Playing and Winning the Scholarship Game

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Okay, you don’t have a 4.0 GPA, you aren’t the senior class president, you can’t throw a football fifty yards, and your SAT scores aren’t resulting in letters or phone calls from Harvard, Yale, and Princeton. So you won’t be able to get a college scholarship, right?

Certainly not! You may be eligible for a variety of scholarships and other types of financial help. With a 3.0 GPA and 1000 SAT score, several universities may give you academic awards. Twins may apply for a scholarship at Ashland University. Many religiously linked universities provide financial aid to students who are members of their faith. And that’s just the start.

Even if you are not a top student or student leader, if you are the son or daughter of a military veteran, if either of your parents works for a major corporation, if your mother or father is a member of a fraternal or civic organization, or if you are preparing for a career in a specific profession, there may be substantial scholarships for which you can apply.

Do you like writing essays? If you are, your writing abilities might help you get a scholarship. There’s even a grant available for those who pledge not to use cigarettes or alcohol while in college.

You can even be eligible for a scholarship based on where you reside, your last name, ethnicity or race, or a sickness or handicapping condition. Have you gotten the picture yet? There are several scholarships, grants, and financial assistance opportunities available. Some need financial necessity or other limitations, while others do not.

At [http://www.college-scholarships.com], you may browse through hundreds of thousands of potential scholarships (for free!) in more than twenty different data bases. You may also sign up for a free email newsletter with articles about college entrance, scholarship and financial aid programs, college survival advice, and money prospects for college students while you’re there.

You may locate scholarships granted by particular colleges to all enrolled students who match the requirements at http://www.guaranteed-scholarships.com.

Student-athletes may get the information they need to acquire an athletic scholarship by going to [http://www.college-athletic-scholarships.com] (or an opportunity to compete in a Division III or other non-scholarship program).

Don’t forget about your school counselor; he or she might provide you with valuable information regarding local scholarship opportunities. In reality, most high school guidance offices have a list of area scholarship opportunities. Parents and children should start looking into the many scholarships for which they may be eligible as early as ninth or tenth grade so that they may prepare to satisfy as many criteria as possible.

Many private universities provide considerable scholarships and grants to compete with lower-cost public colleges and/or to recruit students who may otherwise enroll elsewhere. These funds are often granted to students who have shown little or no financial need. Many private institutions, in fact, “rebate” 30 percent to 35 percent (or more) of their tuition income via institutional financial assistance. When these monies are taken into account, private institutions may wind up being no more costly than public colleges and universities with lower publicized prices for certain students.

If you can show financial need by filling out the FAFSA form at http://www.fafsa.ed.gov/, you should apply to at least a few universities that meet 100% of documented financial need and do so with an acceptable ratio of gift assistance to self-help aid (loans and/or work-study monies). Keep in mind that, although only a few institutions will be able to satisfy the entire needs of all enrolled students, many more will be able to meet or almost meet the full needs of stronger students.

Students should choose the most demanding courses available, study tirelessly to learn as much as possible (not only to gain grades), and become active in co-curricular, community, philanthropic, and/or public service organizations to position themselves advantageously to be a competitive candidate for scholarships. For all students, here’s a solid rule of thumb: the more you have to give, the more you’ll be offered.

Three words come to mind: research, research, and research. The more time you spend looking into scholarship options, the more likely you are to locate scholarships that you qualify for.

Don’t allow anybody get in the way of your success. Many individuals “out there,” including some educators, are unknowingly propagating major misunderstandings about who may be eligible for financial help and what is necessary to do so. Most importantly, do not neglect to research or apply to a college you are interested in because you believe it is too costly. One of the most frequent and disastrous errors a family may make is to do so. Always keep in mind that you never know what sort of scholarships and/or financial help you could obtain.

However, just as you should have “fall back” or “safety” universities in case you are not accepted to your top choices, you should pick and apply to colleges that will be affordable if you do not get the financial aid you expect.

As obvious as it may seem, I feel compelled to warn you that many students forget to pay attention to details and deadlines while applying for scholarships. I couldn’t believe it when an independent educational counselor, who probably earns around $1,000 for assisting a student in identifying and gaining admission to appropriate colleges, asked (on an email list serve) how many words above the limit one of her clients could use on his college application essay. Don’t make the same error she made by presuming there won’t be any consequences if you “come close” to meeting the criteria or are “just a few days late.” Prepare to pay for your faults if you don’t pay attention.

But if you complete it correctly, you’ll have a good chance of receiving a scholarship or financial assistance. Best wishes