Tackling the Scholarship Search the Smart Way

High school parents know how intense and nerve-wracking the college search process can be—especially when it comes to thinking about the price tag. Here’s the good news: there are many scholarships out there, and even students who aren’t at the top of their class have a chance to win some scholarship money. But how should your teen go about it? Here are a few tips and suggestions to make the scholarship search efficient—and hopefully successful:

Start early. It truly is never too early to start researching scholarship programs—and freshman year is a great time to start getting familiar with what types of scholarships exist, the requirements and who typically wins those scholarships. The guidance counselor can be a great resource, but it’s helpful to start browsing sites like www.scholarships.com, www.fastweb.com and https://bigfuture.collegeboard.org/scholarship-search also. Then, by the time your teen is ready to start applying, he or she will already be knowledgeable about the options and expectations.

Search far and wide. Encourage your teen to utilize the aforementioned scholarship search engines, search for scholarships in the local community (foundations, local businesses and churches are good places to start) and make friends with the guidance counselor. It’s worth emphasizing that the guidance counselor’s office probably learns about new scholarships all year long. If they have an online system or database, be sure your teen browses it regularly or registers to receive notifications of new scholarships or scholarship deadlines. Stopping by often to get to know the counselors is a good idea as well so that they are aware of your teen’s interests, target schools and career goals. Once your teen applies for financial aid and submits college applications, the guidance counselor can also help navigate any college-specific scholarships offered by the institutions to which your teen applies.

Narrow things down. The scholarship search can quickly become overwhelming if your teen accumulates a list of hundreds of potential scholarships and doesn’t know where to begin. This is where the importance of paying attention to criteria comes in. Scholarship search engines actually allow your teen to create a profile that narrows the list down to those that are a fit, minimizing time wasted on scholarships for which your teen is not a candidate. Your teen should take the same meticulous screening approach with other scholarships that he or she learns about.

Be disciplined about applying. Most scholarship deadlines are between October and March, so encourage your teen to search in the fall and pay attention to deadlines. If your teen comes up with a list of 25 possible scholarships, he or she should create a spreadsheet with the names, application deadlines and contact information of each, and tackle five or 10 a week (arranging by deadline date). As new possibilities arise, add them to the spreadsheet and keep at it. Files for each scholarship with the details, essays submitted and more will keep your teen organized.

With effort and diligence, your teen can place him or herself in the best position to win scholarships. The reality is that there is a lot of money available and your teen can increase his or her chances of scholarship success by continuing to work hard in school and applying to as many “potential fit” scholarships as possible.