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An Introduction to College Scholarships

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Thinking about college is an exciting time in your life, whether you are a high school senior or a non-traditional student contemplating your choices. For many, the cost of tuition can seem like an obstacle, but it does not have to be. If you are not a stellar student, that's okay; there are so many college scholarships available for people of all lifestyles and occupations - single parents, good students, average students, minorities, and more! Do not let the prospect of paying for school scare you; there are literally thousands of organizations waiting for someone just like you to apply. Use the resources on this website to help you find money for college and start your new life.

There is so much to do for college preparation. High school seniors must juggle between finishing school while preparing for a whole new world, and older people must balance work and studies. We can help you! Choosing a school, a major, and figuring out how to pay for it should be your main priorities.

Not only will you discover the various types of school money that is out there, but you might also pick up some useful advice along the way. College should not be a huge mystery; therefore prepare yourself well ahead of time so that you can focus on achieving your goals. Friends and family have well-meaning advice, but we are authorities on college life and finding money to pay for it.

All the types of financial aid can sound intimidating, but they are meant to help you in your quest to reach your dreams. Check out the links on this site to find out about different types of funding and to learn how you can explore the campus hallways with new friends!

Types of College Scholarships

There is a dizzying array of scholarships available for different types of people - for athletes, scholars, scholar-athletes, mothers, African-Americans, Hispanics, Asians, and returning students. There are opportunities for people who want to study engineering, humanities, health sciences, and everything in between. Sometimes alumni of a particular school will pool their resources to create a specialized scholarship for a student just like themselves!

Private colleges/universities usually have several scholarships created by alumni organizations. The criteria they use could be almost anything, so do not overlook them. You might be exactly the person they are seeking to help.

Most people have heard of athletic scholarships, because they are so prominent with professional sports teams. Obtaining one of these scholarships is highly coveted and desirable, because it often means the student can get their education completely paid for with just one check. Obviously, an individual has to have excellent athletic skills to qualify.

Academic scholarships are another popular form of funding. These often go to students who have high grade point averages (GPAs) or who want to study a certain subject in college. You do not need to be Einstein to get one of these, but you do need to demonstrate some proficiency in at least one academic subject.

Corporations are another source of money for tuition. Many companies will offer money to students who meet certain guidelines, whether it's academic- or lifestyle-related. This website can point you in the right direction if you want to try to get some of this corporate money. In addition, getting a corporate scholarship might make you a more attractive candidate to the company if you want to work for it after graduation.

Finally, private organizations offer money to people in need. Look around this site for more information about how to apply to these groups and what you need to provide for them.

College Cost Facts

It is a fact that college is getting more and more expensive. In the old days, only wealthy people could attend schools of higher education. Now, every American should have the ability to find funding for school. As of 2009, over 70 percent of high school seniors attend colleges or universities, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Getting an education should be a top priority in your life, whether you are just graduating or have been in the working force for a few years now. There is no better time to return to school than right now, so make the decision to take control of your life today!

Did you know that tuition is steadily rising each year? Maybe you have heard from your teachers that state schools are losing government funding. Tuition has been rising right along with other commodities, like food and gas. State-run public schools are raising rates by about $500 each year. Private schools are also raising rates, on the average of $1,111 every year. Two-year junior colleges have been affected, as well - their rates have been raised about $155 in the 2009-2010 year. This makes finding college scholarships even more important.

When you factor in the cost of room and board, food and school fees, you might be shocked at the total tuition number. On average, the cost of a public four-year school is $28,103 as of 2009-2010. Private schools cost about $10,000 more than that on the average.

Financial aid, however, has risen right along with tuition. This is great news for you, because more aid than ever is available right at your fingertips. The only work you need to do is to search for this aid and fill out the necessary applications. Do not be discouraged if you aren't a straight-A student, because there are different types of offerings for different types of people.

Colleges and universities in the U.S. have a financial aid office that helps students pay for their schooling. The office is staffed with people who can figure out exactly how much money you need to pay them and how you can get that money. The FAFSA, which is a free financial aid application, will show you how much loan money you can get. It looks at (and verifies) your income, your parents' income, and your yearly expenses, so be truthful when you fill it out.

Scholarship Help

There is so much scholarship information on the Internet and at your library that you are probably completely overwhelmed right now! Searching for scholarships is only one piece of the college puzzle, but a very important one at that. If you are able to get aid for your education, then you can focus on more important matters, such as passing your exams.

Going to college is an important step. It can help you get a good job or allow you to travel and meet new people you might otherwise never encounter. Every individual should have the opportunity to attend college if he wants to go.

Some scholarships are a one-time payment that might cover a portion or all of your tuition. Others require the student to maintain a certain GPA throughout college. This website can help you sort through the different types of money available.

Loans are an option for anyone, but of course you need to pay these back over time. Scholarships, on the other hand, are "gifts" that require no repayment. Companies, organizations, or individuals may decide to set up a fund for needy students who fit a certain set of criteria. You might be the perfect fit for one of these!

Grants are another type of scholarship, but they are usually government-related. There are several types of federal grants for people who are thinking about going back to college or who simply do not make enough money at their jobs. Whatever your situation, you might qualify for one of these grants.

Browse around the website to see how you might qualify for a scholarship, grant, or loan for your education. There is no guarantee that you will get scholarship money, but you never know unless you try! Start now and secure your future at the school of your choice.

Judging the Scholarship Application

The scholarship application is an extremely important part of the college puzzle. Along with the actual college application, nothing provokes more anxiety than the scholarship application. Many people think that filling out one of these is a big mystery because each one is unique, and so are the judges that read the scholarship applications. While there are variations among each type of application, there are some basic principles that an applicant should follow.

Most judges will go through the selection process in a similar manner. They make three piles: accept, deny, and maybe. The deny pile is invariably much larger than the accept pile! It can be hard for an applicant to know his or her chances of winning a scholarship, because there is no way to find out how many people are applying for the same one. National or international scholarships usually get thousands of applications; hence the competition is steeper than for a small, private college scholarship. Judges must work quickly to separate the "good" applications from the unacceptable ones.

