Hey high school juniors! There are probably many more things you’d rather do this summer than get a head start on scholarships. But with just a little bit of effort, you can set yourself up next year and the path toward getting money for college.
The first step is finding scholarships. Here are the best places to look.
• Your school counselor
Even though your counselor is probably on vacation, you can still use the resources that he or she offers. Look at the counseling section on your school’s Web site for scholarships. If your school’s Web site doesn’t have this information, look at the sites of other local schools.
• A financial aid office
Speak with the financial aid offices at the schools where you plan to apply. Think about what interests and talents you have and what field you may want to enter after graduation. Mention any special circumstances about your family’s financial situation. Ask for recommendations of scholarships offered by the college or by community organizations.
Whenever you speak to a counselor (either in high school or college), inquire about any scholarships that require a nomination. Often these scholarships are easier to win because the applicant pool is smaller.
The largest hurdle is getting nominated. You have nothing to lose by asking someone to nominate you. If anything, it shows how serious you are about financing your education.
• School activities
One fringe benefit of participating in activities might be a scholarship sponsored by the organization. Make a list of all your activities so that in the fall, you can ask the club’s officers or advisers about scholarship funds. Bands, newspapers, academic clubs, athletic and service organizations often award scholarships to outstanding members.
• Community organizations
Don’t limit yourself to only organizations you belong to. Community groups often sponsor scholarships that are open to all students in the community. For example, local Rotary and Lions clubs often offer scholarships for outstanding students in the community, whether or not their parents are members. They view scholarship programs as a way of serving their communities. Open a phone book and call the five largest organizations in your area. Chances are that at least one will offer a scholarship.
• Your employer
Many businesses that employ young people offer scholarships as a way to reward students like you who both study and work. Ask your manager if your employer has a scholarship fund and how you can apply.
• Your parents’ employers
Companies often award scholarships to the children of their employees. Your parents should speak with someone in their human resources department about scholarships and other educational programs offered by the company.
• Your parents’ unions
Some unions sponsor scholarships for the children of their members. Your parents should speak with their union officers about scholarships and other educational programs sponsored by the union.
• Your parents’ organizations
Are your parents involved in civic or other local organizations? These organizations may offer scholarships for members’ children.
• Your church or religious organization
Religious organizations may provide scholarships for
members. If you or your parents are members of a religious organization, check with the leaders to see if a scholarship is offered.
• Local government
Some cities and counties provide scholarships specifically designated for local students. Often, local city council members and state representatives have scholarship funds. Call their offices and ask if they offer a scholarship.
• Local businesses
Local business owners who want to see students in their community succeed often set up scholarship funds as a way to thank their customers and customers’ children. Contact your local chamber of commerce to see if there are local businesses that offer scholarships for students in the community.
• Local newspaper
Some local newspapers make announcements about local students who win scholarships. Keep a record of the scholarships printed, or go to your library and look at back issues of the newspaper. Check the spring issues (from March to now), and you’ll probably find announcements of scholarship recipients. Contact the sponsoring organizations to see if you’re eligible to enter the next competition.
One of the benefits of online scholarship directories is that they can be updated at any time. Online scholarship directories can give you up-to-date information on new scholarships. Find free scholarship searches at SuperCollege.com, nextSTEPmag.com/Scholarships, CollegeAnswer.com and Collegeboard.com.
Scholarships (especially when you can get them early as a high school junior) are truly the gems of financial aid. Start the groundwork now so you’ll be ready to run in the fall.
Harvard graduates Gen and Kelly Tanabe are the authors of nine books, including Get into Any College and Accepted! 50 Successful College Admission Essays. Ask them your questions about getting into college and check out their books at supercollege.com.