Three Scholarship Steps for Current College Students

It is scholarship award season, and if you’re getting notification letters in the mail letting you know you just received money to help cover tuition costs for next year, congratulations! But if the responses you received would be better shredded for cat litter, don’t be disheartened.

Many students believe that scholarships aren’t open to students already enrolled in college, but that’s actually a misconception. In fact, there are many scholarships available to current college students. If you’ve been forced to take out loans to pay for college, don’t pass up the opportunity to lessen your loan burden by researching and applying for scholarships out there for undergrads.

Here are three steps you should take:

1. Submit the FAFSA:

Most scholarships require a FAFSA to be on file before they can be awarded. Even if you don’t think you qualify for grants, you may have to have a completed FAFSA to be considered for scholarships.

2. Visit your college’s financial aid office:

Most colleges and universities have scholarships available to students already enrolled in classes, or they can direct you to the scholarship opportunities they’re familiar with for current students.

3. Search Online:

Online scholarship search engines are good tools to help you find outside scholarships that you can apply for! An outside scholarship is any scholarship not awarded by the government or your college, such as a scholarship provided by a private company, philanthropist or foundation.  Beware of search engines that ask you to pay.  These below are free and have good reviews!

Below is a list of popular scholarship search engines:

Search Locally

Some scholarships for college are merit-based. You earn them by meeting or exceeding certain standards set by the scholarship-giver. Merit scholarships might be awarded based on academic achievement or on a combination of academics and a special talent, trait, or interest.

Other scholarships are based on financial need.

Many scholarships are geared toward particular groups of people; for instance, there are scholarships for women or high school seniors. And some are available because of where you or your parent work, or because you come from a certain background (for instance, tribal scholarships or scholarships for military families).

A scholarship might cover the entire cost of your tuition, or it might be a one-time award of a few hundred dollars. Either way, it’s worth applying for, because it’ll help reduce the cost of your education.

If you want to go beyond using the online search engine, some people have successfully obtained scholarships by simply asking.

They can be offered by schools, employers, individuals, private companies, nonprofits, communities, religious.

Apply (to as many as you can)!

In less than four years, you could be making your first loan payment. And believe me, you’ll be grateful for any dime you don’t have to send away to your student loan company.

“You miss 100% of the shots you don’t take”

Here are some helpful tips on how to successfully apply to scholarships.

  • Plan ahead. Keep a calendar of deadlines for scholarships.
  • Read all of the application instructions and the entire scholarship application before you complete it.
  • Read the eligibility requirements carefully.
  • Know your audience. Make sure the goals you express in your application match the goals of the scholarship program.
  • Show your strengths and explain your weaknesses. Highlight extracurricular and community activities as well as academic achievement. Explain any issues that may portray you in an unfavorable light.
  • Be clear and concise. It’s best to write your application in word and then cut and paste it into the electronic application once you are satisfied with it.
  • Most scholarship applications also require a current resume which will be reviewed as carefully as your application. Your resume may include relevant experience and also may include any record of community service.
  • Proofread your application; then ask a friend to proofread it.
  • Request letters of recommendation from people who know you reasonably well. Don’t wait until the last minute to ask.
  • Make sure to submit your application by the published deadline.
  • Ask for help. If you have questions, ask financial aid or your SSS advisor.
  • Don’t be reluctant to reapply.