Are scholarships only for outstanding students and stellar athletes? Definitely not!
If you have written off scholarships because your college-bound teen isn’t at the top of the class, think again. There are many scholarships for students with varying skillsets and different backgrounds, but not necessarily the highest GPAs and SAT/ACT test scores. According to sources such as Scholarship America and Scholarships.com, students can receive scholarship support from all kinds of sources—for their creativity, ability to overcome adversity, or efforts in extracurricular and volunteer activities, for example.
Where should your teen look? Here are a few tips and suggestions as you and your teen embark upon the scholarship search:
Start with the guidance counselor. A great place to begin the scholarship search is at the guidance counselor’s office. Many guidance/college counselors maintain a list of local and national scholarships and can quickly tell you what scholarships your teen may or may not be eligible for. In addition, the guidance counselor will have information about different types of scholarships at the colleges and universities in your state or region, as well as directions on how to apply. Keep in mind that guidance counselors may be your best source for information about local scholarships or foundations.
Tip: Ask the guidance counselor how to stay up to date on new scholarships and deadlines. Many high schools maintain an online database of scholarships.
Look at your state’s Department of Education website. Obviously, all states offer financial aid, but many states offer scholarships or other types of stipends. While the colleges to which your teen applies often handle the application process for such aid, your state’s Department of Education website is a great source of information. For example, in Colorado, the College Opportunity Fund is a stipend available to all students going to college in the state. In Michigan, the Michigan Nursing Scholarship awards scholarships to residents who pursue nursing degrees. The state of New Jersey offers several types of scholarships for state residents pursuing different fields of study.
Tip: To find your state’s department of education website, visit www.ed.gov/about and click on “State Contacts”. Then, search for scholarships. Colleges’ financial aid departments can also point you in the right direction to learn more about state funds and scholarships.
Ask organizations where you work or volunteer. Employers are an excellent resource for scholarships, especially bigger corporations. Some companies award scholarships to employees or dependents or employees, but many others do not require applicants to have any connection to the company. Check out some of the organizations in your area as well as larger national corporations that might offer scholarships. Examples include U.S. Bank, Microsoft and Walmart.
Tip: Your employer or your teen’s employer (if your teen has a part-time job) are a great place to start.
Consider scholarships for students of certain heritage or background. Many scholarships support specific individuals, such as women or students from underrepresented ethnic backgrounds. Nonprofit organizations such as the Hispanic Scholarship Fund and the United Negro College Fund award funds to thousands of students each year.
Tip: A scholarship search engine can help you locate scholarships for which you might be eligible based on your personal characteristics.
Check out nontraditional sources of scholarship revenue offered in your state. Programs such as Georgia’s HOPE Scholarship program open doors for students without perfect GPAs. Students with a 3.0 GPA are eligible as well as students who come from home study programs, and they can receive funding toward college degrees and technical certifications or diplomas. Florida’s Bright Futures Scholarship program offers scholarships to students who have achieved at least a 3.0 GPA (for Florida Medallion Scholars, or a 3.5 GPA for Florida Academic Scholars) and completed a minimum number of service hours.
Tip: The scholarships mentioned above are both Lottery scholarship programs, which a number of states also have. Research whether your state offers a similar program that is funded by state lottery revenues or other funding sources, such as tobacco settlements or turnpike revenues.
Use scholarship search engines to aid your search. One of the best ways to round up a list of scholarships for which your teen is qualified is to use a scholarship search engine. These tools help students create a detailed student profile and narrow down a list of scholarships that fit that profile (eliminating any for which they do not meet the criteria).
Tip: Reputable search engines include scholarships.com, scholarshipexperts.com, fastweb.com, and the College Board’s Scholarship Search Tool.
Although there are thousands of scholarships out there, it can be discouraging to see scholarship after scholarship restricted for high achievers with exceptional grades and test scores. Never fear: there are many scholarships for students with other skills, traits and interests. Encourage your teen to put effort into the search and he or she may be surprised by the number of scholarship options available.
And of course, don’t forget to enter Huntington’s College Scholarship Sweepstakes. Huntington awards a $500 scholarship each quarter to a college-bound high school student. Simply submit your information via text message on behalf of your student. Learn more at www.huntingtonhelps.com/contest.