By Hona Amer
Hona Amer is a Verified Advisor on StudentAdvisor. Be sure to check out her book Smart Work U for more tips on cutting down college expenses:
What if someone was willing to pay your college tuition bill for you and it didn’t include your parents, grandparents, or friends? Every college student would sign up. Scholarships and grants are tools that can help you pay for your college tuition. If you are in college, you have probably started to look for scholarships. Maybe your parents talk to you about it all the time. They want you to find scholarships; you want to find scholarships for yourself, but the process is overwhelming. People are talking about getting free money for college, but you are struggling with how to make it a reality.
Scholarships and grants are similar but have some differences. Scholarships are usually based on academic merit, while grants are usually based on financial need. Grants are most commonly awarded through the government, whereas scholarships will usually come from institutions, corporations, and the private sector. Large corporations give academic or financial need scholarships every year. By searching for corporate scholarships online, you will find corporations that give annual scholarships to students just like you. Through scholarships and grants, you could potentially go to college for free. Yet, there is a slight catch.
Applying for Scholarships and Grants
Securing scholarships is probably the area that requires the most assertiveness on your part. Rarely do scholarships sit and wait for you. Applying for scholarships is similar to applying for a job. There are a bunch of applications all vying for one position. Similar to a job application, you want to stand out among the scholarship applicants. When you are applying, ask yourself what the person giving the scholarship would be looking for in an applicant. Then, show how you exceed those qualifications through your application. While you don’t want to fabricate the information, highlight your strengths and the reasons you should be the recipient of the scholarship. Even simple things such as having a professional email address and avoiding grammatical errors on your application will help you stand out above the rest.
Create a Scholarship Strategy
You can eliminate the scholarship struggle by utilizing a scholarship strategy. Create a systematic approach to applying for scholarships. Prepare a document of basic information that you need on all scholarship applications. This will include your name, address, and other personal information. Many applications will ask about your major or future career plans. Writing a couple standard essays that you can customize for the specific scholarship will help you fast track your way through applying for scholarships. Save that document and refer to it every time you apply for a scholarship. Don’t reinvent the wheel every time you apply. Customize each application to the specific guidelines and submission requirements. If you are no longer a freshman, it does not mean that you shouldn’t apply for scholarships or grants. Review the guidelines for each scholarship or grant to make sure it includes applications from current college students.
Don’t Limit Your Options
As you are on campus, you will become aware of other scholarship opportunities that you were previously unaware of. When I was in college, I was surprised at how many scholarships I found out about after I started college. Colleges will award scholarships based on academic performance, athletics, for being the valedictorian of your high school class, fine arts, music, scholarships based on financial need, and even other departmental scholarships. Apply for the school-based scholarships that are applicable to you.
Finally, ask questions, take initiative, and submit many scholarship applications. Don’t just apply for large scholarships. Every dollar you receive from scholarships and grants will help you go to college for free. Remember, the people who apply for scholarships are the people who get scholarships. And those are the people going to college for free.
Hona Amer fast-tracked through college in 2½ years and graduated with her Bachelor of Business Administration degree at age 20. She graduated with her MBA the same month she turned 22. Her book, Smart Work U, helps high school students, college students, and parents make smart decisions about college in order to graduate early, debt-free. Today, she enjoys assisting students as they navigate the University experience through. Connect with Hona on StudentAdvisor or on Twitter @honaamer.