Education

College Scholarship Planning 101

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With college tuition and student loan debt on skyrocketing, scholarships act as a priceless asset for students. Unlike a loan, scholarships don’t need to be paid back. They are awarded by a multitude of organizations — including corporations, schools, nonprofits, professional associations, and the government. Here are a few fundamental steps to follow to earn a college scholarship.

When you’re applying to many scholarships, you can easily confuse deadlines. Stay on course by using a planner, calendar or spreadsheet to organize application due dates. If you employ the latter, include the title and link to the award, how much it’s worth, the deadline, and any requirements. Record this information on a shareable spreadsheet to help keep your parents informed on your progress.

It is also important to collect all application materials. This will make your future applications a lot easier when applying. Keep your resume, cover letters, school transcripts, essays and letters of recommendation from professors and coworkers all in one place. That way, they’ll be easy to locate when you’re filling out applications.

Begin scholarship applications far in advance so you’ll be ahead of the game. There are many different types of scholarships available — such as ones for academic performance, athletics, underrepresented groups, first generation, and more. For extra rewards, reach out to your guidance counselor, financial aid officer, coach or parents’ employers. Online search engines will also help you find scholarship possibilities — including many you may not have considered or didn’t know existed. Almost all online search options provide the ability to filter search results to match your requisites with available aid.

Once you have a solid list of scholarships for which you are eligible, it’s time to review those results and prioritize certain ones. Start by focusing on the rewards with approaching deadlines and those you feel you have the best shot at winning. Always read the application form carefully — even the fine print. Some scholarships that charge a fee are most often scams.

Before submitting an application, be sure to proofread all materials. Run spell and grammar check on the application or have a mentor read your essays to catch any mistakes and offer feedback. If you’re reusing material — such as a cover letter — from another scholarship application, make sure you haven’t left any incorrect names. For more information on how to prepare, organize, search and apply for college scholarships, see the accompanying infographic.

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