Let's talk about scholarships. According to a statistic published on Student Loan Hero, the average 2016 college graduate has $37,172 in student loan debt. Fortunately, scholarships are a great way to alleviate this burden. A good start to getting a scholarship is first understanding what they're all about. So let's look at the what, when, where and how of scholarships.
What is a scholarship?
A scholarship is a grant given to student in order to support their education. There are a variety of different scholarships but here are a few of the most common:
- Merit based - scholarships awarded to students for academic success
- Student-specific - scholarships that are geared toward students with unique circumstances. Some examples include scholarships for minorities, for first generation college students, and for international students.
- Unique scholarships - scholarships that let you take advantage of what makes you special. From a unique hobby to being taller than the average person, this category reminds us that there's a scholarship for everyone.
- Competition based scholarships - the most common example of this is essay competitions where the winner will get a monetary prize to put towards their education.
- Athletic scholarships - scholarships awarded to students who are high achieving in a certain sport
When should I start applying?
Well, this depends on the scholarship and its individual deadline. However, the first year of high school is a good time to time to start researching scholarships so you can keep track of when you should apply and scholarships that might be available to you. Some scholarships may also ask for an essay, resume, or letters of recommendation so be sure to leave yourself enough time before the deadline to prepare.
Where should I look?
There are many great online search engines for scholarships and information about them. Just a few of them are listed below.
- Big Future by The College Board - Find scholarships that match best to you based on your personal information and experience
- Unigo - An online business that matches students with scholarships.
- Siemens Competition - A math, science, and technology competition that awards scholarships to the top six competitors.
- FinAid - A guide to financial aid that lists many non-academic scholarships available to you.
- GoodCall - A free scholarship search engine
- Your college website - After you are accepted to college, or even when you are applying use your university's website to search for scholarships they provide.
- Many other places - A simple google search will provide you with many resources by which to start your scholarship research. Don't be afraid to ask your friends, family members, teachers or coaches if they know of any scholarship opportunities available for you.
How do I prepare to apply for a scholarship?
While different scholarships will have a different set of requirements for application, a few things that most scholarship applications require are a letter of recommendation, an essay based on the criteria and prompt they provide and a resume. Your resume should include basic information like your contact information, education and GPA. On top of this, your work experience, volunteer experience, special achievements, and skills or talents should also be included. The Georgetown Independent School District provides a great example of a scholarship resume which can be found here.
Most important to remember when applying to scholarships is to not count yourself out. There is a scholarship available for anyone and everyone! You do not need to be a top student to get a scholarship, you just need to take advantage of your unique strengths and do your research on the many available scholarships. Keep track of the strengths and achievements that make you special.