As a parent of two teenagers, I can tell you that college is on our minds already and so are scholarships. I certainly don’t want my children to saddle themselves with huge student loans. They know how important a good education is and they know that means giving their studies their full effort now. They also understand that giving their best effort will help improve their chances of winning scholarships and getting into the school of their choice. Those general ideas are clear in our minds but as college grows closer, our need for more detailed, specific information is also growing. I know there are lots of parents and teens out there in the same boat. That is why I am so pleased to have an expert, Jean O’Toole, share college scholarship strategies with us today.
Scholarship Strategist Shares Tips
Jean O’Toole is a scholarship strategist, author and speaker. In 2008, she co-founded Connections101, creating workshops, seminars, scholarship clubs, and assemblies for students, parents and educators to help empower young people to take a proactive role in their lives. Her strategies have helped students win thousands of dollars, including some individuals who secured up to $200,000. She is also the author of a new book, Scholarship Strategies: Finding and Winning the Money You Need (affiliate link below).
This book is perfect for any student who is interested in winning money for school and for parents who want to help their child achieve their goals and be in the know on the process. In Scholarship Strategies, Jean O’Toole explains how students can take a smart and organized approach to applying for scholarships. Jean lays out 25 clear scholarship strategies and identifies 15 ways to reduce college costs beyond scholarships and traditional financial aid. Today, Jean shares three easy ways to start early on your college scholarship search.
By Jean O’Toole
How Anyone Can Win A Scholarship
Scholarships are not just for the graduating high school senior student who is a top athlete, has top grades or who has financial need. There are scholarships available for students at every age and every stage of life that are awarded for any number of reasons. There is even a growing category of “need blind” scholarships, where the financial need of a family isn’t a factor of criteria. Thousands of dollars of scholarships are available for kids as young as 5 or 6 years old and families can change their future college expense outlook by starting early on the scholarship pursuit.
Scholarships from companies, organizations, individuals and foundations are private monies. They get to decide who and what they want to honor with their scholarships. There are scholarships for kids as young as 5 or 6 years old who are in kindergarten. For example, the Doodle for Google Competition for students in K-12 honors creativity and awards up to $30,000. Scholarships for younger students can be awarded with a check sent directly to the student so the money can be saved, or invested or used for current educational expenses. Or scholarships are awarded as a bond that will mature when the child turns 18. Sometimes awards are held in an account until the student is enrolled in their chosen college and monies are sent directly to the college.
Why Apply For Scholarships?
According to Collegeboard.org, the amount of money a student will need for college tuition, room and board, books, travel and personal expenses at a 4-year state school is $24,807 per year or almost $100k for 4 years of school. If a student is choosing a 4-year private college, those costs average $50,087 per year or over $200k for 4 years of education and tuition is increasing at a rate of 2.6% each year. Of course, scholarships that are offered directly from colleges and universities, known as college specific scholarships, are awarded to those incoming college students to reduce tuition costs, but private outside scholarships can be a game changer for any student.
Where To Find Scholarships
There are four places to find scholarships: a student’s school, their family members, scholarship book directories and online search engines. My favorite online search tool is scholarships.com because you can search for scholarships by age as well as deadline.
Getting a jumpstart on the scholarship search can help a student qualify for more potential opportunities in the future and open the door to massive college cost savings for their family.
Scholarship Strategies To Give You An Advantage
After working with hundreds of schools and thousands of students over the past decade, I have found three easy steps any family can take to give their student an edge and advantage to potentially becoming a successful scholarship recipient.
Step 1 – Learn about your local scholarships.
Most school districts have a “senior awards night” or annual event where local scholarships are awarded to graduating high school seniors from local companies, organizations and individuals. Contact your local high school guidance office and request to be emailed the program from last year’s event. This will give your family a list of all the local monies that are given away. As local scholarships are only open to local students, these scholarships have the fewest competitors and statistically have the highest chances of winning. Although many local scholarships may be smaller awards, students can accumulate awards into the many of thousands of dollars.
Step 2 – Discover who won last year and why did they win.
Most companies and organizations who offer scholarships will post on their websites who their recent scholarship recipients have been and why they were chosen. Many also post the winner’s submission, if an essay or creative work was required. Families can also gather this information from the school guidance departments or online community forums.
Step 3 – Find out who the decision makers are for each scholarship.
Some local scholarship recipients are chosen by a faculty member or members from the high school. Other local scholarships may have their own scholarship committees to review applicants. Your goal is to find out who the decision makers are on each of the local scholarships. I recommend that the student reach out to that decision maker with two goals. First, the student should thank the decision maker for their efforts in making the scholarship available for local students. Second, the student should ask “What are you looking for in an ideal candidate?” Asking this one simple question will already define the student as motivated, determined and driven, which would be an incredible first impression.
Think about it. Professionally, we encourage individuals to research and prepare to be the ideal candidate for an internship or job. Students can give themselves an incredible edge and advantage by taking a similar approach to scholarships. By learning in advance what scholarships are available and what the criteria is for the opportunity, a student can strategically direct their limited time and energy outside of the classroom to qualify for as many scholarship opportunities as possible.
Additional Scholarship Strategies To Qualify For More Potential Scholarships
The following excerpt from my book offers additional ways to qualify for more potential scholarships.
Excerpt reprinted with permission. Scholarship Strategies: Finding and Winning the Money You Need. Morgan James Publishing. February 2020. Chapter Four, EXPANDING YOUR INVENTORY, Page 29-30.
No matter your circumstances, you can choose to put yourself in a better position to qualify for Big 6 scholarships.
How do you take action? The following Big 6 strategies will help you expand your Personal Search Engine List.
Increase Your GPA
Ask for extra credit projects, practice exams, and help sessions. Bringing up your average by a few points just might
qualify you for a whole slew of scholarships you may have passed over before.
Be a Joiner
Identify your interests and join a related club. See what clubs your friends enjoy and consider joining them. If you cannot find a club you want to join, create a new one! Use your new memberships to impact your Personal Search Engine List.
Whether you play a competitive sport or not, check out other athletic activities, like yoga, Zumba, bowling, or kickball. Participating may qualify you for a scholarship.
Serve Your Community
Volunteer for a community service project in your hometown. From youth to religious organizations, there are scores of charities that could benefit from your help—while you benefit too!
Lead the Way
Do more than just participate in a club or community service project. Run something, create something, and make something happen in your community. Be a leader! What will your leadership project be?
Like many students, you might be unsure of your future career path. Try networking and exploration. Be an intern, job shadow a professional, or conduct research online and at your guidance office.
The Choice Is Yours
In your Money Mission and your life, choice is your most powerful tool. Push yourself and you will get more for yourself. You will become a stronger candidate and a stronger person. Keep up the good work; the sky is the limit!
With the student loan debt crisis in the United States having reached over 1.5 trillion dollars, surpassing credit card debt, it is important that families are empowered with a proactive approach to the scholarships from companies, organizations, individuals and foundations. It is my hope that every family will start a money mission as early as possible because the more information we have the easier it is to design our lives. I encourage you to keep in touch and share with me what scholarships your family members have found and won as your story will inspire others.
It was a real pleasure have Jean O’Toole introduce us to a few college scholarship strategies from her book. Knowledge is power and I being able to arm yourself and your child with the information you need ahead of time sure makes for a more prepared, confident approach. Do you have any experience with scholarships you’d like to share? Or any scholarship questions? Reach out to us @familyfocusblog and @scholarshipjean