Scholarship Strategy


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     First the bad news. In my experience, there is not a scholarship out there for everyone. The good news though, is that there are lots of scholarships out there, and you (or your child) may qualify for one or more.  First I'll describe the general types of portable (scholarships you can take to any institution) scholarships.

     Many scholarships will fit a tiny slice of the overall population. For example, many will be based on a particular disability. Others might be reserved for those who had committed "an heroic act." One might be for students who plan to study mortuary science. I know of one that is only available to students of Croatian descent.

     This kind of specific focus, which tends to rule out a large percentage of the population, is common with scholarships. While it may work against the "average" student, it may be helpful to you. Is there some way in which you stand out? If so, there may be a scholarship waiting for you!

     There are many scholarships that are based on outstanding performance in academics, athletics, or areas such as music, theater, art, etc. To earn a scholarship in these areas, you would most likely have to be truly exceptional. You never know for sure, but in these categories you’ll probably have to be in the top 1-5% of your peers to have a decent shot.

     There are also many scholarships that are based on a combination of factors. A common description might be "academics, activities, and leadership." For these scholarships, a student might not have to excel to the extreme in any one area, but might have to rank in the top 10-20% of their peers in EVERY area, and be outstanding in one area.

     One issue that comes up more and more often in the scholarships I see is community service. It is not used often as the sole criteria for awarding money, but it is often used as a required part of the total picture. While it may not be practical for every student to do volunteer work, this may be worth considering for those who are "on the fence" about whether or not to do some volunteer work.

     The last category of "portable" scholarship I’ll mention is the essay contest. Please note that many of the scholarships previously mentioned may include essays. What sets essay scholarships apart is that they are awarded based solely on the essays involved. What this means in practical terms is that the student who barely graduates, and ranks absolutely last in his/her class can compete for this scholarship on an equal footing with the class valedictorian.

     For any student who is not in the top 10% of his/her class, or exceptional in some other way that is well matched to the particular scholarship, the essay scholarship often offers the most chance of success. Once again, you will find a great resource for helping you to write your essays at Essay Edge.

     Next we’ll take a look at scholarships that are awarded to you from a particular institution for use only at that institution. There are two broad categories worth noting.

     The first category is one in which the institution, or some part of it, has decided to encourage a particular type of applicant. One of the best examples I can think of is Washington College, which is located in Maryland. Washington offers a scholarship of $10,000 per year to every National Honor Society member they admit. There is no special application, and no interview committee to satisfy. Clearly Washington College wants the type of student found in the NHS, and they are willing to cough up some serious cash to get them.

     The second category is where someone in the institution wants a particular student because of something that particular student has to offer. It could be a star athlete, an exceptionally talented musician, or a writer with great promise. In any case, someone at the institution will have to convince someone in financial aid that the particular student in question is worth some special consideration.

     If you have some skill or talent that might be sought to this degree, that "someone" who pulls the strings may recruit you. If not, you may want to seek them out and ask for their help with financial aid.

     Students who want athletic scholarships will want to pay close attention to their grades, especially in their core courses. Failure to take the right classes and get the right grades, in combination with SAT scores, can make a student absolutely ineligible for athletic scholarships. For more information, visit NCAA Publications and the NCAA Initial-Eligibility Clearinghouse.


pDon't forget to "think local!

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