Ideally you or a generous benefactor has been squirreling away money for your college education for years.
But we aren’t all gifted with trust funds and some parents are paying mortgages, working low-wage jobs, or simply believe that it is up to the student to pay for college himself.
College is definitely not free (yet – I sense we’re moving toward a system where it will be), but it can be affordable.
Every dollar counts. Here are some possibly unknown, and often untapped, resources for scholarships, big and small.
Check out the school’s website. Sometimes you will be considered automatically for certain merit-based, skill-based, or athletic scholarships. Other times you need to initiate the process of being considered for awards yourself. If the latter, find out when and where you need to send your transcript to and get on it!
2. Specific programs in a university or college.
Let’s say you know you really, really, really want to study nursing. There might be a specific scholarship available for incoming nursing students, or even current students. Departments and programs typically have some funds available to support their own students.
3. The big companies
Several major companies, from Coca-Cola to Johnson & Johnson, offer ginormous sums to the most qualified applicants from around the country.
4. The little companies
Smaller-scale companies also sometimes offer scholarships for the children of their employees. Depending on your parents’ workplaces, you may be eligible to apply.
Scholarly organizations love investing in the next generation of students. The Society of Women Engineers, for example, funds female students at the undergraduate and graduate levels pursuing studies in engineering-related fields.
Similarly museums offer internships, professional development opportunities, and in some cases, monetary awards to students and young professionals with relevant interests.
6. Local organizations
Your chamber of commerce and rotary club might also have a small, but not insignificant, pot of money set aside for a one-time scholarship. Every dollar counts, and $500 might just cover all your book fees for a year.
7. Religious Institutions
Your specific religious institution sometimes offers scholarships to rising college freshmen. This varies by location and a particular group’s resources, but it’s an option worth looking into. It probably goes without saying, but you need to be an active, participating, and recognizable member to the group.
8. Language-Learning Scholarships
If your future plans include studying another language, consider applying for a language-learning scholarship. This often ties you to (but doesn’t necessarily obligate you to) a specific college major, internship, or professional path. Make sure to read the fine print carefully so you know what you are expected to in return for the money.
That’s why there are scholarships. As a student, what you can to do help your family – and yourself! – is to investigate all your funding options, know the deadlines, and craft thoughtful, persuasive applications.
Finally - one more Very Important Note - you have to actually apply for the scholarships you find. I know, that seems obvious. But sometimes you feel like you're already juggling school, work, and social obligations and can't bring yourself to add one more thing to your full plate. Ask a parent or teacher to help you get started. Make a schedule for yourself so you can submit all your materials on time without stretching yourself too thin. Remember that doing these applications now stands to benefit you in the immediate and longer future.
Good luck, and as always, you can send follow up questions to me, Jessica, at firstname.lastname@example.org!