How can you be sure that your application lands in the accept or maybe piles and not the trash can? First, you should always triple-check your application for completeness, correct spelling, and good grammar. Ask a parent, teacher, or friend to proofread your application and give you pointers.

Read the instructions on the application very carefully, and follow the directions exactly as they are written. If the application calls for three letters of recommendation, do not supply two or four letters. Type out the scholarship application if you can. It looks neater and more professional than a hand-written one.

Find out what type of applicant for whom the judges are looking. Do they want someone who has a high GPA? If so, highlight your academic accomplishments and awards. If they want someone who has overcome hardship, then write an essay demonstrating your life experience. Always give the judges exactly what they are requesting.

Another tip is to make sure your application stands out. Do not merely reiterate your class schedule and charity works. Instead, add a personal touch that will make the judges remember you over others. This is easiest to do if you can write an essay. Let the judges know the "real you" and not just a 2 dimensional version.

Personal Assessment

The first step you should take before searching for college scholarships is to take a "personal assessment." This is a thorough inventory of your unique personal characteristics, strengths, and goals. You already know that there are different types of offerings for people of every background; therefore, it's important to see how many of them for which you can qualify. You would be doing a huge disservice to yourself if you did not apply for because you "forgot" about searching for those based upon religion, hobby, background, or other qualifier.

Make a brainstorm list of the groups to which you belong, where you want to go to school, your ethnic background, and your parents' workplace. Look at the checklist below to start getting an idea of the type of information you need to write down:

  1. Your ethnic background
  2. Your religion
  3. Parents' workplace
  4. Your workplace
  5. Intended major
  6. Hobbies
  7. Groups to which you belong
  8. Volunteer work
  9. Sexual orientation
  10. Adoption/foster child status
  11. Whether you have children
  12. Work experience
  13. Clubs
  14. Disabilities
  15. Special skills and talents
  16. Leadership roles
  17. Awards
  18. Athletic ability/experience
  19. Parents' educational attainment
  20. GPA

This list contains information used by many panels to determine who will win an award. It can also help you organize your search when it comes to scholarships. If you did not realize that you were eligible for so many, this list should have clarified that now!

After you have written out your answers to the 20 descriptors above, try to answer the next few questions. Think about your responses very carefully and answer honestly, since many of these questions are found on scholarship applications:

  1. Describe yourself in one paragraph.
  2. Ask your friends, parents, and teachers to describe you. Compare the answers and see in what areas they matched and did not match.
  3. What is one important event that has occurred in your life? Why was it important?
  4. What accomplishments are you most proud of?
  5. What are your strengths and weaknesses?
  6. Why do you want to attend a college or university?
  7. What are your goals in life?
  8. What are your favorite subjects in school, and why?
  9. Describe your extracurricular activities and/or volunteer work.
  10. Have you overcome any obstacles in your life? What were they?

Ask a parent or teacher to read your answers to these questions. Ask them if the answers "sound like you." If not, you are trying too hard to be someone else. Revise your answers and be honest. Your answers to the questions should elicit a reaction from the reader, whether it is a tear or a chuckle. This alone is half the battle!

Undergraduate and Graduate Exam Help

Before you can think about applying for aid, you should look at the testing requirements. Virtually everyone who wants to attend college needs to take either the ACT or the SAT. Potential graduate students must take the GRE, the GMAT, the MCAT or the LSAT. Each test is for a different type of graduate school. Scoring high on one of these tests is vital to winning many scholarships, so it is in your best interest to study hard for the exam and get lots of sleep the night before the test!

ACT

The ACT is well known to many high school students around the country. Many students spend hundreds of dollars and hours of study time preparing for this very important exam. It covers the topics of math, English, reading, science reasoning, and has a writing portion. The highest score anyone can get is 36 (and the lowest score is 1). Aid based on academic performance always want to see the applicant's ACT or SAT score.

SAT

The SAT is usually given to high school juniors and seniors. It has been intimidating students for over 100 years, but it has also undergone many changes through the years. The exam is lengthy, over three hours long, and tests students on the subjects of critical reading, math, and writing. The highest score someone can get is 2400, and the lowest score is 600. Some scholarship applications require the SAT score, while others will take an ACT score instead.

GRE

The Graduate Record Examination (GRE) is used by graduate schools and scholarship committees. A college senior or recent graduate might need to take the GRE if he wants to attend a liberal arts graduate school. It tests quantitative and verbal reasoning, writing skills, and critical thinking skills.

GMAT

The Graduate Management Admission Test (GMAT) is for students who want to attend a business school after college. It covers the topics of verbal skills, math skills, and analytic skills. Anyone who wants to excel on this test should brush up on his or her math skills.

MCAT

The Medical College Admission Test (MCAT) is for those who wish to go to medical school. The exam is very vigorous and tests a variety of skills. If you want to take this exam, you should understand scientific principles and medical facts.

LSAT

The Law School Admission Test (LSAT) is for students who want to go to law school. It assesses a student's logical and verbal reasoning ability. American law schools always require the LSAT score for admissions purposes, and committees also need to see the score.

Scholarship Opportunities

Students today are so lucky to have the Internet as a search tool. Not too long ago, people had to rely on guidance counselors and libraries to get the information on their awards. No longer! Now, we can simply open a browser, type in a few keywords, and even submit applications online. It couldn't be any simpler. This site can help you in your search for school money, but it's not the only place you can look.

Guidance Counselors

Although search engines are great for starting your search, do not let it be your only resource! Talk with your high school guidance counselor to get some advice about applying. They are in close contact with colleges and universities and know how the admission process works. Guidance counselors are also a good resource for local aid that may not be published online.

Non-profit Organizations

Make a list of the non-profit groups in your area. Local students may be eligible for aid from these organizations. Visit each group's website and/or speak with an employee to find out if they offer money for school.

Employer

If you currently work, ask your employer if the company offers scholarships. Larger organizations usually offer some sort of incentive for their employees to go to college. If your boss doesn't know, contact the Human Resources Department for more information. If you do not currently work, your parents' employers might offer aid for the children of employees.

Library

Your library might also be a good source for local scholarships. Ask your librarian for more information and visit the library's website. They might have a directory for students to search. Your school library and city library are both great resources. Moreover, many public colleges allow anyone to use their resources.

