Since its their last semester in high school, the homework and stress is reduced for many seniors inside the classroom. But outside the classroom, the pressure is on to find scholarships for this falls freshman year at college.
According to Braintrack, a higher education database, more than $3 billion in private scholarships are awarded to college students annually. Average awards range from $2,000 to $3,000. Every little bit helps.
So for the industrious student, scholarship applications often replace cramming for quizzes and tests. The scholarship application process is similar to the college application process: forms to be completed, test scores and transcripts to be sent, essays to be written and often interviews to prep for.
Here are some basic scholarship guidelines:
• Start local. Your high school guidance office should have a list of local scholarships. These offer the best opportunities exactly because they are local. Companies and organizations want to provide their scholarships to students in the area. The awards may be smaller, but you have a better chance of winning them because youre not competing with hundreds or thousands of students from across the country.
• Expand your reach with online scholarship search engines and scholarship directories.
A few great places to start looking for scholarships are: www.fastweb.com, www.finaid.org and www.collegexpress.com. Check out the annual scholarship guidebooks by Petersons, or Scholarships, Grants & Prizes and The Ultimate Scholarship Book by Gen and Kelly Tanabe.
• Be selective. Thoroughly research the qualifications required by each of the scholarships. Dont waste your time applying for ones that are need-based if you cant produce the appropriate documentation.
• Research past recipients. Check out the websites of the organizations sponsoring the scholarships. Many post the biographies of past recipients. You dont need to have cured cancer, but if you dont think your resume measures up to their past winners, you might be better served by moving onto the next scholarship on your list.
• Prepare for the interview. If you make the first cut, you might have the chance to interview. Youll want to dazzle them with your personality, but above all youll want to be prepared. Find someone you trust to conduct a mock interview with you someone who will be honest with you and provide valuable feedback.
• Let your personality shine through in your essays. The essays are the best way for students to share who they are, where theyve come from, what theyve overcome, etc. Tell your story in an interesting and compelling way.
• Follow instructions. Dont miss deadlines. Be sure to answer the essay prompt and not just submit an essay you wrote for another application. Edit, proof and then proof again before submitting.
And if you do have an interview, send a thank-you note afterward.
Bierer is an independent college adviser based in Charlotte. www.collegeadmissionsstrategies.com.
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