Funding a college savings plan is one of the best ways to invest in your student’s academic success. Yet even if you’ve saved diligently, rising educational costs mean that your student may still need additional funding options to complete their studies. These might include student loans, grants or scholarships.
Receiving a scholarship is a useful addition to your teen’s resume, but more importantly, can help limit student debt and save valuable dollars. Here’s how to find (and hopefully win) scholarships at the undergraduate and graduate level.
Scholarships are based on a variety of criteria e.g., academic performance, gender, field of study, and more. Awards typically cover one year of study, and range from a one-time award of several hundred dollars to a full scholarship covering all tuition costs.
When to Find Scholarships
• Plan ahead, as application deadlines are often the end of the preceding calendar year.
• Some scholarships are awarded as early as middle school. However, most students start researching in junior and senior years of high school. Knowing where and what they want to study can help your teen identify suitable scholarship opportunities.
• Some experts recommend applying as soon as a scholarship opportunity opens, to stand out from other submissions.
Where to Find Scholarships
• Don’t pay for scholarship searches, as there are plenty of free apps and websites available.
• Most colleges offer their own scholarships, so start with the college’s financial aid office, or your teen’s high school career center.
• Scholarships are also offered by government agencies, professional associations, corporations, community groups, and others.
Scholarship Tips for Undergraduates
• There are more scholarships for college freshmen, but even if your child’s already in college, scholarship options exist.
• Don’t ignore smaller scholarships e.g., community-based groups often award a larger number of small scholarships. Smaller scholarships can be less competitive, with fewer applicants, and when pooled, can quickly add up.
• See Scholarship Resources below.
Scholarship Tips for Graduates
• First, evaluate the numbers to confirm that future salary and career objectives will be rewarding enough to warrant the effort and cost of graduate study.
• Unfortunately, fewer graduate scholarships exist. Use the same resources as undergraduate scholarships to find opportunities, or get creative with non-scholarship funding:
o Employers may offer financial assistance, especially if the graduate study is work-related. However, there may be conditions attached e.g., maintaining a certain GPA, or staying at the firm for a set length of time. Furthermore, students typically have to pay upfront, then seek reimbursement.
o Some colleges offer fellowships or assistantships to doctoral candidates, waiving a portion of study costs in exchange for research or teaching assistance.
o Financially independent graduates should complete the FAFSA to qualify for needs-based aid.
o If eligible, the Lifetime Learning Tax Credit provides a tax deduction of up to $2,000. o Low interest Perkins loans offer up to $8,000 annually, capped at $60,000 (undergraduate and graduate debt combined).
o Certain careers may qualify for adjusted rate loans or loan forgiveness e.g., teaching or non-profit work.
How to Apply for a Scholarship
• Check eligibility – There’s little point preparing the perfect scholarship application if you don’t meet the criteria.
• Read the instructions – Every scholarship asks for core information, but many also specify submission details like font size or word count. Not complying means your application won’t make the best impression, and might not even be considered at all.
• Request additional information.
• Include supporting documents – Examples include academic record or proof of finances.
• Choose references wisely – Some scholarships require references. Confirm with each person in advance that they’re prepared to act as a referee, then explain what you’re applying for and the points you would appreciate being highlight regarding your relevant skills, studies, and talents.
• Beat the deadline – Late applications are rarely accepted, so allow some extra time.
• Keep track – A spreadsheet or running list helps track deadlines and avoid confusion.
Many colleges and universities offer tuition assistance to employees and/or family members. Benefits sometimes extend to affiliate universities. Obtaining employment as a student or parent could generate financial benefits far beyond a traditional salary or paycheck.
• Congratulations! The acceptance notification should outline what happens next. A check may be mailed to the student, or directly to the college, to be applied against tuition costs. Any leftover funds are returned to the student.
• A scholarship impacts eligibility for other student aid, so update the college’s financial aid office.
• Even if your student isn’t successful straight away, encourage them to keep trying. New scholarships become available throughout the year.
• Your teen should also research student discounts. While these won’t pay tuition costs, they can help stretch the dollars e.g., stores and restaurants may offer student discounts, along with tech firms like Apple, Microsoft and Dell, and even some insurance companies.
https://bigfuture.collegeboard.org/scholarship-search – the College Board’s scholarship aggregator.
https://www.careeronestop.org/toolkit/training/find-scholarships.aspx – this government site lists funding opportunities for high school through professional development level, arranged by deadline.
https://www.collegenet.com/elect/app/app – includes a social networking platform for students, with weekly votes to win scholarships.
https://www.fastweb.com/ – offers weekly and monthly scholarship giveaways.
https://scholarshipowl.com/ – like the Common App college applications, this site uses one form for multiple scholarship applications.
https://www.scholarships.com/about-us/ – one of the largest sites, updated daily.
https://myscholly.com/ – includes winning essays to inspire successful applications
https://www.unigo.com/scholarships/undergraduate-students – offers excellent search capabilities to define criteria and narrow down options.
Is saving for college a family priority? SageVest Kids is the family-oriented branch of SageVest Wealth Management, a top-ranked wealth manager in the DC Metro area. Contact SageVest to discuss how we can help support future financial objectives for you and your loved ones.