Paying for college: How to seek out scholarships

A college education is expensive, so much so that many find themselves paying for their education for several years after graduation. The competition for scholarships is fierce, so do your homework and start your search for dollars early.

Paying for college: How to seek out scholarships

Play up your strengths

High marks are definitely an asset in the scholarship game, but plenty of awards look at more than just excelling in the classroom. Factors that can play a role include community service, leadership ability, innovation and even motives for pursuing a particular areas of study. Want an example? The Millennium Excellence Awards offer scholarships of $4,000 to $4,800 to well-rounded students, rather than those who shine only in the classroom.

Do your own research

High school guidance counsellors should be able to alert you to university entrance scholarships worth as much as $10,000 a year or more, but don't count on it. Sometimes they're asleep at the wheel so do your own research.

  • You may be automatically considered for many scholarships and awards simply by applying for admission to a particular school, although in some cases you have to actually apply and perhaps write a short essay or pass an interview.
  • Don't let thousands of dollars slip away just because you missed the application deadline — inquire at the university or college awards office directly even a year or more before you plan to attend.

Grab up local scholarship dollars

Those entrance scholarships may be the grand prize, and if you can get one, more power to you. But if not, don't despair. You can stack up cash with this secret gleaned from the most successful scholarship hunters: students can quickly accumulate a hefty educational nest egg by approaching less well known sources where the competition isn't so fierce. These are among them.

  • Your parents' employers or unions. Some dig deep for scholarships for employees or members and their families.
  • Your city or town, county or province. You may be eligible for a scholarship simply by virtue of where you live. If you're the only one in your small town furthering your education, for example, you may be a shoe-in.
  • Clubs, religious groups or community organizations. Dad's service club with the funny hats, your church, athletic organization, veterans' groups and cultural clubs for different ethnic groups can all be a source of cash.
  • Corporations offering open scholarship contests. Not only might you get money to pay your way through school, but some offer a guaranteed summer job as well.

Search beyond the Web

Every prospective college student on the planet knows to scour the Internet for scholarship dollars. Which means that there will be enormous competition for any scholarships you find there.

  • By all means go after scholarship money but while the masses are fighting it out, you'll scoop up tuition money more quickly if you mine sources that aren't so well publicized.
  • Hit the local library and ask for an entrance awards directory that offers a straightforward listing of scholarship opportunities.
  • Another option to ask for is a directory of foundations and grants. You may find some foundations that emphasize their involvement in education and it will be worthwhile to contact them directly.
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