The Money is There, But You Have to Ask for It
There’s a lot of advice out there about the best way to apply for scholarships-how your child should “package” himself in his essay, which extracurricular activities to emphasize, and what color paper to use for his resume. The truth is, much of this advice can vary widely, depending on the author-and what works for one applicant may not necessarily work for another.
Your child will discover that most of the scholarship secrets simply boil down to using common sense and following directions carefully.
Here are some tips your child can use to create solid applications and avoid common scholarship mistakes:
Start Researching Scholarships Early
The more time your child can put into a scholarship search, the more options there’ll be. Your child will need time to research scholarships, request information and application materials, and complete applications-plus, some scholarships have deadlines early in the fall of the senior year.
Read Eligibility Requirements Carefully
If your child has a question about eligibility for a particular scholarship, contact the scholarship sponsors immediately.
Organize All Scholarship Materials
Your child should create a separate file for each scholarship and file by application date. Keep a calendar of application deadlines and follow-up appointments.
Many scholarships require your child to provide some combination of the following:
- Standardized test scores
- Financial aid forms, such as the FAFSA or PROFILE
- Parent’s financial information, including tax returns
- One or more essays
- One or more letters of recommendation
- Proof of eligibility (e.g. membership credentials)
Your child may also need to prepare for a personal interview. For students competing for talent-based scholarships, an audition, performance, or portfolio may be required.
Proofread Applications Carefully
Your child can use the computer’s spelling and grammar check features to scan for any careless mistakes, however, it’s also a good idea to ask others-you, a teacher, or a friend-to read the essays and share thoughts and ideas.
Don’t Leave Items Blank
Blank items will slow down the processing of your child’s application. Your child should contact scholarship sponsors with questions on how to fill out any part of the application.
Follow Instructions to the Letter
Make sure your child does not go over the length limit for the essay. Another application don’t: sending supporting materials that are not requested in the application.
Make Sure the Application is Legible
Type or print application forms and essays.
Make Copies of Everything
If application materials are lost, having copies on hand will make it much easier to resend the application quickly.
Double-Check the Application
If your child is reusing material (such as a cover letter or essay) from another scholarship application, be especially careful he hasn’t left in any incorrect names or blank fields. He should not forget to sign and date his application.
Get Your Applications in Early
Missing deadlines means missing out. Consider using certified mail and/or return receipt.
Scholarships Might Affect the Financial Aid Package
Private scholarships can actually reduce parts of your child’s financial aid package. How? Colleges must consider outside scholarships as a student’s financial resource, available to pay for education costs. If a college financial aid office meets your child’s full financial need, government regulations specify that any scholarship money won lowers the need figure on a dollar-for-dollar basis.
What should matter to you and your child is which types of aid are reduced or eliminated-self-help aid (loans or work-study) or need-based grants. Colleges, following federal regulations, can adjust aid packages in a variety of ways-some will subtract the value of unmet need first, others will reduce self-help aid before reducing grants, still others will use scholarship funds only to replace grant money. Some colleges even give the option of using scholarships to reduce the expected family contribution.
It’s a good idea to contact the financial aid office of colleges that interest your child and inquire about their policies regarding outside scholarships.