Guess what my number one question was this month? Scholarships! Paying for college is no joke, even if you have savings in the bank. The average college student takes 5 years and 8 months to graduate from college these days. I don’t know about you, but I was only saving for four years—the money just doesn’t go as far.
Since I can’t magically fill your bank account, I’ve collected a bunch of resources that you can use to begin—or turbo-charge—your scholarship search. Remember that finding and applying for scholarships can begin long before winter of senior year and does not end at graduation. Yes, there are fewer scholarship opportunities for students in grades 9-11 and those past senior year, but the well is not dry. Keep searching!
The first thing your student should do is approach local businesses and organizations. Local scholarship are likely much less competitive than those on the major scholarship search sites, simply because not so many people know about them. Search for” [your town] + scholarship.” Be sure to check at both parents’ employers and any community organizations they may belong to. (Grandparents, too!) Of course, if you’re working, check out the opportunities at your own job or community group. BK Scholars and McDonalds/RHMC give out millions of dollars in scholarships each year, and in some cases, you don’t even have to work there to be eligible!
Reviews.com has gone through an extensive review process and ranked the 17 best scholarship search sites, as well as giving a very thorough overview of the scholarship process. The scholarship review at US News is less in depth, but adds some other great resources, including JLV College Consulting. Jessica Velasco at JLV was a classmate of mine in the UCLA College Counseling Certificate program; she’s fabulous. US News encourages checking with your high school counseling or student services office as they often get notification of local and national scholarship opportunities. Be sure to check the counseling offices at other local high schools, too!
Once you’ve used a scholarship site and found a number of scholarships you’re willing to apply for, be sure to read this two-part article from Georgia Tech about scholarship selection. Just like with colleges, there’s no point spending time to apply to a program that does not fit you. Author Chaffee Viets is discussing institutional scholarships specifically, but the selection process is the same for outside scholarships.
Finally, keep in mind that the majority of your scholarship money is going to come from the college where you eventually enroll. This is why choosing your college is so important. Here’s a terrific post from the Princeton Review, showing which schools’ merit scholarships have a bias toward a particular entrance exam: ACT or SAT. Very important information for you juniors who are just beginning to build your list!
For more information on the scholarship process, sign up for my free webinar “Paying for College: Grants and Scholarships.” I’ll be presenting live on February 21 at 6:30 Eastern/3:30 Pacific. One lucky viewer will get a fabulous door prize! Visit https://www.yourcollegeyourway.com/register.html to register.
First off, life isn’t fair. Second, unless you were in the room where the admission decision was made, you don't know that the other student was less qualified than you. Sure, he might have similar, or even lower, grades and test scores, but numbers aren't all there is in holistic admissions.
Simply put, college admission has never been fair to the applicants. Admission to a particular college is not something you earn or deserve. If your abilities match their institutional priorities, then you will be admitted. One of those priorities might be “We need more students whose wealthy families will give us money.” C’est la vie. Those students’ families are paying for other students’ scholarships.
But, if I’m correct in assuming that your “dream college” is one of those top 20 name-brand colleges, you need to face the facts that admission to those schools is not a given for anybody. There are more high school valedictorians every year than there are seats in the freshman classes of all the Ivies combined. I had a student last year who applied to all of the Ivies (against my advice). She had perfect grades and test scores, leadership, honors and awards, great essays, the whole nine yards. She was eminently qualified. She was also only admitted to two of the eight; two of the others flat-out denied her, the other four put her on the waitlist. Fair? No. Reality, yes.
So rather than grousing about the students who did get in being “less qualified” than you (which you don’t actually know), I suggest you rethink what you mean by “dream school.” Maybe that college didn’t see the fit with you. That’s fine. You have many, many other schools that might fit you better. Do some research and find that perfect school that really is your perfect fit.
P.S. I have yet to have a client still hate their college after completing first semester. Most realize by May 1 which school is their best choice. Others spend all summer languishing on the waitlist and trudge off to college reluctantly, moping about what might have been. All those students did was ruin their last summer before high school. By October, every. single. one. found that they really loved their “next best” school, and couldn’t imagine going anywhere else. Don’t start your adult life consumed with jealousy. That’s a terrible way to live.
Lessa Scherrer is an college admissions consultant who has worked with college-bound students for many years. She is a member of NACAC and WACAC and also teaches ACT Prep, speed-reading, college study skills and college-level writing.
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