Searching for scholarships can be overwhelming for both students and their families. Here are some simple (but effective!) steps that can help your students cut through the confusion.
1. Don't wait until your senior year to search and apply for scholarships. Junior year is an ideal time to start the search- in fact, the sooner the better. Many scholarships repeat year after year, so you can get a head start on seeing what will be available.
2. Don't avoid searching for scholarships because you're not a high school student. There are scholarships for students at every stage of their education, whether undergraduate, graduate or adult student.
3. Don't assume that only top scholars and athletes get scholarships. Your family's cultural, geographic, religious and ethnic affiliations, hobbies, music and other capabilities can all help you qualify for certain scholarships. The broader your search criteria, the better your chances of finding matches.
4. Don't overlook small scholarships. Nothing says that you can only win one scholarship. If you apply for several, $1,000 could turn into $5,000 or more- and that's money you won't have to borrow (with interest).
5. Don't rely on scholarship databases that charge you to register or charge a large processing fee, companies that claim to do all the work for you, or out-of the-blue announcements telling you that you won a scholarship for which you didn't apply.
1. DO include private resources in your search- KFC, Coca-Cola, McDonald's, and Walmart all offer scholarships
2. DO research local businesses and state opportunities (Sometimes the best opportunity is right in your own neighborhood!)
3. DO use free national scholarship search sites. The Sallie Mae® Scholarship Search has a database of over 3 million scholarships (valued at more than $16 billion) that can be sorted by name, deadline, award amount, or eligibility criteria. Other search sites include Fastweb.com, College-Scholarships, and Scholarships.com.
4. DO carefully read and understand the rules and requirements of the scholarship for which you're applying
5. DO stay positive! This is a long-distance marathon, not a sprint. Be creative, be upbeat, and keep working to uncover the right scholarship.