You might realize by now that searching for aid is a lengthy process. Plan to spend a few dozen hours of time searching for and applying. The more applications you send in, the better your chances of winning one!

Preparing the Application

Some people think that filling out applications is drudgery. You are writing down the same information repeatedly. It's just a fact that there is no single "generic" application. Each application has its own set of requirements, so be sure to read the instructions carefully. Most college scholarships, however, require an essay that you can use for several other applications. Plan to spend many hours preparing your applications, typing out your answers, and mailing each one.

One way to make the application process go faster is to make several copies of frequently requested items, such as transcripts, diplomas, and test scores. Get letters of recommendation from several people and make copies of each one. Type out a resume and make sure it looks perfect. Print out more than you need to use for networking or employment purposes. File these documents in a filing box, folder, or drawer.

If you are currently in school, start saving your essays to use for your applications. You never know what type of questions the applications might ask you to answer! You can also use your own essays as a form of reference when you are ready to write your essays.

Having a cover letter on hand is a great way to make your application stand out from the crowd, although many applications will not ask for one. Format it appropriately on the computer and figure out to whom you should address it for each application. If you need to, make a phone call to the committee to find out the name of the person (or people) who will read your application. Using the generic title "Sir" or "Madam" is too formal and anonymous. Mention the name of the scholarship for which you are applying, why you should win it, and any other relevant information in the cover letter. Always express your gratitude and excitement at the prospect of winning the award. Get someone else to read the cover letter and to proofread it. Finally, print it out and sign it with a pen.

Before you send out an application, make a photocopy of it and save it for your records. It will help you stay organized, and you will be able to use the information on other applications.

Evaluating Opportunities

With so many opportunities from which to choose, it can be hard to evaluate all of them. You do not have an endless amount of time to sort through each one! So how should you go about picking out only the best awards that you have a good chance of obtaining?

One simple way to sort the opportunities is to rank each one with a number from one through six, where 1 represents a poor possible scholarship and 6 a very good one that you have a high chance of winning. For example, a national award with vague criteria should be given a lower number because the chances that you might win it are slim. A specific award that fits your description perfectly, on the other hand, should be given a high number and high priority. For this reason, the smaller, regional awards should get a high number and all national or international ones should get a lower ranking.

Look at the number of awards a single scholarship is giving out. If there is only one award, rank it lower than one that offers several awards. Focus on the ones that offer at least $1,000 and rank them higher than those that only offer a few hundred dollars.

Once you have your pile of highly ranked scholarships, sort through them by deadline. Prioritize the ones that have a quickly approaching deadline first. Use a spreadsheet to organize the list of all the awards by priority. This will help you get through the list faster, since you can just check each one off as you send it in.

Then, apply first to all the scholarships with a high ranking. Take your time to fill out the forms correctly and make sure they are checked for grammar. If you have time left over, apply to the lower ranked ones. Most of them time, applications ask for the same documents repeatedly - resume, transcript, essay, and letter of recommendation. Since you already printed these out (you did, right?), you should be able to fold everything into an envelope and send it out quickly.

Type out the labels for the envelopes so that it looks more professional, and do not add anything extra to the application (such as a photograph) if the application does not specifically ask for it. It might actually annoy a judging committee - a big mistake!

The Essay

The essay is by far the most important aspect of an application. If a student has mediocre or poor grades, a stellar essay can overcome these barriers. An essay should be personal, moving, emotional (if possible), and honest. Many students think that they are not good writers, so they use that as an excuse to submit a poor essay. You do not have to have an "A" in English class to write up a thoughtful, unique essay that wins awards.

Many people will let their own fear and sense of intimidation talk them into quitting before starting. It can be difficult to talk about yourself to a complete stranger, but the best way to approach a question is to answer it as if you are speaking to a friend. The tone then creates a sense of intimacy between the reader and the writer. There is nothing an essay judge hates more than a boring composition.

The fact that you have completed at least 11 or 12 years of schooling is evident enough that you can write well enough for an essay contest. That should alleviate some of your anxiety right now! Next, know that most people will shrug off the essay and turn in a paper that is full of spelling and grammatical errors. That eliminates at least half of your competition right there.

Before you touch your fingers to a keyboard, start by examining the essay question and scholarship panel. Who is asking the question? Why do they want to know the answer? If you don't know, do some research on the members of the committee and find out their history. Discover why they offer award money in the first place. What kind of student do they want to help? Write down your thoughts to these questions on a blank piece of paper. This is called brainstorming.

Next, break the question down into parts. How many questions does it really contain? A question such as, "Who has had the greatest impact on your life and why?" actually contains several questions that you can answer.

Look at the question from an analytical standpoint. How many words are you required to write? Do you need to do any research to answer it, or is it straight from the heart?

Finally, it's time to examine you. You might be the valedictorian of your school. Everyone knows that, and it's on your transcript. However, does anyone know that you volunteer at an animal shelter or that you grew up a foster child or that you feed the homeless on weekends? These little things make you unique, so show them off in your essay!

Essay Tips

After analyzing the application question, your next step is to create a clear outline of how you want to set up your essay. Find a way to relate the essay to the award itself. For example, if it is named after a person who was a community leader, then demonstrate your leadership skills in the composition.

Come up with an overall theme for the essay. What do you want the judges to learn from your paper? They should walk away with a clear understanding of what you are saying.

Type an outline of how you want your essay to flow. Start with an introduction and then a thesis statement. Your paragraphs should support and elaborate upon that thesis statement. Finally, end with a conclusion that sums up your thoughts and leaves the judges with a good feeling.

Always use positive language, never negative language. Even if you are describing a bad situation that happened in your life, have a positive attitude and explain how you overcame your obstacles. Judges want to reward someone who is tenacious, hardworking, and can work through any problem.

Show that you are a well-rounded person or are someone that has an intense focus. If you seem to lack experience in one or two areas, can you make up for it in other areas? If you were not an athlete in school, then show how you were a chemistry whiz (and vice versa). Judges know that not everyone is perfect in everything, but show that you have a variety of interests and a special skill set that sets you apart.

