By Thomas Broderick
When I was a kid, I loved watching game shows. I don’t remember the particular show, but once in a while, a contestant would enter a phone booth-sized box with transparent plastic walls. The host would turn on a fan attached to the booth and money would start flying around. The contestant would have 30 seconds to catch as much as she could before the fan stopped and the remaining bills fell back to the floor.
College scholarships work pretty much the same way. As a high school upperclassman, you have a set amount of time to research and apply to college scholarships. The money may not be flying in front of your eyes, but trust me, millions of dollars are out there for the taking. You just need to reach out and grab it.
How do you get this money before the timer buzzes? It’s simple. You have to have a plan going in.
1. Start Early
In other words, the moment you start your junior year (or sooner depending on how ambitious you are), you should start researching scholarship opportunities that match your interests, background, etc. There are plenty of scholarships that are a perfect fit for you, but there are also plenty of others where you have no chance or are ineligible.
The sooner you start creating ‘yes,’ ‘maybe,’ and ‘nope’ scholarship piles, the sooner you can start preparing your application portfolios.
2. Keep Up Those Grades and Test Scores
As scholarships are a merit-based form of financial aid (Grants are need based.), the first thing scholarship committees look at are your grades and test scores. In fact, many scholarships will not consider your application if you do not meet their GPA or test score cutoffs. In other words, good grades and scores are your ‘foot in the door’; receiving the scholarship is far from guaranteed, but the scholarship committee will take your application seriously. The same statement is true for every college to which you apply.
Last, but certainly not least, good grades and scores may lead to automatic scholarships (e.g., lottery scholarships) if you attend school in-state.
3. Choose an Extracurricular Activity and Stick With It
If you have the grades and scores, you can further improve your scholarships chances by showing your commitment to extracurricular activities. In other words, competitive scholarship applicants participate in 1-2 extracurriculars for a least three years of high school. Long-term extracurriculars show your dedication. Also, if you spend enough time in one activity, you can take on a leadership role.
Scholarship committees love awarding money to leaders.
There are plenty of scholarships exclusive to high school students who volunteer in their communities. No matter what kind of volunteering you perform, keep in mind my tips for extracurricular activities. The longer you do it, the better odds you have of receiving a scholarship. The same is true for leadership positions or times when you took charge (e.g., You create a new volunteering club.).
5. Get Feedback on Essays and Other Application Materials
Just about every scholarship asks for an essay. What this means is that no matter how excellent your academic or extracurricular accomplishments, submitting a poorly written essay will dramatically reduce your scholarship odds.
It’s time to reach out to trusted adults, people who can provide honest feedback on your first draft(s). Take their input and run with it. Even if you’re lightyears ahead of your peers in terms of your writing ability, everyone needs feedback. The same advice goes if you’re submitting supplementary materials (e.g., an art portfolio). And when scholarship dollars are on the line, you should do everything possible to stand above the crowd of applicants.
6. Partner with Financial Advisers
It’s your job to research and apply to scholarships, but there is much you can’t do alone. For example, you have to have an honest discussion with your family about how much they can or are willing to contribute to your college education.
After that, you, with your family’s help, should research professionals that can advise you about the best way to cover college expenses after scholarships. Financial advisers can be a boon, but they’re usually pricy…but not for myKlovr subscribers.
myKlovr is proud to announce its partnership with Financial Fitness Group (FFG). myKlovr subscribers and their families receive “a dedicated library of content on topics such as education and employment, saving and paying for college, tuition plans, managing student loans and more.” The moment you sign up for myKlovr, review FFG’s advice right away to learn more about the best ways to ensure that you leave college debt free.
Like the truth, the money is out there. It’ll be a lot of work on your end, but I hope that with your parents, teachers, and FFG’s help, you can apply to the scholarships where you have the best shot.