Scholarship Season is Here

By on February 6, 2013

Find That Essential College Tuition Assistance

Free money!  Who doesn’t appreciate being paid to earn a degree which boosts your own earning potential?  College scholarships can make college accessible to struggling students and families or it can make it possible to attend the college you love.  And while families are expected to make some contribution to their child’s education costs, financial aid and scholarship are a valuable part of making the cost sustainable for any personal budget.

For those junior and seniors sending application, answering acceptance letters and preparing for graduation, now is the time to consider your alternative ways to pay for college.  Don’t assume you have to be a valedictorian or star of a high school athletic team in order to qualify for a scholarship.  Schools and private institutions offer scholarships or a wide variety of skills, affiliations, backgrounds and personal attributes.  The number one rule is: it never hurts to apply.

What Kinds of Scholarships Should I Apply For?

Out in the vast expanse of the web and financial aid offices, there is a scholarship for any and everyone.  Some sources are private organizations while others may be funded by the federal and state governments.

There are scholarships for specific fields of study, such as engineering, nursing and social work.  There are scholarships for specific types of students, such as veterans, minorities, women, adult students, disabled students and various special circumstances.  Some scholarships are merit-based, awarded based on accomplishments in academics, sports, community service, language or vocational experience.  And there are scholarships dedicated to supporting students with affiliations to certain organizations such as the military, religious groups, fraternal organizations and other various groups.

How Do You Apply For a Scholarship?

Unfortunately, every scholarship has different application requirements and timelines.  In most cases, you will have to submit your personal information and your academic standing or demonstrate your financial need or merits worthy of compensation.  This could mean you must show your tax returns, financial aid rewards, transcripts, test scores and other legitimate records.

Then come the essays, letters of recommendation and, often times, interviews.  Choose mentors who can speak positively about your accomplishments and make a strong case for why you deserve a particular scholarship – generic letters will not work as review boards will often see right through this ploy.  The essay or interview should not only express your how your personal accomplishments make you a deserving applicant by why you are the right person for the award.  Sell yourself.  It will pay off in the end.

Proceed with Caution

As you measure up your scholarship options, be aware of negative impacts to your college loans since some state, federal (and even some privates) scholarships can be deducted from your institutional loan offers.  It is important to learn the conditions of each bit of aid on your final budget.

Some scholarship programs are not legitimate.  Scams are out there trying to take advantage of already stressed out students and parents.  Do not give out any of your personal information until you have determine if the scholarship source is authentic.  Check with your high school counselor or financial aid office to be sure.

Final Note

Scholarships and free money for college is everywhere – even in this poor economy.  Business and organizations still have funds earmarked, so take advantage.  Ask your employer, your teachers and counselors, coaches, tutors and any organization you (or your family) have a strong connection to for leads.  Apply to as many as you can.  And weigh your options carefully before accepting.  A scholarship can mean the difference in funding an education you love without the hassle of more debt.

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About Amanda Jensen

FSN college advice columnist - Amanda gives parents and students knowledgeable advice on college planning, tuition financing and scholarships. With up to date and accessible information covering everything from personal finances to federal government policies, she is determined to make the college experience a painless one for all party's involved. You can find Amanda on !

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