Add little details wherever you can in the paper. For example, do not just write, "I spent my summers in Maine." Instead, write something like, "Every summer, I would travel to the wilds of Northern Maine, where I basked in the beauty of Mount Katahdin and the Penobscot Lake." Paint a vivid picture for your reader at every opportunity.

Use the present tense in your paper if you want to add excitement. Even if you are discussing an event that took place a while ago, write the paper as if you are reliving the moment.

Weave in your love of learning throughout the essay. You should show the judges how excited you are at the prospect of continuing your education and learning more in college. They want someone who will earn a degree, not drop out due to boredom or over-partying!

Letters of Recommendation

Most scholarships require a few letters of recommendation. These are letters written by someone who knows you well, whether it's a teacher, religious authority, or community leader. The letter should describe your personal characteristics and recommend you to go to college. It should be written by someone that knows you very well.

Students usually think that the more prominent the recommender, the more impressive it looks to the judges. This type of thinking, however, is erroneous. Most judges do not care if you get a letter from your favorite teacher or a senator. As long as the letter has a favorable tone, you are in the clear! Judges are not going to be impressed if you get a letter from a political figure or prominent individual who does not even know you.

The best types of people from whom to get a letter of recommendation include teachers, coaches, community leaders who know you, and employers. They should be able to type up a coherent, respectable letter that sings your praises. To make it easier on them, give them a letterhead, stamped envelope, and a brief description of what you would like the letter to say. Also, give them a copy of your transcript, a list of your hobbies and activities, and a resume if you have work experience. They may or may not take your advice, but it cannot hurt to ask.

Ask the people to write a letter for you at least a month in advance of when you need it. This will give them plenty of time to write a long, thoughtful missive rather than a hastily typed out letter. Remind them every week or so to write your letter in case they lead very busy lives.

You can start gathering letters of recommendation even before you start your search. It will give you time to pick out the best letters (if they let you read them). Most awards ask for letters from teachers or someone in power that knows you personally. File these letters in three-ring binders in case you ever want to use them for employment purposes or to scan onto your personal website.

Always write a short note or send a thank you letter to your writer. Just let them know how much you appreciate their help and that you will stay in touch regarding the award. A little gratitude goes a long way.

The Interview

The interview is one of the most nerve-wracking aspects of applying for scholarships. Most will not require an interview, but some will. If you have reached the interview process, then you should know that you are a strong contender to win the award. The judges were impressed enough with your resume, essay, transcript, and letters of recommendation to take the time to interview you.

Although you might have no idea what the judges will ask you, you can at least take the time to prepare answers to some basic questions in case they pop up during the interview.

  1. Name your strengths and weaknesses
  2. What are your long-term goals?
  3. What would you do with the money?
  4. Who do you admire the most and why?
  5. What do you want to do after college?

If you sit down and type out some answers to these questions, you have won half the battle. Judges will ask you questions about yourself, so you should be able to articulate your answers quickly during the interview. Practice reading your answers in a mirror and then practice without the answers. Have a friend or relative ask you the questions and grade you on your responses.

Before you depart for your interview, map out the directions and give yourself plenty of time to get there. Plan to arrive at least 15 minutes early. There might be traffic or some other issue that will delay you, so plan accordingly. Lay out your outfit the night before so that you can quickly get dressed and out the door.

If you are not sure what you should wear to the interview, a "business casual" outfit might be sufficient. For boys, that means a button-down shirt, belt, dress shoes, and slacks. Women should wear a button-down blouse and dress pants or a skirt. Your outfit should be conservative enough to wear to a church. Avoid wearing jewelry, unless it is a simple pair of earrings or a watch. You want the judges to focus on your answers, not your jewelry or your outfit.

Right before you walk into the interview, head to the bathroom. Use the facilities and check your hair and outfit. Spray some breath freshener in your mouth if you need it. Finally, take a deep breath, gather up your documents, and head into the interview with a smile.

Renewal

Just because you are awarded aid money does not necessarily mean that you are set for your college years. Many will require the recipient to maintain a certain GPA or athletic ability in order to keep receiving the aid. This means you need to continue excelling in order to get that money!

Find out if you have received aid that is renewable or just a "one-time gift." Learn about the requirements that you must maintain in order to keep it. You might have to send in an application every semester or year in order to re-qualify. Keep copies of your transcripts and other necessary documentation for the renewal application.

Athletic

These types of scholarships usually require the recipient to continue playing the sport in college and to perform well. Find out what happens if you get injured on the field or cannot play anymore (for whatever reason). Some simply end if the student stops playing, while others require the student to pay them back!

Major-Based

If you get a scholarship because you plan to study a particular area, you must continue to get a degree in that field. If you suddenly chance majors, you will probably lose your eligibility, but it might make you eligible for a different award.

Merit-Based

These require the student to maintain a high GPA. Find out what the requirement GPA is so that you can maintain your grades. Getting a lower grade in a course might force you to give up the money.

Renewal Process

Mark the important renewal deadlines on a calendar or program it into your cell phone, computer, or PDA. Make sure you have the documents you need to prove your eligibility. When you mail documents, always get a tracking number and make copies to be sure the committee received your application.

Maintaining Your Awards

Once you have earned your award, it is now up to you to keep it for the remainder of your college years. Unbelievably, many students simply forget to renew their scholarships, which means they lose them. Without money, they are forced to drop out of school. Others fail to keep their grades up or otherwise fail to meet the requirements. Do not let this happen to you! Keep your records organized and stay on top of deadlines to make the most of your college money.

Money Available for Business School

If you are planning to go to business school (also called "B School"), then there are several national scholarships for which you might be eligible. Business school is usually a 1- or 2-year program that you attend after getting a four-year degree, but you can also major in business as an undergrad student. Someone who has a Master's in Business Administration (MBA) can take management positions at many major companies around the world. You can also specialize in a particular field, such as management, real estate, finance, or accounting.

