Before College: Hey High School Seniors! If You’re Not Already Searching for College Scholarships, You Should Be!

Jacob just began his high school senior year. He and his parents recently consulted us about raising the money he needs for a quality college.

Mom and dad can help, but their means are limited, so Jacob needs government grants and loans, summer jobs, and part-time work during the academic year to go to school.

Scholarships would be a big help. They’re the largest source of free money for college, providing as much as three times the amount available in federal grants!

But Jacob hasn’t looked for scholarships. This means he’s about six months behind his more scholarship-savvy classmates. Notifications about scholarship opportunities began coming out this past spring, and fall of the senior year is the key time to apply for them.

Why hasn’t he looked? “I’m just a C+ student,” he said, “I play football and soccer, but I don’t start. Why should I bother looking for scholarships?”

And that’s the biggest myth about scholarships — that they’re limited to academic and athletic stars. They’re not. Scholarships also go to students who meet a wide range of eligibility criteria including, but not limited to:

  • Student community, extracurricular, and leadership activities;
  • Student interest in various college majors and careers;
  • Parent or student membership in various civic organizations, churches, labor unions; and
  • Residence in cities, counties, and towns served by one of America’s millions of charitable foundations.

Where should Jacob begin his scholarship search? There are two places to visit right right away, and keep visiting through high school graduation:

  • High School Counselor’s Office: It receives notices about scholarships throughout the year. It organizes the in file cabinets, notebooks, or online for students to access them; and
  • Scholarship Search Engines: These national internet databases use student-created profiles to generate lists of scholarships for which students are eligible. Students won’t win every scholarship on their lists, but they should apply for all of them because they’re at least qualified candidates.

Free scholarship search engines are the ones to use. Some of the biggest are College Board, Fastweb, and Scholarships.com. But be warned, many search engines sell student profile data to merchants, so resist the adds you’ll get for products you don’t use or can’t afford.

There’s no single database or application for scholarships. As a result, students have to invest lots of time searching and applying for them. But think of it this way — every scholarship dollar won is one less student loan dollar to borrow. And at today’s interest rates, every student loan dollar borrowed can cost up to $2.05 to repay.

So what are you waiting for? Get busy! Start your scholarship search today!

Need pointers about seeking and applying for college scholarships? Students and their parents may consult College Affordability Solutions for free. Contact us by calling (512) 366-5354 or emailing collegeafford@gmail.com.

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