Applying for grants and scholarships is a worthwhile effort for every student as they prepare for college. Looking back on my own journey to higher education, one of my only regrets is that I didn't tap as many resources as I could to make college more affordable. Now, as part of my New Year’s resolution to tackle my student loan debt, I am sharing ways students can make smart choices to avoid debt of their own.
Being diligent in the search for funding can help students obtain the holy grail of scholarships--the full-ride. However, even if your student is not so lucky, any additional money will greatly lower her debt after graduation. Another upside to applying for more student aid includes increasing your chances of attending college. The National Center for Postsecondary Research (NCPR) reports that for each additional $1,000 a student is able to raise on top of her financial aid package, the likelihood of college enrollment increases by 4 percentage points.
Aundrea’s Tips for Winning Scholarship Money
Create a personal profile: Students must do their best to standout on scholarship applications. This will require detailed information about extracurricular activities, academic accomplishments, and personal qualities. Before applying, have students write short paragraphs about their attributes and most meaningful experiences. This will save time, particularly when applying to numerous scholarships. For more tips on how to make applications standout click here.
Narrow your search: Using a search engine or scholarship catalogue (available at the library for free) will help students quickly identify which scholarships they qualify for based on criteria including race, gender, income, and achievement. Hint: Be sure to look for scholarships aimed at diversifying specific industries and fields of study. There are more opportunities for minorities entering STEM programs than ever before.
Think outside the box: Finding money for college may require students to be creative about where they look. No matter how unusual the scholarship or source, apply! Additionally, CollegeBoard suggests asking local businesses and organizations about scholarship programs. Ask your own employer and even ask prospective colleges for private grants and scholarships allocated to their students.
Apply Not Just in High School: Scholarship applications are not just available to high school students. In fact, funding opportunities exist for those in kindergarten as well as those already in college. Always be on the lookout for new programs and make applying a yearly commitment.
Completing the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) is an important first step for funding college, as I mention in Education: FAFSA to Cover the Cost of College. This online form provides access to federal assistance including loans, scholarships, and the Pell Grant--which is particularly important for families that make less than $40,000 a year.
For underrepresented groups such as low-income and first-generation college students, finding ways to afford higher education can be a challenge, especially when guidance at school and home is limited. As parents, teachers, and mentors we must help our students capitalize on the thousands of scholarships that are available each year. Attending college is an obtainable goal for all students, but it takes adequate planning and loving support.
An education policy wonk at the Georgia Center of Opportunity, Aundrea Gregg holds a Master’s degree in Social Policy and Planning from the London School Of Economics and a Bachelor’s in Classical Civilizations and Political Science from Howard University. She also is a nail painting enthusiast and writer living in Atlanta, GA. Connect with Aundrea on Twitter or Google+.
Edited by: Viviana Hurtado, Ph.D.
How are you helping your student save for college?