Look at the list below to get an idea of which organizations offer scholarships:

  • Institute of Management Accountants
  • National Association for the Self-Employed
  • Association of School Business Officials
  • Business and Professional Women's Foundation
  • Government Finance Officers Association
  • National Black MBA Association
  • American Accounting Association
  • American Marketing Association
  • American Women's Society of Certified Public Accountants

Local Groups

Call your Chamber of Commerce, high school guidance counselor, and the colleges that you want to attend for more information on local scholarships. Many colleges have business school scholarships for people majoring in a business topic or getting a graduate degree within the business school. Some awards offered through a department are only available to incoming freshmen or graduate students, while others are strictly for people who have already spent a semester in the school.

Employer

Check with your employer to see if they offer B-School scholarships. Companies like to hire from within and will sometimes pay for one of their employees to get a management or business degree. Ask your parents if their employers offer anything similar. The military also offers money for college.

Non-profit Organizations

Non-profit groups are known to offer money for business school students. Groups such as Kiwanis, 4-H Club, Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts of America, Lions and Rotary Club, and the Jaycees can help you with funding.

Social Groups

If you are currently in an undergraduate program in college, join a fraternity or sorority so that you can take advantage of scholarship opportunities for business school.

It is always better to start searching for B-School offers within your community and social network first. National awards are worthy, but they are more difficult to obtain. Your local church, fraternity or sorority, and employer are all excellent resources when you are looking for business school money.

Scholarships by Area of Study

Did you know that you could search for scholarships based on the subject you want to study in school? It does not matter if you want to study education, nursing, or engineering - there is an award out there for you. Moreover, many of these look great on your resume after you graduate. Having a scholarship listed on your resume might help you land a prestigious job or internship, so apply to as many of them as possible.

There are many private groups and companies that seek to advance the education of their employees by sending them to school to get a first or second college degree. It helps the companies retain a good employee. If you currently work part-time or full-time, it is worth checking into your company's opportunities. If you work for a restaurant but want to study management, see if they will fund your business school aspirations. Sometimes the scholarships are only for people who want to study a business topic, but not always. In order to raise your chances of getting aid based on your major, work for a business that you might want to work at after you get your degree. If you explain your ambitions and express your enthusiasm for working at the company down the road, they may offer to help you pay for school.

Government Scholarships

Public scholarships are funded by the government. They are highly competitive because so many people are eligible for them. Getting a government grant to study a particular subject is very prestigious. They are offered at the undergraduate and graduate level. The number of these, however, is limited due to the tight federal budget.

Start searching for major-based aid as early as possible to get ahead of the competition. Figure out the deadlines and apply accordingly for the following scholarhips:

  • Engineering
  • Business School
  • Law School
  • Education/Teaching

These are just a few of the different subjects that have exclusive scholarships for people wishing to enter the field. Visit the financial aid offices of the schools you want to attend to see if they also offer major-based scholarships.

Engineering Scholarships

If you want to get an engineering degree, several national scholarships can help you achieve your goal. Electrical engineering, mechanical engineering, and computer science all fall under the category of "engineering." Some of these are for minorities, while others are based on grades. Some are a mixture of both. Sort through the offers that you might be eligible for and then start applying!

NACME Pre-Engineering Student Scholarship

This scholarship is for minority ethnic high school seniors who have at least a 2.8 GPA and want to go to an engineering school. The award is up to $1,500 and is restricted to American citizens who need financial assistance.

Society for Women Engineers Scholarship

Women who want to major in engineering are encouraged to apply for this one. The award level ranges up to $10,000 for a single student. Applicants must be U.S. citizens, attend college full time, and have at least a 3.5 GPA.

Emerging Leaders in Engineering

This particular offer gives awards up to $5,000 per student. You need to have an excellent academic record, leadership potential, and have engineering aspirations.

AES Engineering Scholarship

This one is essay-based, so check out their website for more information. The essay has to be at least 1,000 words in length about a particular question. Students are awarded $500 for a winning essay.

Engineering Scholarship for Minority Students

General Motors collaborated with the League of United Latin American Citizens to fund this scholarship, which is reserved for minority students who are currently enrolled in college. You need a 3.2 GPA to win this award.

HP Scholar Program

HP, the company that manufactures computers and computer peripherals, offers $12,000 to people who want to work with computers or major in Electrical Engineering. This is reserved for ethnic minorities.

There are dozens more engineering awards for different minority groups and good students, but you can start by browsing this webpage. Read the descriptions for each one very carefully, since many of them have very specific requirements.

Scholarships for Health Professionals

There is no doubt that the health field is a growing attraction for thousands of young people in the United States. The aging baby boomer population combined with an increased population of children means that there are literally thousands of available jobs in the healthcare field today. There is good potential to make a lot of money in this field, whether you want to work in nursing or in the technical sector. As long as you have a health license and training of some sort, you should be able to find a job quickly. Paying for school, however, is the first step!

Scholarships in the health professions range from nursing grants to full-ride medical school offers. There are quite a few in this field, so research carefully to find the ones that apply to you.

F. Edward Hebert Health Professions Scholarship

This is one of the biggest and best-known scholarships for the healthcare field. Students who are lucky enough to win an award will get 100% of their tuition covered. This is only for graduate students who are going to attend a medical school of some kind. Applicants must be U.S. citizens planning to enroll in medical school full time. You must agree to work for several years for the Army Reserve after graduation. Since medical school is so expensive, this award will really help you out! In addition, you will be commissioned as an officer upon graduation.

CampusRN Scholarship

This website offers several awards of $2,500 for students around the country. The application is simple, consisting of basic information, GPA, and an essay. These awards go to potential nursing students only.

HOSA Scholarships

These awards go to people who are members of the Health Occupations Students of America. The amount of money goes up to $7,000 for qualified individuals who are considering a career in the health sciences.

Miriam Fay Furlong Grant

Anyone who is a member of Alpha Tau Delta and is a junior or senior with a nursing major can apply for this grant. Award amounts range from $100 to $1,000.

AQHF Nursing Scholarship

The American Quarter Horse Foundation Scholarship is awarded to a nursing student who has been an AQHF member for at least a year. The student wins $10,000, which is good for all four years of college.

Scholarships for Law School

Everyone knows that law school is very expensive. Paying for law school can cost an exorbitant amount, but you might be able to get some scholarships and grants to help you pay for it. Most law school aid is given based upon grades, but there are some that are strictly for people who need financial assistance or who are specializing in a particular area of law. Several law firms also offer awards to students who are doing very well academically in law school. These are very highly regarded, because not only is law school paid for, but also the student has a guaranteed job after graduation!

