Many college students face a perplexing problem. As recent high school graduates, college students are exerting their new found independence. Many move away from the home they grew up in for the first time ever. However, while attending college full-time, employment options are limited. Thus, the problem many students face is how to fund a college education. While applying to and securing scholarships may seem daunting, college students should know that there are many funding mechanisms available to help them with their studies.
Some colleges will offer more attractive financial aid packages to first-year students in order to increase the likelihood that they will attend that institution. If you have been awarded scholarships that are not renewable, check with your institution to determine whether there are any scholarships available to advanced students. It may also be worthwhile to check with your academic department. If these options fail, explore one of the options below.
An important step when looking for college scholarships is to complete the FAFSA application form as early as possible. Some students with financial need, with minority status, or who fall into certain priority areas of study, may be eligible for state-based scholarships. The only way to find out is to complete the form! Some state funding is first come, first serve. Thus, students who complete their forms early have the best chances to receive the awards. In addition, the FAFSA may help students qualify for work-study funding. These jobs typically pay higher than jobs in the community, are often conveniently located on campus, and enable students to network within their university.
As a next step, consider registering with an online scholarships search engine. For example, scholarships.com offers a free service to match students with available awards. These search engines will help students cut down the time they spend searching for available awards. Students simply register for a free account and enter their personal details (i.e., GPA, major, awards, activities, etc.) and will be matched with only those awards for which they qualify.
One overlooked source of scholarships is professional organizations. It may be worthwhile to make an appointment with your advisor or with a knowledgeable professor in your area to inquire what the major professional organizations are in your area. Explore the student section of these websites to see whether they have any upcoming scholarships available.
Most schools offer a career resource office as well and a financial aid office. Try connecting with the career resource office to inquire about paid internships or other paid employment that might help you fund your studies. Simultaneously, ask whether you can meet with a financial aid officer who can help determine whether you overlooked any internal or external scholarship opportunities that might be pertinent. Additionally, for students interested in a semester abroad, remember to ask about potential scholarships at your school’s study abroad office.
Many awards are highly competitive, so it is important to start your search early. Pay attention to deadlines and scholarships requirements. Make sure to proofread your work in order to maximize your chances or getting your desired scholarship!