If you are the parent of a high school student, there is little doubt you are about to enter unfamiliar territory as you travel the proverbial, yet mystical highway in search of the ever elusive college scholarship. From one parent to another, may I suggest you buckle your seat belt and hang on tight; this road can be one bumpy ride!
The college scholarship road is paved with many pot holes and lined with detours that build up hope and expectations, yet often reap little reward. The scholarship adventure will involve countless hours of research, essays and yes, disappointment. For some unknown reason, the underlying assumption is that “my student” will be the recipient of numerous scholarship awards. The mantra “we just have to try harder” seems to motivate us.
One big misconception is assuming excellent grades, participation in sports or active in community service will translate into automatic scholarships. While there seems to be a lot of publicity surrounding students who receive thousands of dollars in scholarship offers, typically these abundant offers are university specific and the total award amount rarely covers total tuition at the selected school of choice.
Please note that the following information is shared from the perspective of a parent who has been where you are, NOT from the expertise of a scholarship mastermind!
Most college applications require one or more essays. Here are a few tips to help save time.
Keep in mind that we are talking scholarships and not student aid. The two are separate and different. Government awards are based on financial need; therefore, it is imperative for parents of prospective college students to file the FAFSA (Free Application for Federal Student Aid) on time, as this deadline is non-negotiable. Many colleges require the FAFSA to be completed regardless of qualifying status. To make the process easier, tax returns should be completed ASAP; however, if need be, you can file and attach the tax return later.
A PinID is necessary to complete the FAFSA and to view your account. Information and applying for a PinID can be found at https://fafsa.ed.gov/. (Be careful to use the correct website as there are a number of similar ones that expect you to pay money and these are not the official website.)
Many colleges begin accepting early enrollment applications as soon as September or October of the senior year of high school, which makes the junior year G.P.A. a critical component.
In addition to university specific scholarships, here are a few scholarships worth exploring:21st Century Scholarship (Indiana) – Earning the 21st Century Scholarship guarantees you’ll receive up to four years of undergraduate tuition at any participating public college or university in Indiana. (There are eligibility requirements, so be sure and review these-process begins in 7th & 8th grades)
Discover Scholarship Program awards up to $2,500 in scholarships to high school students 16 years of age and older.
Coca−Cola Scholars Foundation supports over 1,400 college students each year, with annual scholarships of $3.4 million through two nationally recognized programs on behalf of the Coca−Cola System.
Community Foundation Scholarships – Click a specific county for scholarship listings
Lilly Endowment Scholarship
Warning: Beware of sites that state that you can “get a grant” to pay for school. Grants are provided either by the school, foundation or government. You cannot individually apply for a grant. Never send money to anyone “guaranteeing” you a grant.
Additional scholarship opportunities may be available via:
Research, due diligence and pursuit are imperative. Visit websites, check with schools and utilize search engines.
From one parent to another, focus on what you can do to help your student apply for and possibly have a chance at receiving a scholarship or two. However, recognize that more often than not, the road to financing a college education is most likely paved by early saving practices, student loans and yes, the dubious Parent Plus loans.
Last but not least, do not place so much emphasis on finding and obtaining scholarships that you and your student fail to enjoy the high school years; that’s time you will never have again!