The American Intellectual Property Law Foundation

This offer gives two awards per year for people who want to study intellectual property law. Each student receives $10,000.

The William H. Gates Public Service Law Scholarship

This award goes to only five students of the University of Washington law school. You must be in your first year of law school to receive this award. The lucky recipients receive a full-ride for the duration of their law school education, but they must serve the public for five years after graduation.

Scholarships for Minorities

If you are a member of a minority group, such as African-American, Hispanic, or American Indian, you may be eligible for the American Bar Association Fund for Justice and Education scholarship. It gives $5,000 to a minority student who wants to go to law school and needs help paying for it.

The Women's Section of the Contra Costa Bar Association Scholarship

Two lucky women receive this award every year. The award ranges from $1,000 to $5,000. This is only awarded to second-year law students who are interested in fighting for women's rights and serving their communities.

The Federal Circuit Bar Association

The Howard T. Markey scholarship is a $10,000 prize for students who want to work in the public sector. Another award associated with the Federal Circuit Bar Association is the William S. Bullinger scholarship, which is $5,000. In addition, the Giles Sutherland Rich Memorial scholarship gives $10,000 to an outstanding law student who wants to work for the Court of Appeals.

If you are a very good writer, you might be interested in applying for the Judge John R. Brown scholarship. The award is $10,000, given to a law student who is currently enrolled in school. The essay must be on a legal topic and can be any length. The application must also include a letter of recommendation from a law school faculty member.

Types of Student Loans

Right now, thousands of high school seniors are preparing to attend their very first year of college. In spite of economic problems, many families are cutting corners in order to send their children to college. Getting an education is a great way to ensure your future with a good job. Although getting a job after graduation is no guarantee, having a degree opens many doors.

Even though the cost of college is steadily rising, people are doing whatever it takes in order to get an education. Both public universities and private universities are raising tuition rates, which is causing hardship for thousands of families. Many students are opting to get a student loan, which must be paid back after graduation. There are several types of student loans:

Federal Perkins Loans

These loans are given to students who come from low-income families. The interest rates are very low, and the payback schedule is reasonable. In fact, a student does not have to pay back the loan until six months after he graduates. This loan is reported to major credit bureaus, which can either help or hurt your credit, depending on whether you pay back your loan on time. There is not as much money available for these types of loans as there is for other types.

Federal Stafford Loans

These loans are given by the government and are based on your financial need. Every year, you will need to fill out a form called the FAFSA. This form tells the government how much money you make and how much you can afford to pay for college.

Subsidized Federal Stafford Loan

This type of loan is what many students hope to receive. It is a low-interest loan backed by the government, and it does not have to be repaid until after graduation. The best part is that the government will actually pay the loan's interest while the student is still in school.

Unsubsidized Federal Stafford Loan

An unsubsidized Stafford loan is backed by the government for people who may or may not need financial assistance. It is still low-interest. Sometimes, payments can be postponed if the borrower is having a hard time repaying the bills due to unemployment. Usually, people who have this type of loan are turned down for other types of loans because they make too much money.

Federal Plus Loans

These loans go to parents who have children already in college. You must have good credit and have financial need in order to get this loan. Interest is low, but you must start to repay it within a few months after receiving the loan.

MBA Scholarships

Having an MBA is a very prestigious accomplishment. MBA stands for Master of Business Administration, which is how we say that the individual has a lot of business knowledge! There are hundreds of schools around the country where someone can get an MBA degree. Some of them are well known, others are small, and some are even online. Unfortunately, all of these schools tend to be quite expensive. This is where a scholarship can really help you to afford graduate school. If you have modest means, do not give up your dream of attending business school - start your search here!

An MBA will open doors to careers that pay six figures. You can rise to the level of CEO with an MBA! As with other graduate degrees, there are specialties within the degree. These specialties include real estate, insurance, taxes, accounting, and management. You can pick a track based on what type of job you want to have. You can also get a general type of MBA, but this is less common. The course load would consist of a little bit of everything related to the business world. It is a good idea to stay on the general track if you have no idea where you want to work, but you know you want to do something in the business world.

NBMBAA Graduate Scholarship

This award gives $15,000 to 25 students who have written an essay and submitted it to the contest. Recipients are also chosen based on their GPA, communication skills, and leadership potential. The essay should be quite short, at only two pages. Winners must enroll in the NBMBAA club and enroll in a full-time college program. They must reside in the United States or in Canada.

The same organization also offers a fellowship program, which is for students who are seeking their PhD in business. Students must submit a research paper, their college transcript, and a list of their activities.

For those seeking their CPA (certified public accountant), there are several scholarships available. These include the Daniel B. Goldberg Scholarship, the Public Employee Retirement Research and Administration Scholarship, and the Frank L. Greathouse Government Account Scholarship, among others.

There are also several awards for minority people of Native American, Hispanic, or African-American descent. Judges usually pick their recipients based not only on race, but also on GPA, leadership potential, and job experience or essay.

Scams

As with anything in life, if it sounds too good to be true, then it just might be. When it comes to free money, scammers abound. They try to take advantage of people who are looking for honest financial aid. In order to avoid being swindled, there are some ground rules you should follow to keep yourself (and your bank account) safe. There are two main types of fraud: made-up award programs and questionable programs. The former is obviously more dangerous than the latter, but both of them can cost you money in the end.

  1. If the application asks you to send money, it is most likely fraudulent. Most legitimate programs do not ask for money - they give money away! Do not fall for scams that ask you to send money before you receive your check. Chances are good that you will never get a check from them!
  2. If you cannot contact the provider, consider that a red flag. There should be a phone number, email address, or physical address at which you can contact the company. If you do not receive a response from anyone in a timely fashion, you may want to think about moving on.
  3. Contact the provider and ask to receive a list of past winners. If they refuse to provide this list, they may not be legitimate providers.
  4. Never give out your bank account information. Do not accept checks from people who then ask you to send money right back to them. This is a very common scam.
  5. Do not send money to companies who tell you they can find you a guaranteed award. There is no such thing as a "guaranteed scholarship." These companies will take your money and run.
  6. Stay away from websites that have tons of pop-ups. These ads may try to steer you in directions you do not want to go.

