Strategy 1: Asking Pointed Questions
While there are many good questions to ask, there are often better questions to ask. First, rather than just relying on a college’s financial aid brochure or online financial aid calculator, set up an appointment with each college’s Office of Financial Aid. Second, instead of simply asking, “What scholarships can I get?” think a little more expansively and ask:
- What opportunities are there for future aid – i.e. does the institution offer sophomore, junior or senior-specific scholarships that you could potentially strive for or count on in later years?
- What are commonly used sources of private funds?
Is there major-specific financial support – i.e. specific department scholarships or awards, research or teaching opportunities?
- Is it possible to combine outside scholarships and institutional aid?
- What are my prospects for having an on-campus job?
Strategy 2: Set a Weekly Goal
Because scholarship opportunities abound, look at your schedule and set a goal for yourself: perhaps once a week dedicate 45 minutes to searching and applying for scholarships.
Strategy 3: Search by Major
Learning more about your future major and field of study will help acclimate you not only to what it’s like in the industry but also to potential streams of scholarship money. After all, industries like to invest in “future researchers, chemists, and educators, etc.,” and, you’re one of them! If you’re not sure what you’d like to major in, check out this blog post.
Professional and Grassroots Organizations: What professional organizations or think tanks relate to your discipline? Perhaps the American Chemical Society if you’re an aspiring chemist or the Association of American Educators if you’re a future teacher. The Foundation for Economic Education and Intercollegiate Studies Institute are also two of many groups that hold speaking competitions for high school students.
Scholarships.com Major Search: Look on the left-side panel of this website to explore opportunities. Remember, every scholarship search takes some time, but the potential gain will be worth the investment.
Curriculum: Are you a homeschooled student? Do some research on the companies that produce your curriculum, as several may offer scholarships for which you are eligible.
Strategy 4: Search by Key Characteristics
This is a great way to involve family – everyone has unique traits: language, left-handedness, birthplace, etc. Many scholarships are funded in honor of a friend or family member with a unique trait or life experience, and students with a similar trait or background can benefit from a generous donor’s desire to keep that special person’s memory alive. These often require some digging but are certainly worth looking into.
- Fastweb.com – Create a profile and you’ll be notified daily or weekly of scholarships for which you are eligible.
Strategy 5: Search by Clubs and Activities
What have you been involved in? Ask your coach or teacher what foundations exist that support students who have been involved in various clubs or activities on your resume. You can see what Grove City has to offer HERE.
Look into opportunities at your future college campus to see what extra income you can make by using these skills – and I don’t just mean “on-campus employment.” Think bigger! Are you a lifeguard or a swim teacher? See if there is a local YMCA where you can teach swim lessons part time. Are you a gifted musician? Perhaps you can use your talents to make some extra cash teaching piano lessons or accompanying music majors for their recitals.
Strategy 6: Search by Community Groups
These scholarships often require a short essay or involve a speaking competition. Very few students typically enter these competitions, but there are many awards to be distributed! Typical groups include the following:
- Kiwanis, Lions or Rotary clubs
- National Management Association
- Veterans of Foreign Wars
- Major manufacturers: Nordstrom, Coca-Cola, Target, Colgate, etc.
Strategy 7: Sharpen Your Tools – Résumés, Interviews and Essays
If a college asks for your résumé, be sure to categorize your experiences according to: relevant experience, other work experience, volunteer experience, and academic achievements/awards. Document the length of each experience or position, as well as the transferrable skills you cultivated through those experiences or positions.
Also, look at the school’s career services website for résumé-writing tips from experts, such as those in Grove City’s nationally acclaimed Career Services Office. If you follow their advice and format, your résumé is sure to be a hit! Be sure to check out our blog post with tips inspired by the CSO.
Interviews measure your ability to evaluate and reflect on both your successes and shortcomings. Connect yourself, (your experiences, your values, and your interests), to the requirements for the scholarship. Think of what you’ve accomplished, lessons you’ve learned, goals you’ve achieved, and people you’ve worked with, and have examples and stories prepared so you can really sell yourself.
Think SPECIFIC – takeaways, qualities, and examples. You control what you submit, so make sure it screams YOU and YOUR ELIGIBILITY for the scholarship. The worst essays are the ones that are vague, dull, or cliché. For essay-writing tips, check out this blog post.
Again, websites like fastweb.com are excellent resources for finding private aid, and our you can find more tips and information on this blog. The following posts are particularly pertinent: