Before College: Five Ways Help High Schoolers Become Stronger Scholarship Candidates

Scholarships reduce the college expenses students and families must cover out of their own pockets or with loans.

They’re given for different reasons. Some for academic performance; others for IMG_4868athletic ability. But these aren’t the only criteria that decide who gets scholarships.

Besides doing their best in class and on the field, high school students can do other things to help themselves win scholarships.

One is to DEVELOP STRONG SCHOLARSHIP RESUMES which generally include information about:

  • Community and Extracurricular Involvement: Don’t simply join everything. IMG_4870In fact, that’s often frowned upon. Instead, many scholarship committees look for active, ongoing participation in clubs, groups, and sports.
  • Leadership: Yes, this includes becoming captains, chairs and officers with official organizations and teams. But it’s also about running informal, maybe even temporary projects that address important needs — for example, “organized fundraiser to buy school supplies for poor children.”
  • Part-Time Employment: Some scholarship providers value working during high school, especially in jobs students hold over long periods of time and show workplace accomplishments related to high performance levels — worker of the month awards, merit pay raises, promotions, etc.

Many scholarships are for certain majors that prepare students for particular occupations. These tend to go to young people who are pretty zeroed in on what they want to do with their lives, so it’s good to BEGIN IDENTIFYING CAREER DIRECTIONS EARLY.

Scholarship selectors often lean toward applicants who are memorable due to unique ambitions, circumstances and passions. This is where application essays and personal statements come into play.

Students who’ve developed zeal for distinct subjects or activities, or who’ve coped with and, hopefully, overcome genuine adversity, should use their essays and statements to tell their stories to selection committees. Never exaggerate, but don’t be shy, either.

Some selectors also want to evaluate written communication skills — grammar and ability to clearly and succinctly express oneself — as they read essays and personal statements. Others like to conduct interviews to test the capacity of students to verbalize, think on their feet and remain poised under pressure.

So it’s important for students to ENGAGE IN CLASSES AND ACTIVITIES THAT IMG_4873IMPROVE READING, SPEAKING, AND WRITING ABILITIES (INCLUDING PROOF READING). Stronger communication skills often make stronger scholarship candidates.


Finally, follow-up letters THANKING SELECTORS are a simple courtesy that can also help applicants more memorable.

Doing what’s needed to become better scholarship candidates also helps high-schoolers become better students and, eventually, better citizens, parents, and workers. So urge and help your student to use the advice given above . . . early . . . and often!

Contact College Affordability Solutions for a free consultation if you’re seeking other strategies to use before, during, and after college to keep its costs within your financial means.

A Year of College Affordability Solutions

College Affordability Solutions is dedicated to helping families keep higher education spending within their means. It uses this website to highlight postsecondary educational cost-management strategies at the times of the year when you and/or your student are most likely to need them.

21-of-the-most-beautiful-college-campuses-in-amer-2-20243-1428837186-9_dblbigDespite those who’ll try to talk your student out of college, postsecondary education is still worthwhile even if he or she has to borrow to pay for it. But student loans increase the cost of college, so do everything possible to minimize their use.

Over the last year, we’ve covered several approaches to keeping college and college-related debt affordable. Click on any of the links below to learn more . . .

Before College

Various investment and savings programs can help you prepare for college bills. Among these are 529 plans and college savings bonds, but you should explore them all – the sooner the better.

And be sure to apply for financial for every year of college. Complete the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) as soon as possible after October 1 but, by all means, before your FAFSA priority deadline arrives.

Student dependency status plays a big role in who completes the FAFSA. Other family factors do, too. But it isn’t as hard to complete as you’ve heard, especially if you fulfill 5 key steps, gather all the documents you need, and get answers to your last-minute FAFSA questions before doing so.

Long before the FAFSA, your student needs to begin aggressively searching for scholarships. It’s critical to know about the when and where and the how of doing this.

Pay close attention after you file your FAFSA to make sure you handle what happens next. Then carefully assess your financial aid offers as they arrive from colleges.

But it’s not all about financial aid and scholarships. A critical factor in college affordability is for your student to enroll in a college and major that fits him or her well.

During College

Once college begins, you can help your student keep his or her expenses within reason.140815_FF_BestCollegeCard Limited spending and indebtedness is important even with today’s low college loan interest rates.

Some of the most effective strategies for minimizing student borrowing include your student getting through college in 4 years or less while carefully managing money and avoiding rip offs such as the recent “student tax” scam. A little-known but highly-effective cost-saver involves returning unneeded federal loan dollars with 4 months of disbursement.

Help your student keep college more affordable by giving him or her some holiday gifts that’ll lower his or her reduce expenses upon returning to school and by recommending he or she generate funds through seasonal employment instead of borrowing.

After College

Seven out of 10 students borrow before earning their degrees, and over 90% of their loans come from federal loan programs. Fortunately, the government has designed  post-graduation strategies to help keep educational debt manageable.


Your student needs to understand what happens to college loans after graduation. It’s worthwhile to consider the pros and cons of student loan consolidation, an often-used tactic for reducing monthly debt payments. Equally important is knowing how your student might qualify for forgiveness on all or part of what he or she owes.

Coming in 2017

We’re taking a few weeks off for the holidays, but beginning January 4 we’ll start publishing again about plans for keeping college affordable. Here’s hoping you have the happiest of holiday seasons, and that you’ll rejoin us then!

 Find out more about College Affordability Solutions and its services at, or by calling (512) 366-5354.

Things to Do When Applying for Scholarships

img_4082Once a scholarship search turns up an opportunity, how does your student win it. A great scholarship expert once said that many providers are looking to help students that remind them of their younger selves. How do they know who these students are? It all comes down to the scholarship applications they receive.

(1) Apply for Scholarships that “Fit”: Make sure your student fully understands scholarship eligibility requirements. No need to waste time going after money for which he or she won’t qualify.

(2) Don’t Omit Anything: Coach your student to submit applications that are thorough and complete — especially about community, extracurricular, and leadership activities. You can never tell when a particular detail might be just the thing that helps an application reader identify your student as a worthy candidate.

(3) Write Strong Essays: Readers use scholarship application essays to really get to know your student — where he’s coming from, where she wants to go, and why. So img_4084these essays need to be both personal and passionate. And now isn’t the time for your student to be shy in describing his or her strengths and triumphs, to write timidly about what he or she wants to accomplish in college and life, or to downplay what drives and inspires him or her.

(4) Do It Right, Do It On-Time: Make sure every application is proofread for grammar and spelling, and for irrelevant information to distracts or slows readers. Also pay close attention to deadlines. Applications that arrive late go straight into the “no” stack.

(5) Beware of Cons and Frauds: Some businesses and individuals promise scholarship recommendations if you pay them. They may also request confidential personal information. Most of these are scam artists! Stay away from them!

Nobody really knows how many scholarship dollars are available, or how many of them might be available to your student. But with effective, timely searches and well done applications your student — with your help — can improve his or her chances of claiming such them!

College Affordability Solutions offers 40 years experience in helping students secure financial aid, including scholarships. Call (512) 366-5354 or email for a no-charge consultation.