Guest Post provided by Cher Zevala
As a parent of a college-aged child, you’ve no doubt experienced some sticker shock at the price of an education. You don’t want your child to graduate with a crippling amount of debt, but if you’re like most parents and can’t write a check to cover tuition, you’re probably looking for other options to cover the costs.
Although 94 percent of student aid comes from school, state, and federal aid programs, there are big bucks to be found in private scholarships as well. And unfortunately, a lot of that private money goes unclaimed — to the tune of about $100 million every year — because there aren’t enough (or any) applicants. Going after private scholarships can add a substantial amount to your college coffers, but only if you actually apply.
While you shouldn’t do the work for your student to score private scholarships, you can help by offering some helpful advice, and guiding them with these tips.
It may be tempting to apply for every scholarship you find, but that can quickly become overwhelming — and eventually your student will burn out in the process. Some students make the mistake of targeting their applications to only the largest scholarships, but that is also a mistake.
The larger the scholarship amount, the more competition there will be for the money. Even if your student is an outstanding scholar, a champion athlete, and has a list of activities as long as his arm, there will be dozens of other applicants with the same qualities. That’s not to say that you shouldn’t go for the big awards, but balance those applications out with some smaller scholarships as well. Multiple smaller awards add up quickly, and may even come close to what you’d get from one large scholarship.
It’s also a good idea to spread out the types of awards you’re applying for to improve your chances of winning. In other words, don’t apply only for sports-related scholarships, or awards related to your major. Chances are, your student qualifies in multiple categories, so don’t limit the applications to only one.
Scholarship deadlines are firm — not suggestions. To avoid rushing at the last minute or missing deadlines, develop a plan to get everything done. College admissions experts recommend scheduling a regular time to work on scholarships and focusing only on finding and applying for money during that time. Work backwards from deadlines to determine when you need to have certain pieces prepared. Aim to submit the application well before the deadline so there is time to correct any problems if they pop up.
After writing college admissions essays and doing schoolwork, many students are reluctant to write yet another essay (or 10) to apply for scholarships. Often, though, the more work required to win an award, the more substantial the award, so writing that essay is usually worth the time. Keep in mind as well that fewer students apply for essay-based awards, so your chances may be better than average.
Do not try to re-use the same essay for very application, though. You may be able to keep the basic structure of something you have already written, but be sure that any essay that you submit adheres to the requirements of the scholarship and is tailored to that specific award.
Recently, several Harvard students had their offers of admission rescinded due to inappropriate postings on social media. Colleges and scholarship organizations are paying more attention to applicants’ online profiles these days, so you want to be sure that your students’ online image matches up to the image presented in the application. If there is anything troublesome online, encourage your student to remove it or takes steps to have it removed.
Many scholarships require letters of recommendation, and the people you choose can make a powerful argument on your behalf. Recommendations should come from people who know the student well and can speak honestly and articulately to their accomplishments and character, not just someone who may have clout, but can only provide a generic recommendation.
By putting the effort into applying for private scholarships, a student can conceivably win enough money to pay for a significant portion of their college expenses. It takes diligence and work, but the payoff will be a lower debt burden after graduation.
Note: This was a guest post from one of our readers. If you’re interested in submitting a guest post to UniversityParent.com, please click here to learn more.
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