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Scholarships: What you need to know

Scholarships

Scholarships are the most publicized and talked about form of financial aid. 

While there are a great number of scholarships available, scholarships can be difficult to get.

Thousands of scholarships are awarded each year by colleges, organizations, corporations, churches, and clubs.  Students and parents, however, often underestimate the difficulty in obtaining a scholarship.  The valedictorian who has a 4.0 G.P.A. and a 2300 on the SAT will have no problem getting a scholarship; neither will the athlete who has broken the state record.  These students will, in fact, probably receive numerous scholarship offers.  The student with a 3.0 G.P.A., however, will have a more difficult time finding scholarship money unless he/she has an accomplishment, attribute, or talent that sets him/her apart. 

Students and parents hear that scholarships are difficult to get, and yet they also hear that millions of scholarship dollars go unclaimed each year.  This statement is usually made by scholarship search companies who want to sell their services, and the unclaimed scholarships are most often unused employee tuition benefits.

Scholarships are difficult to get because so many of them have such specific eligibility requirements.  There is, for example, a scholarship for students who meet the following criteria: 1) a 3.5 GPA, 2)18 years old, 3) going into the medical field, 4) involved in civic activities, 5) the relative of a veteran, and 6) a resident of Maine.  Then there is the scholarship that is awarded for academic achievement and dairy goat experience.  All scholarships have eligibility criteria, and it is often difficult to find scholarships for which the average good student qualifies. 

 

When looking for scholarships, students and parents need to keep the following in mind:

  1. Colleges award most of the scholarships.
  2. Private colleges generally award more scholarships than public colleges.
  3. A one-year scholarship is for one year only; a renewable scholarship can become a four-year scholarship.
  4. Outside scholarships (scholarships that are awarded by someone other than the college) must be reported to the colleges financial aid office. Upon learning that a student has received an outside scholarship, the college may reduce the need-based aid (e.g., grant money) they had awarded.  A student who received an outside scholarship may therefore find that while the scholarship money helps to pay his/her college expenses, it does nothing to reduce the amount he/she must pay.
  5. It is important to remember that most financial aid is not awarded in the  form of a scholarship.
  6. Smaller, local scholarships are often much easier to get than those sponsored by large organizations or businesses. Coca Cola, for example, receives approximately 137,000 applications for their 250 scholarships. A local Rotary Club may receive 10 applications for their Rotary Scholarship.

There are thousands of scholarships available, and while they can be difficult to get, those who are willing to invest the time and energy often find that their efforts pay off handsomely.

TOP TEN TIPS FOR WINNING SCHOLARSHIPS

Before you submit your scholarship application, check out these tips:

  1. Read Directions.
    Read directions carefully before you start filling out your application.
  2. Complete the application in full.
    If a question does not apply, note that on the application by marking (N/A) in the blank. Don't just leave it blank. Be sure to supply all additional supporting material, such as transcripts, letter of recommendation and essays.
  3. Follow Directions.
    Provide everything that is required. But don't supply things that aren't requested - you could be disqualified.
  4. Neatness Counts.
    Always type your application, or if you must print, do so neatly and legibly. Make a couple copies of all the forms before you start to fill them out. Use the copies as working drafts as you develop your application packet.
  5. Use your scholarship personal statement template.
    The key to writing a strong essay is to be personal and specific. Include concrete details to make your experience come alive: the "who," "what," "when," and "where" of your topic. The simplest experience can be monumental if you present honestly how you were affected.
  6. Watch all Deadlines.
    To help keep yourself on track, impose your own deadline that is at least two weeks prior to the official deadline. Use the buffer time to make sure everything is ready on time. Don't rely on extensions - very few scholarship providers all them at all.
  7. Make sure your application gets where it needs to go.
    Put your name (and Social Security number, if applicable) on all pages of the application. Pieces of your application may get lost unless they are clearly identified.
  8. Keep a back-up file in case anything goes wrong.
    Before sending the application, make a copy of the entire packet. If your application goes astray, you will be able to reproduce it quickly.
  9. Give a final "Once-Over."
    Proof-read the entire application carefully. Be on the lookout for misspelled words or grammatical errors. Ask a friend, teacher or parent to proofread it as well.
  10. Ask for help if you need it.
    If you have problems with the application, don't hesitate to call the scholarship foundation and ask questions.

Scholarship search websites:                                       

www.fastweb.com

www.collegenet.com

wiredscholar.com


 

WARNING TO PARENTS AND STUDENTS:

If you or your student receive any information through the mail regarding scholarship search companies, college admission counseling, SAT or ACT prep classes, etc. PLEASE BEWARE.  These companies are sending out mass mailings asking for:

  • A fee to be paid for services
  • For your participation in a presentation where you will eventually be asked for money in exchange for their services

The services they offer are not free, whereas the WHS Career Center and counseling staff can help you with most any need that arises in the often complex maze of preparing for college.  This information is available to all WHS students and their parents.  Should you have any questions, please call the Career Center at 505-7379.