Advice From Students | Print |
College Planning Center - Financing College

TOP TEN... Best Advice By Students 

  1. Treat looking for scholarships as if it were your job. Put in the time and you will get paid!
  2. Do as many scholarship searches as you can. Finding them is half the battle.
  3. Being involved in school, church and community activities are the best ways to make an application Stand out.
  4. Study hard and get good grades. SAT and/or  ACT Scores count, study at least 80 hours.
  5. Treat every scholarship application like a jewel. Make the application perfect.
  6. Do some volunteer work.
  7. Check all of the local chapters of national organizations. Rotary, Lions, Elks, etc. Ask them if they offer any scholarships to local students, a lot do.
  8. Pick the right people to write your recommendations.
  9. Don't shy away from scholarships based on difficult essays. If everyone is afraid of them, less people apply.
  10. Above all, BE HONEST. Don't lie about finances, grades, work experience, or anything!

FAQ's about Private Sector Scholarship Research

Why should I spend time looking for a scholarship when the college financial aid office will just take away that same amount of scholarships that they have awarded to me?

You're your own best advocate. Go to the financial aid office at your college and speak with your advisor. Quite often, the college will replace an institutional scholarship with a private scholarship. Ask the college to use your new found scholarship with half scholarship and half student loan. This way, the college money can go to someone else and some of your loan is lowered.

I am a junior in high school. Is it too early to start looking for private scholarships?

You're lucky enough to do some in-depth research! Start looking and find out where the best money is. If you are not sure of what your college course of study will be, find out what field can give the most help. If that course of study isn't your first choice, double major, so you can qualify!

My major is not offered at any state institution in my state. Does this mean I have to go to a higher cost college?

Contact your state scholarship board and find out if they participate in one of the programs that allow students to study at out-of-state institutions for in-state tuition. Although these programs are not scholarships, they can save a student thousands of dollars every year!

WICHE (Western Interstate Commission for Higher Education) includes the state of AK,CO, HI, ID, MT, NV, NM, ND, OR, SD, UT and WY. WICHE is located in Colorado at P.O.. Box 9752, Boulder, CO 80301-9752 or call: 303/541-0210.

States participating in the Academic Common Market are: AL, DE, FL, GA, MD, MS, NC, SC and VA. You may request information at: Southern Regional Educational Board, 59210th Street, Atlanta, GA 30218.

Are scholarships from the private sector for college freshmen only?

No. Every level of college through postgraduate studies offers scholarships, fellowships, work study programs, low cost educational loans. Just like Federal financial aid, a student should go through this process for every year of college. But there are some programs that are automatically renewable. Do your research!

Why bother doing all this research? Even if I get a scholarship, it won't pay for my college education.

No, you are right. Most likely, you will not get 100% free money. Your financial aid will come from all the self-help and gift aid programs. A private sector scholarship may bring you that $500 or $2,500 that you need. Help your financial aid award package grow!

What should I be doing to get ready to research and pursue financial aid for college?

It's never too early to think about what you like to do and how you can apply that when looking at colleges, major fields of study and scholarship programs. Many scholarship programs ask you to write about your goals and your major field of study. That may be hard to articulate at the age of 14 to 17, but if you think about the characteristics of what you like, it may become focused into a college major or at least in the general field of a college major.

Think through your individual goals before entering college. Seek out people in the fields that may interest you - ask if you could "shadow" them for away. This pre planning may save you one, two or three semesters in college. Not everyone can decide on a set major before college, but it is worth a try!

Many scholarship programs are looking for students who have set goals and take college seriously. They want to know their funds are being well used.

There's a great concern regarding the amount of student loan debt our new graduates are carrying today. Knowing this, a high school student should research the student loan forgiveness programs (loan assistance repayment programs) that are available for his major. Some colleges and state agencies offer programs. Corporations are beginning to consider student loan repayment as an employee benefit. It helps with your repayment planning to know that this assistance is available in your career. 

What are the key factors when applying for private sector funds?

Start early. Once you have found sources to pursue, be organized. Make sure that you do qualify for the initial criteria. Do not apply for a scholarship for which you know you don't qualify.

Ask counselors, friends and previous bosses to write letters of reference for you.

Write a resume. Make sure you include all aspects of your life... school, work, community service, sports, clubs, etc. Be sure to include anything that may be exceptional about yourself and your accomplishments. Your parents may belong toad certain organization that offers scholarships. If there are extenuating family circumstances, write an explanation. Some students have to work a lot to help with family finances. Take time to be neat, accurate and creative.

Once you have mailed the application packet to the sponsoring agency, follow up with a phone call or note verifying its arrival. Don't assume anything.

Use a tracking chart to make sure that you have submitted all applications (signed and dated!) as well as all additional required documents.