Scholarships, Scholarships and More Scholarships!

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Feature Story

by Jenny Faubert

For all the high school seniors out there trying to navigate the maze of financing their college education, not so long ago (at least in my mind) I was also starting college. I remember feeling like a deer caught in headlights. As the first in my family to attend college, I had NO clue how to finance my education. Student loans were my only option, right? Wrong!

Did you know there are thousands of scholarships out there? And guess what … scholarships are for everyone, not just athletes or straight-A students. Seriously there is practically a scholarship for everyone out there. Hobbies, clubs, geographic location, ethnicity, parents’ work … these are just a few of the possible qualifications for a scholarship.

College Piggy BankHowever, when it comes to finding scholarships, that takes some time and effort. But it is worth it, believe me - a girl who practically financed her entire higher education with student loans. Okay, I’m not knocking student loans, I swear. Without them I would not have gone to college and you may need them, too. I’m just saying, before you resort to financing your entire higher education with student loans, apply for some scholarships. Apply for a lot of scholarships.

I’ll get you started. Where do you look for scholarships? Everywhere. Start with your intended college, state, private organizations or employer. My college had a scholarships bulletin board right next to the admissions office. Other recourses include local libraries and the Internet. Scholarship search engines can be a pain sometimes. You have to fill in information and answer what seems like hundreds of questions. Again, it’s worth it. Check out these scholarship search engines: FastWeb, College Board’s Scholarship Search, Scholarships.com, Career One Stop Scholarship Search … and of course if you’re attending a career or technical college, visit www.imagine-america.org.

Now what? This is probably the time your belly gets a little queasy and your hands become clammy and wet. Yes, that’s right – it is time to apply for the scholarship. A few important tips to remember:

  • Read the instructions on the application completely … and follow them.
  • If you have to write an essay, don’t be afraid to toot your own horn. You’re selling your characteristics and qualifications to a scholarship committee. If you don’t tell them how great you are, who will?
  • If you need letters of recommendation, keep in mind your references will need at least a week to write them.
  • Mark the application deadline on a calendar and have all materials ready to go at least two weeks before the deadline. You do not want to do all that work for nothing.

One final and important tip: Beware of scholarship scams! If a scholarship search company requires a lot of money or application fees, or guarantees you a scholarship, it’s a good idea to look elsewhere for help.

Now you have some general knowledge and what you do with it could make a huge difference in your life!