An Unconventional Guide to Paying for College

How to Dominate Scholarship Applications and Pay for College

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The scholarship search can be intimidating. The most popular online scholarships searches, like FastWeb, force you to wade through thousands of worthless scholarships. They are not worthless because they are scams, rather they are worthless because they are not personalized. In fact, in my five years working in Higher Ed I have never met ANYONE who has won a scholarship through FastWeb. Obviously people do win these scholarships, but the chance of you winning a scholarship found through FastWeb is very low.

I highly recommend searching locally for your scholarships. I have written in length about the benefits of this in the past.  Your chances of winning increase drastically when the applicant pool drops from thousands of students to less than 50 for most local scholarships.

Once you have gathered a list of scholarships that you wish to apply for, you have to start the actual application process. This process can also be intimidating, but it does not have to do.

How to Dominate Scholarship Applications

I have compiled a list of the top 8 ways to dominate your scholarship applications and ensure that you maximize your chances of winning as many scholarships as you apply for.

  • Start early!! Almost every scholarship has a deadline and many scholarships give priority to applications submitted early.
  • Compile a list of accomplishments, awards, professional experience, education credentials, and volunteer organizations. Having this list handy will save you many hours during the application process since nearly every application will ask for this information.
  • Be aggressive! Scholarships are designed to reward deserving and persistent students who are willing to “do what it takes” to further their education. A scholarship committee is not impressed by a “less than your best” effort.
  • Identify and contact at least three people who would be willing to write an impressive recommendation letter on your behalf.
  • Apply for every scholarship for which you are eligible.
  • Follow up! Don’t let your scholarship application slip through the cracks. Scholarship committees will also appreciate the dedication you show in your future endeavors.
  • Be organized! This is great time to improve your organizational skills. Make sure to keep track of all deadlines, signatures, recommendation letters, and any necessary follow-up questions from a scholarship organization.
  • Don’t underestimate the importance of applying for scholarships. After all, a successful scholarship search could land you with a free ride and money to spare!

The Bottom Line

Searching and applying for scholarships is not easy. If it were, everyone would have a full-ride to college.

FastWeb likes to say that there are millions of dollars in unused scholarships each year. I don’t believe this, but I do know that there are many scholarships which do not receive many quality applications and are forced to award their money to a less than stellar student. This is where you have an opportunity to swoop in, submit an impressive application, and win a scholarship over your classmates.

Following the above 8 tips will give you your best chance of conducting a scholarship search that is sue to land you some funds to help pay for college.

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8 Comments

  1. I wish I would have worked harder looking for scholarships when I went into college, but I know now that I will make my son do it. They can be lucrative if you just take the time to look for them.
    Grayson @ Debt Roundup recently posted..What Not To Do: Leave Money On The TableMy Profile

    • @Grayson – Agreed. It’s all in knowing where to look. I wasted so much time on FastWeb when I was coming through that I drove myself crazy. I learned much later where much better opportunities lie. A good combination of hard work and the knowledge of where to look should prove a great combination for your son!

  2. I’m with Grayson. I honestly barely even thought about scholarships when I was applying to schools, which is kind of ridiculous when you’re talking about free money. Definitely something I’ll want to look into more when my kids get to be that age. Thanks for the tips.
    Matt Becker recently posted..How Important is an Emergency Fund?My Profile

    • @Matt – You bet! My daughter is almost one and I am already thinking about college. It’s hard to imagine what it will be like in 17 years, but I can guarantee it will still be expensive.

  3. I’m just starting to look and apply for scholarships. This will be a big help to me as I get started – thanks!
    Eva recently posted..Dollars and Cents with CFO Jeff AtwaterMy Profile

    • @Eve – Glad you found something useful! If you are already visiting personal finance blogs and commenting on blogs about searching for scholarships, I would say you are heads above the rest of your class. Please let me know if I can ever help with anything!

  4. All of these are so true! I managed to get a in-course scholarship through my university it will definitely help me pay for school or reduce my student loan debt post grad (I’m currently investing it in stocks at the moment). I think a lot of people are too lazy when it comes to certain scholarships and very few apply, which means increased chances. Also I completely agree, don’t apply for the ones that are not personalized, it’s like trying to win the lottery.
    Lauren @Cheapstudents.ca recently posted..Casino In Toronto & How Gambling Is Just Plain BadMy Profile

    • It is unfortunately like trying to win the lottery. Hard work will always be rewarded.

Trackbacks/Pingbacks

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