Although it may seem silly to worry about falling for scams, it happens more often than you might think. Scammers are getting more sophisticated with their techniques, and they prey upon the innocent and/or ignorant. Stay safe, and ask a trusted individual to help you evaluate scholarships. Collegescholarshipszone.com is an excellent example of an easy-to-navigate site that has advice and resources to help you on your journey!

Myths about Scholarships

There are many myths floating around the Internet about scholarships. You have undoubtedly heard several rumors yourself! People can learn incorrect information from their parents, teachers, online, or even from friends. Just because you hear something negative from someone you trust does not mean you have to believe it. Information can get distorted when it is passed along several avenues, so here is a good place to start educating yourself about the TRUTHS.

Myth Number One: You need to be poor to get a scholarship.

Truth: Scholarships can be for financially needy individuals, or they can go to people with tons of money. Although many awards are for people who cannot afford college, many are not. Since there are a variety of offers out there, you are sure to find one that fits your financial situation. Some merely want to see good grades and an essay. Others want to see someone with a special talent or unique background. Go ahead and apply even if you think you or your parents make "too much money" to qualify.

Myth Number 2: You can only get a scholarship if you are in high school.

Truth: While many awards are geared toward high school students, there are plenty available for undergraduates or working people who have not set foot in a high school in years. In fact, there are several that go directly to people that have children, are over 30, or who have years of experience in the workforce. Some are specifically for people who might not otherwise have a chance of attending a college.

Myth Number 3: Finding scholarships will take me too long.

Truth: This is a lazy way of thinking. It is also untrue! This website can help you search for scholarships that meet your criteria. Whether you are trying to go back to school or are just about to graduate from high school, there is something here for everyone. Start your search now!

Myth Number 4: You have to have a high GPA to get a scholarship.

Truth: There are lots of awards for people who overachieve in school, but there are just as many that do not care about your grades. Some are based on a well-written essay or proof of leadership in your neighborhood. Maybe you did not do so well in school because you were working to support your family. There is an award for someone like you! The point is that you should not cut short your search just because your report card is not full of A's.

How to Win Award Money

It is good that you have now started to search for scholarships. Every hour you search might bring you closer to your goal - a college degree. Searching for money, however, is only half the battle. You need to print and fill out applications, write essays, gather documents, and prepare for interviews. It is a full time job! All of your hard work will pay off when you reach into your mailbox and pull out a fat check with your name on it! Here are some tips to help keep you on the right track:

  1. Check this website often to find new information. You never know when a new award might post to this website! Read the articles here to familiarize yourself with the application process and learn new tricks to land a big check. Nobody is going to push you to search for scholarships every day, so make it a "job" and do it well!
  2. Mark down the deadlines on a master calendar or spreadsheet so you do not miss any. There is nothing worse than to lose a great deal of money just because you happened to send your application in too late. Check and double-check each application to make sure it is filled out completely and that it includes all of the required documents. Do not let your application get thrown in the trash because you left a couple of lines blank.
  3. Stay organized. Keep a spreadsheet of your scholarships listed by priority and deadline. Check off each one as you send it in. If you hear back from the providers, mark it down. Save copies of your applications in a folder. Wait a week after you submit your applications and then call the provider to make sure they received yours. If this is too much of an inconvenience, ask the post office for a delivery confirmation or tracking number to ensure the provider received your application. Scan your letters of recommendation into your computer in case you need them at a later date. Stock up on printer ink and paper!
  4. Spend a little time each day working on your applications. It is nearly impossible to finish your applications just prior to the deadline. It will look rushed and will not be your best work. If you are a very busy person, you can still wake up early or stay up late to work on your applications. It will all pay off in the end.
  5. Keep a positive attitude every day. Be confident in your ability to win award money. You do not have to be perfect to win a scholarship - you just need to get the attention of the judges. Think about going to college, attending classes, and walking across the stage!

Scholarships for Minority Students

If you look at any major college or university campus, you will probably see people of every ethnicity walking around. These days, anyone with a desire can get a college education. No barriers exist except for the ones that are in your mind. There are thousands of successful college students whose parents came from another country or came from a disadvantaged background. Some students grew up speaking a different language or practicing a very different religion from the mainstream student body. These obstacles did not stop them! There are literally hundreds of dollars for people of all ancestries.

What is a minority group? It does not refer to any one specific background or race. It refers to a group of people that make up a minority of a population. These people might come from a different country, have a different religion, or speak a different language. Minorities can also refer to gays and lesbians. There are some for people who do not consider themselves "straight." There are available dollars for Latinos, African-Americans, Asians, and Native Americans. Many of them require applicants to have at least 50% of "minority" ancestry. Therefore, if you are half Irish-American and half Mexican, you are probably still eligible for Latino scholarships, although it depends on what they are looking for. If you are half African-American and half Chinese, go ahead and apply for both Asian and Black scholarships!

Women can also be considered a minority, although it seems they are dominating college campuses across America! There are several awards reserved exclusively for females, especially for those who are trying to enter a male-dominated profession like engineering or computer science. These seek to increase the number of women who work in a particular field. Having diversity in America is one of our strengths.

Not all minority scholarships are strictly for financially-needy people. Many colleges simply want to diversify their campuses with people from different backgrounds. They might want to entice students from African-American or Latino backgrounds, so they offer scholarships regardless of income. Check the scholarship criteria carefully and then decide if you have a good chance of winning some money. You might be considered a "minority" on that particular campus and not even know it!

Scholarships for Home-Schooled Individuals

Nearly all children in America were home schooled when the country was first founded. There was no such thing as "public school" or "private school." All parents were responsible for educating their children. These days, most people go to a school where they are taught by teachers in a classroom. There are, however, a sizable minority of people who are traditionally taught at home. If you are one of these people, do not get discouraged at the thought of getting receiving aid because so many applications ask for things like GPA, AP classes, and student organization participation. Homeschoolers are a unique minority that deserves attention.

