How to Develop a Scholarship Strategy
Start With a Personal Inventory
Most of the information your child will need to fill out a scholarship search questionnaire will be easy to come up with-year in school, citizenship, state of residence, religion, ethnic background, disability, military status, employer, membership organizations, and so forth.
Beyond those questions, your child should give some thought to academic, extracurricular, and career plans. Your child should ask:
- Do I want to participate in a competition? If so, what are my talents and interests?
- What subject do I plan to major in?
- What career do I plan to pursue?
- Do I want to apply for all types of aid or only scholarships?
Answers to these questions will help determine scholarship eligibility. Your child should take time to brainstorm thoroughly-the more personal characteristics your child discovers, the more scholarships she could potentially apply for.
Research Local Scholarships First
In general, the smaller the area a scholarship covers, the better your child’s chances of winning. Your child should start at the high school counselor’s office. Counselors will know about scholarships for students graduating from the local high school. They may also be aware of scholarships for residents of your town, county, and state.
Your child’s next stop should be the college aid section of your local public library or bookstore. Look at a range of books about financial aid, including scholarship guides such as the College Board’s Scholarship Handbook, available from their online store.
Then, it’s time to start looking at large national scholarships such as Reserve Officer Training Corps (ROTC), National Merit, Gates Millennium, Siemens, Coca-Cola, and Robert Byrd.
Check Membership Organizations and Employers
Here’s an area where you, as a parent, can really help out. Think of all of the organizations you have an affiliation with-religious, community service, fraternal, military, union, and professional-and find out if any of them sponsor scholarships for children of members.
Don’t forget your employer. Many large companies offer scholarships or tuition reimbursement programs for dependent children of employees. Check with your human resources department to see if your company offers such programs.
Employers of students such as fast food chains, department stores, and supermarkets often provide scholarships. Awards related to student employment can come from unexpected sources. For example, there are a number of scholarships for golf caddies.
Use a Free Scholarship Search Service
A scholarship search company collects information on hundreds of awards and compares your child’s student characteristics with scholarship restrictions. Based on answers to a questionnaire, your child will receive a list of possible scholarships. It is up to your child to decide which ones to try for.
You should never have to pay for scholarship information. If you are asked to pay a fee for “exclusive” scholarship leads, there’s a good chance the scholarship service is really a scholarship scam.
Contact Your State Department of Higher Education
Almost every state has a scholarship program for residents-keep in mind, however, that awards are usually limited to students who attend college in-state. For example, the State of Florida offers Bright Futures scholarships to academically-qualified Floridians who decide to attend in-state colleges and universities.
Research Institutional Scholarships
Since a great deal of scholarship money is disbursed by colleges, it makes sense to research what kinds of scholarships are available at your child’s favorite colleges. Investigate college websites, catalogs, and financial aid offices for this information. Institutional awards can be offered on a university-wide basis, or within a particular college or major. Eligibility for such awards can be based on merit, financial need, intended major, ethnicity, or a variety of other factors. Here are some questions your child might want to ask about these awards:
- Are scholarships awarded automatically if a student matches certain criteria (such as GPA or SAT score)?
- What is the application procedure? What materials are required?
- Is the award renewable? What are the requirements to maintain the award?