College scholarships are a great way to help finance your college education with financial aid. Like grants, scholarships never have to be repaid. So the more scholarship money you receive, the better. And there are literally billions and billions of dollars of scholarship money available. The amounts vary, of course-some are a few hundred dollars, others thousands, and some elite college scholarships even pay for all four years of tuition, room and board, and even living expenses. But scholarships are different from grants. Grants are usually awarded based on the factor of demonstrated financial need. Scholarships are usually given on the basis of merit, which means they are not strictly need based, although financial need is a consideration in awarding many college scholarships . Scholarships are usually considered a reward, a way of encouraging high grades in school, community service, leadership, outstanding achievement in a particular field, etc. Many of them can be used only for a particular type of education, such as art school. You should try to get as much scholarship money as you can, to lower the amount you may have to borrow. And with billions of dollars in scholarship money available, the odds are very good that you can qualify for some of it. Let’s look at scholarships in general, and some different scholarship programs.
Writing a Good College Scholarship Essay
A great many scholarship competitions require a written essay. Scholarship committees do this for a variety of reasons. One of the main ones is to get an idea of what the person who’s applying for the scholarship is like. Yes, GPA, community service, volunteerism and leadership are important qualities, but by the time you’ve gotten to where you’re being considered, everyone you’re competing against will also have strong records in all these areas. And so the scholarship committee will read your scholarship essay to see what sets you apart from the crowd, looking for a reason to select you over all the others. So, the essay can be the make or break portion of your application. A winning scholarship essay can mean up to tens of thousands of dollars in financial aid for your college education, so you need to do your best to make a real impression with your words.
So when you’re writing your scholarship essay, keep asking yourself if you’d find your essay compelling if someone else had written it, and you were on the final awards committee and reading it. You want to make it clear that you’re a unique individual, without coming across as self absorbed, or judgmental of those students less accomplished than yourself. And while you don’t want to make it sound as if you’ve had a tough life if that’s not the case, if you really have had to overcome some serious adversity in your life, by all means mention it. If you were left in a wheelchair due to a car wreck, or if you’ve triumphed over a terrible disease, or if you came to America from your war ravaged country at the age of 5 speaking no English…the essay is the time to mention it. The ability to overcome tragedies like that are exactly what these committees are looking for. Don’t have a pity party, but let them know you’ve prevailed over difficult circumstances. And don’t simply mention your memberships in different groups-write about things you did that demonstrate leadership and initiative, and any active role you played in addressing a need in your community.
It’s one thing to help out at a community recreation center a few hours a week; it’s a completely different thing if you took it upon yourself to suggest, recruit, organize, and lead a fund raising drive for new playground equipment at a local park. Of course, besides these ideas, there are the basics, which you can’t forget about. It should go without saying, but spell check and proofread your essay, and have at least one other person proofread it before submitting it. Editing software and spell checkers are great tools, but they don’t catch everything. Read it out loud-you may catch errors that don’t stand out when reading it. Check your word length, and edit if necessary-scholarship committees don’t look kindly on applicants who ignore their rules. Avoid slang at all costs, but don’t come off as a pseudo intellectual, either. And ask someone whose opinion you trust to read your essay and give you constructive criticism.
Again, potentially tens of thousands of dollars in college aid are riding on your scholarship essay, so make it sparkle. And there are books available on the topic if you’re having trouble. Go to the library and borrow one, and use the tips you just read here, and you’ll be ahead of your competition.
Once you’ve found scholarships you’d like to apply for, simply contact the organization offering the scholarship to see how to go about applying. You’ll want to apply to as many as possible to maximize your chances of getting money for college. Most will have an email address or a phone number for this purpose. These days, in fact, it’s the rare scholarship that doesn’t have a website, or at least a page on a website, devoted to it. If you happen to find one that doesn’t have email, phone or a website listed, simply type up and mail a short letter telling them a little bit about yourself and why you think you’d be a worthy recipient of their scholarship, and ask about their scholarship application process. Keep it short-there’s no need to go into much detail, since you’re just requesting an application at this point, not actually applying. Include your contact info, and request that a scholarship application be sent to you.
One thing to watch out for is scholarships which want you to pay a scholarship application fee in order to apply. Reputable organizations offering scholarships don’t charge you a fee for applying. Another warning sign is an offer of a guaranteed scholarship. Again, reputable scholarships are limited, and based on a selection process, and there is no guarantee that you’ll receive one. If you ever see an offer for a guaranteed scholarship, it will probably include some sort of processing fee. Don’t fall for this. You should never have to pay any money to apply for scholarships. That’s an added benefit of using FastWeb.com for your scholarship search – it automatically filters out any scholarships that charge a fee.
One of the best tools to use in your search for financial aid for college is a scholarship database. Due to the thousands of scholarships available today, it’s impossible for us to come anywhere close to talking about everyone of them on this website. So how do you find out what’s out there? Your high school guidance office will information on a few scholarships, especially local ones. So will the financial aid office of nearby colleges. And a public library will certainly have scholarship guides. But none of these resources will be able to point you to more than a fraction of the scholarships that are available. But thanks to the wonders of modern technology, you’ll be able to search through thousands and thousands of scholarships worth billions of dollars with just a few clicks of the keyboard at an online scholarship database.
There are many internet scholarship database sites. These allow you to input some basic information about yourself, which the software then analyzes to match you up with scholarships you could qualify for. This is an amazing tool, and everyone needing help paying for college should take advantage of it. There are many different websites offering a scholarship database, but almost everyone agrees that the best one out there, hands down, is Fastweb.com Fastweb, which is free to use, has millions of registered users. According to their website, over one third of all college students use their service. They have one of the larger databases of scholarship information of all the different search websites. Fastweb is also better about filtering out irrelevant matches, so you have to sort through all sorts of search results that you can’t use. And once you’ve created a user profile, Fastweb will automatically email you when new scholarships come along that match your profile. Everyone considering college should create an account and do a search at Fastweb as early as possible. It only takes a few minutes to sign up, and the payoff can potentially be tens of thousands of dollars.