility needs that a student applicant must meet before it can be awarded to him. Third, there is no such thing as a perfect scholarship that will cover everything. You will need more than one or even a dozen to lessen your college expenses.
Start your search early
Scholarship programs have deadlines – mostly in mid or late February – so make sure you start hunting for scholarships early. Go to your school’s financial aid department, library or guidance councilor’s office and ask for scholarships that may be available. Get as many brochures as you can.
Your aim is to find as many scholarships as you may be eligible for and apply for them. The trick is to look for scholarships that you are more likely to win than scholarships that may offer a lot of money but you may not qualify for.
Find out everything you can about scholarships that you can apply for, especially about eligibility needs. If you have questions, don’t hesitate to call the sponsors.
The application process
Depending on the organization offering the scholarship, you can request for an application form three ways: call, write or e-mail. If you plan to write, be aware of certain rules of formality in communication, since there are standards you will need to follow in terms of business letter writing. The same goes even with e-mailed requests.
Once you receive the blank application forms, begin organizing. Create a file for every scholarship program you plan to apply for and draw a chart that lists all the needs you will need to prepare. Keep a record of deadlines, dates of application, appointments and follow-up calls. Take note also of important contact persons that you will have to communicate with from time to time.
Also a helpful thing to do is to create a chart that lists the minimum and maximum awards that each scholarship offers. Keep a blank column at the side which you can fill in after you’ve received the actual amount. This will help you keep track of how much money you have in your scholarship fund.
Your application form
You’ll only get one, so don’t mess it. Before you start filling it out, read through it to make sure you have the necessary information that it needs. If you can, have it photocopied and practice writing or typing on it so you can avoid mistakes on the real one. White-out will do the trick on the original form, but it won’t make a neat application.
Fill out the application form legibly. If your handwriting isn’t that good, use a typewriter. Don’t leave anything blank. If some items aren’t applicable to you, then make sure to indicate it on the form. If there are questions that you don’t understand, call the scholarship sponsor and ask. Lastly, don’t forget your signature and indicate the date of application.
Once you’ve read through your application once or twice, make at least one copy for your file. In the meantime, prepare all documents and photocopies that may be needed by the scholarship program, such as birth certificate, school transcripts, certifications, citations, standardized test scores, FAFSA or PROFILE forms, your parents’ tax returns and other financial information, letters of recommendation and proof of eligibility.
One thing to remember about essays is that they do have a limit. Try to keep within the word or page limit specified in your scholarship application and keep to the point. Write only about what is needed by the program. Also, make sure your handwriting is legible or if it’s printed, check for typographical and grammatical errors. Keep a copy of your essay in your file, just in case you’ll need it for another application.
After checking that every document is present and accounted for, attach them to your application form, send it and cross your fingers. All you have to do now is wait.
If you’re being considered for a scholarship, you’ll be asked to come for a personal interview so be prepared. If your scholarship is talent-based, you might need to prepare for a performance or an audition or have your portfolio organized and ready.
Keeping it real
Never apply for a scholarship that you either pay for or is guaranteed. Scholarships are gifts and are awarded based solely on merit and eligibility and these, you do not pay for. Guaranteed scholarships are also an impossibility, since there are guidelines and needs that must be met.
Scholarships can take a big chunk out of your college expenses and can pay for books and supplies that you will otherwise have to pay for. Applying for them will need creativity, initiative and patience but the rewards are great as long as you’re willing to go the extra mile.