As you watch your teen fill out their college applications, you’re probably proud, excited and wondering, “How am I going to pay for it?”
You might be surprised: According to the U.S. Department of Education, undergraduates received $21.8 billion in merit aid for the 2011-12 academic year, up 64% from 2007-08, says Edvisors.com, a financial-aid information website.
And the site found that outside organizations have increased their merit aid even faster, awarding $6.2 billion in scholarship assistance in 2011-12, up 130% from four years prior.
The money’s out there; the trick is where to find it. Here are some places to go treasure hunting for college scholarships:
- Your school guidance counselor: They have a lot of information on which organizations offer scholarships. Make sure to sign up for any newsletters they send out and stay on top of the opportunities and deadlines.
- Your place of employment: Many companies give scholarships to their employees’ children. Check with your human resources department to find out the options and qualifications.
- Local service groups: Check out the PTA, Kiwanis Club, Chamber of Commerce, churches, foundations and others in your town, which often offer scholarships based on a variety of factors. There’s often less competition for these, since they have to be awarded locally.
- National companies: From Prudential to Dr. Pepper, many of your favorite brands have their own scholarships available. Some require essays and some are just contests you can enter over and over.
- Aggregate websites: There are several websites that allow you to search for scholarships based on a wide variety of factors from grades to your projected major to those contests mentioned above. Try com, Edvisors.com, Bigfuture.CollegeBoard.org and CareerOneStop.com.
Finally, once your child is accepted, your college might well offer assistance, even if your family has a higher income. Merit aid is based on student accomplishments, rather than financial need, and is offered for achievements such as academics, athletics, debate, arts and other extracurriculars. Merit aid at private colleges is often given to students who exceed the GPA and test scores of the average student.
Many people believe that you have to have an amazing GPA or SAT score to earn a scholarship, but that’s not always the case. Colleges are looking for special talents, avid voluntarism or leadership skills. A local youth sports organization might be looking for an essay on how their programs helped a teen with their school career.
In fact, the No. 1 quality that your teen needs to have to earn one of these is initiative to seek them out and apply. Your chances are often quite high since many scholarships have few students applying.
Delegating the time to find a wide variety of options and crafting compelling essays or other entrance materials is time well spent, and quite literally money in the bank!
Have you found scholarships somewhere most people don’t think to look? Let us know on our Facebook page!