Scholarship SOS – Part 2

Understanding the Field

You’ve heard it too many times to count, those well-meaning words – “There are plenty of scholarships out there, so you can go to college for free!” Well, you and I both know that perhaps that is just a bit overstated. It’s not like you can close your eyes, snap your fingers, make a wish, and presto, tons of scholarship awards show up in your email inbox. It takes work and a strategy to win scholarships to help you bridge your financial aid gap. The average cost of college in the U.S. is $35,720 per student per year, and most financial aid packages (including merit and need based aid) do not cover the entire cost of attending the school. Therefore, families must consider ways to meet the financial aid gap through loans and scholarships. In this blog we are going to dig a little deeper to understand the scholarship landscape.

As a scholarship seeker, it is important to understand the many different pots of scholarship money that are out there. This helps you gage your chances of winning an award and helps you understand the audience that is assessing your application. In this blog, we are focused on scholarships that are external to the college.

National Scholarships – These scholarships are open to students throughout the U.S. Many are funded by national corporations and organizations as a community service and marketing opportunity. These scholarships can have a variety of foci, and, before you proceed, you need to ensure you are an eligible candidate. If the scholarship says it is for first generation college students and both of your parents graduated from college, you need to move on. You do not meet the most basic requirement for the scholarship, and no matter how wonderful your achievements are, you will not win a scholarship where you do not fit into the profile of the student they want to serve.

National scholarships are extremely competitive. There are over 24,000 high schools in the US according to the National Center for Education Statistics. Imagine if just one student – the top student in each school – applies for each national scholarship. You could be competing against a huge number of top students for a very limited number of scholarship spots. These applications will be reviewed by staff members and board members, so they will not be familiar (potentially) with your community and high school. You need to keep this in mind as you write your essays and complete the application.

You should spend time reading and understanding the sponsoring organization’s website as well as the scholarship website. You should tie your own goals and accomplishments to the organization’s missions and goals for a strong application package. Know all of this before proceeding with the application to gage how strong you believe your candidacy to be and how your record stacks against the records of other top students. Many of these applications take a few weeks of writing and work to complete, so use your time wisely and only on applications that you think will yield results!

Local and Club Scholarships – Many local organizations offer scholarships such as Rotary, Elks, and Lions Clubs. You should ask everyone you know if they know about any clubs or groups offering scholarships in your area. Sometimes they are involved in a group that offers scholarships and can recommend you to the committee or give you access to the application.

With local scholarships, you have a smaller pool of students to compete against for funding. Many times, these are smaller scholarships (under $1,000) and are non-renewable. Make sure you understand the award and the potential for continued funding throughout your college experience. These scholarships often have strings attached. You might be asked to make a presentation at a club meeting or talk to donors who helped fund your scholarship. You should also spend time on the website of the club or group who is offering the scholarship. You should emphasize the things about you that align with their mission and vision. Typically, scholarship awards are decided by a scholarship committee made up with members from the organization.

Foundation Scholarships – Many times, local community foundations offer scholarships as do other local family foundations and organizations. These types of scholarships often have geographic requirements. For instance, in Sarasota, Florida, the William G. and Marie Selby Foundation offers scholarships to students who live in three counties in Florida, so if you live outside of the three-county area covered by the Selby Foundation, you need not apply for funding there as you are not a qualified candidate.

Foundation scholarship applications are reviewed by board members and members of the community who are selected because of their unique skills. It is still important to align your application to the foundation’s mission and goals. Google searches and talking with friends and neighbors will help you identify these scholarship opportunities in your area. Once again, the pool of qualified students for these scholarships is smaller, but you should only apply if you meet their requirements.

To be effective, your scholarship search should have a strategy behind it. Make sure you spend some time understanding the lay of the land and determining what types of scholarships you want to pursue. Bell & Arch Consulting offers consulting services to assist with scholarships if you would like some help along the way.

Apply well!