Ayear and a half ago Jill, the mother of Todd, a rising senior, asked me for help finding colleges that her family could afford. We developed a list that offered fit their financial needs and Todd’s interests. Initially,
Jill wanted to pursue private scholarships in addition to the financial aid package Todd received. However, in the rush of getting essays written and applications submitted, scholarship searches were never done. In fact, very few families actually apply for private scholarships to augment the merit aid offered by colleges.
Only about 6% of scholarships come from sources other than the colleges themselves. When outside money becomes available to a student, it is an asset of the student that most colleges apply to reducing the amount of the loans in the aid package. A five thousand dollar scholarship means that five thousand dollars won’t need to be borrowed.
After the age of thirteen a student can search and apply for scholarships using her own name and social security number. Awards will be held until the student enters college.
The best time to look for “free money” is before junior year of high school when the rigor of classes increases and grades are much more important that before. That isn’t to say that juniors and seniors should blow off opportunities for scholarships.
There are many places to find scholarships on the web. College Board and Fastweb.org are two of the better known websites. A surprising place to find scholarships is in the advertising of local large and small companies who have contests or open-application scholarships.
Recently, there have been a number of scholarship contests based on submitting a video. If you have experience or talent, this might be just the thing for you!
When you visit colleges stop in the Financial Aid Office and ask for college-specific scholarships. Alums and their families endow a scholarship for students meeting specific requirements. The Admission Office and the Financial Aid Office don’t look for candidates who fulfill the pre-requisits so the scholarships aren’t given out every year. There might be one for an oboe player, one for a left handed golfer or one for an astrophysics major from Chester County.
Ask! You never know what you will find. But don’t ever pay for someone to search for you or for a “guarantee” of finding scholarships.