I speak to a lot of people with student loan debt and keep hearing the same thing: "I wish I had applied for more scholarships."
When you're still in school, credit debt doesn't feel like "real" money. It's only when you graduate and start paying off loans that you realize the difference a few thousand dollars more can make – or even a few hundred.
Don't miss out on free scholarship money. Apply today using these proven strategies.
Start searching on major websites
Most of the major scholarship websites allow you to create an account and fill in your information. You will then be notified on the website if there is a scholarship for your profile.
Popular scholarship websites are:
After you create an account, take time each week to go through the new scholarships and decide which ones to apply for. If you see dozens of new scholarships every week, do it every day or every other day.
Applying for multiple scholarships can be confusing – unless you have a system in place to keep everything neat and tidy.
First, create a filter in your email inbox to organize scholarship-related emails. Then use a spreadsheet, notebook, or Google Doc to compile the scholarships you want to apply for. Include the link for each scholarship, due date, application requirements, and other important details. Sort them by deadline to prioritize the fastest ones.
Start working on each scholarship weeks before the due date so that you don't have to be last-minute looking to fill out an application. Get letters of recommendation at least a month before the deadline so your teachers, employers, and trainers have time to create an effective letter.
Apply for Unusual Scholarships
Rather than just applying for a basic scholarship, try to find unique options that suit your talents and personal demographic. For example, if you have a sense of humor, you can find scholarships that ask for fun essays. If you've played the oboe since you were eight years old, search for "oboe scholarship" on Google.
If you are part of a minority group, look for scholarships from organizations that focus on diversity. Don't rule out a humble nonprofit or small business. You never know what will happen until you apply.
You can also set a Google alert for the word "scholarship" along with your hobbies and interests, such as "piano" or "engineering". Every time a scholarship with your keywords appears on the internet, you will receive a notification.
Read requirements carefully
Most scholarship applications require an essay, high school report card, and letters of recommendation. However, some have more specific terms, such as an essay on your favorite novel or a recommendation from a science teacher.
It's tempting to gloss over the details of a scholarship, especially if you're still juggling school and extracurricular activities. Ignoring these details can lead to the automatic disqualification of your application.
Don't avoid small scholarships
Applying for a scholarship can be time consuming, and it's tempting to prioritize the major awards. Instead of focusing on large grants, consider applying for smaller grants.
A $ 500 scholarship can cover a semester or month's worth of books when studying abroad. Small scholarships are also easier to come by as fewer students apply.
Plus, every dollar of scholarship money you win is one dollar that you don't have to borrow and pay interest. Let's say you take out a $ 15,000 student loan with 5% interest and a 10 year term. You will pay a total of $ 19,092 over the life of the loan.
When you win a $ 500 scholarship and borrow only $ 14,500 at 5% interest and 10 years, you pay $ 137 less in total interest. In other words, that $ 500 scholarship is actually worth more in the long run.
Use social media
Use your time scrolling Instagram and Twitter and following hashtags like #scholarship, #scholarships, and #scholarshipopportunity. You can also follow scholarship websites on social media as they may highlight different scholarships on their social media feed.
Contact companies directly
Local businesses can give out scholarships, but you'll only find out if you ask about it. Make a list of businesses small and large that you and your family visit frequently, including retailers and restaurants. If possible, visit them in person or call and ask to speak to a manager.
If you've had a summer job, ask this company if they have a scholarship available. Your parents' employer can also give scholarships, especially if it is a large company.
Keep applying while you are in college
Some students think that only freshmen are eligible for scholarships, but many scholarships are available for high school students. Keep using the strategies outlined above and contact the Grant Department to see if there are university-wide scholarships that you can apply for after your enrollment.
Once you've declared a major, contact your advisor and ask if there are any special scholarships specifically for that department. Set a reminder on your calendar to ask about scholarships every semester because you never know what might change.
What happens after you win a scholarship?
When you get notified that you've won a scholarship, make sure you accept it quickly. Organizations may have a deadline and may offer the scholarship to someone else if you don't accept it by then.
After you win the scholarship, read through the terms and conditions and understand how it works. Will a check be mailed directly to you or the university? Does the scholarship automatically renew every year or do you have to submit information again?
If the scholarship is renewed every year, there may still be a minimum GPA requirement, usually around 3.0. If you fall below this threshold, the scholarship can be revoked. Some scholarships are limited to four years. They can therefore be revoked if you are still enrolled in school after the four years have elapsed.
If you use the scholarship for rent, dormitory fees, or to study abroad, you may owe taxes on the amount shown. Put some of the scholarship money in a separate bank account so you are prepared for tax time.
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