Look through the links on this site to get started. Most scholarships do not require a student to have a "traditional" classroom education, although some will ask for report cards. If your parents (or home-schooling teacher) never kept grades for you, consider enrolling in a local community college first to show committees that you can succeed in a traditional school environment.

Home-schooled students need to take initiative when searching for aid. You have already taken the first step, which is to search this website. You do not have a guidance counselor to help you, unlike traditional students. Ask your parents to find out about employer-based aid. If you have a job, ask your boss about opportunities. If you go to a place of worship, ask your religious leader if there are any awards for members of your organization.

Start volunteering in your community to build character and have something interesting to put on your application. You might not have participated in organized sports or school clubs, but perhaps you spent your time working at a homeless shelter or teaching Hebrew to young children. If you have a talent, make sure the judges know about it. Make a video of yourself performing your talent! Find something unique about yourself and write it down on your application.

If the application asks for an essay, make it outstanding. Explain your home-schooling experience and describe how it shaped you as a person. The judges will be interested to see how you took charge of your education. Since your experience was so different from the average public school student, make it a point to mention how mature, well-rounded, and knowledgeable you are because of your "untraditional" schooling!

Unusual Scholarships for Unique People

Besides the traditional high GPA or athletic scholarship, did you know that there are scholarships for people based on your physical features, hobbies, and other very specific characteristics? You should not feel left out just because you write with the "wrong" hand or look very different from your peers. Our differences should be celebrated, and these awards do just that. You probably will not have a great deal of competition if you apply for these, just because very few people have actually heard of them!

Yes, there are "minority" scholarships and money for people with children. Money is given to those who can add diversity to a campus. People who have disabilities are also eligible for a plethora of scholarships. There are also, however, awards for twins, very tall people, albinos, "unique" dressers, and people that do not have a car!

Since these are so specific, you might actually have to call the school you want to attend to find out if they offer anything for someone with your unique characteristics. Here is a small example of the wacky offerings out there for students.

Exceptionally Tall People

Any woman who is over 5'10" or any man over 6'2" might be eligible for a "Tall Clubs International" scholarship. You have to be a member to get one of these scholarships.

Multiples

If you are a twin or triplet, you might be able to get scholarships from various universities around the country. You will have to inquire in the financial aid office to see if your school of choice offers money for multiples. You will be able to release some of the burden from your parents, who probably have to pay for two or more college educations at the same time!

Left-Handed People

Left-handers of the world, unite! There is even an award for those who are "lefties." Although you will forever have to adjust to those annoying desks built for right-handers, you might be able to get some money to pay for your college classes!

Duct Tape Prom Dress

Ladies who are willing to create a fabulously fashionable prom "dress" made out of duct tape could win a scholarship, too! Duct tape comes in several different colors, so do not limit yourself to just plain old silver. Make bows, checkerboards, stripes, or something outrageous to "wow" the judges!

Athletic Scholarships

Athletic awards are highly coveted by high school athletes everywhere. They essentially allow a student to attend college and play the sport they love for free! Getting an athletic scholarship can mean the difference between getting a degree and not going to school at all.

If you are eager to win athletic award money, you should familiarize yourself with the rules and regulations of the different conferences and college associations. If you violate any of these rules, you might become ineligible to win a scholarship. Find out which association governs your sport and then learn all about their "laws" to make sure you do not break any rules. You can start by looking at the association's website and printing out any important information to review.

Get Attention

Of course, most high school athletes cannot just sit back and wait for college coaches to come to them. Unless they are hometown superstars, they must do everything they can to attract attention for their talents. In order to get a great athletic scholarship, you have to make sure the coaches know your name!

Coach Correspondence

Write to coaches and make your letter stand out. Ask intelligent questions about playing for the team while attending college. Do not reiterate simple questions that can be answered by looking on the college website. Demonstrate your interest and enthusiasm for playing your sport at the college you want to attend. Also, include a DVD that showcases your skills while playing your sport. Use a high quality video camera and enlist the help of someone who knows how to edit videos. It is simple to create a basic DVD using free video editing software.

High School Coach

Talk to your high school coach and get to know him or her. Tell him about your interest in playing for a specific team - he may know a coach there! Most high school coaches are connected to several different colleges and personally know the coaches. Ask your coach about your chances for getting an athletic scholarship. He or she might be able to advise you on where to apply and into which schools you might fit.

Visit Colleges

Nothing beats visiting a college and seeing the campus firsthand. Make an appointment with the coach there beforehand so you can personally meet him or her and ask questions. Remember, you also need to make good grades, so ask about the study resources available for athletes.

Note: You may want to check out some college sports recruiting companies, who help high school athletes get recruited by colleges. Check out the fees involved, however, and make sure the services are worth the money.

Preparing Yourself for Scholarships

With college tuition rising every year plus the added burden of inflation, more and more students are turning to scholarships to help them fund their educations. Many people cannot attend college without some sort of financial help. Loan companies are tightening their criteria for lending money, so getting a loan is out of the question for thousands of Americans. A scholarship can mean the difference between going to college or not.

Students always want to know the best way to prepare themselves to win big money. The secret of getting multiple awards is to prepare, do research, and complete as many applications as possible. Here are some tips to help you get started:

  1. Begin to prepare early. Kids can start as early as middle school to develop talents and do volunteer work. Join the school band, play a sport, or work at an animal shelter to make yourself a well-rounded individual! It looks good on applications to show that you have dedicated yourself to a particular talent, sport, or hobby through the years. It might also introduce you to a profession that you want to be involved in when you are older.
  2. Maintain good grades. Doing well in school is not all about intelligence - it takes organizational skills, perseverance, and practice, too! You might be a genius, but if you forget about doing your homework, your grades will slip. Start working on your grades as soon as you enter high school. These are the years when your grades really count.
  3. Get involved in your community. Maybe you belong to a religious organization, a political group, or believe in a cause. Getting involved with your hometown will help you appreciate your neighbors and make you feel like a good citizen. It also looks good on an application. Even children can start small businesses or charities with the help of an adult!
  4. Look through the links on this website for applications. There are lots from which to choose. Do not sell yourself short or think that you will not qualify for a particular scholarship. Even if you only meet some of the criteria, apply anyway!
  5. Build good relationships with teachers, coaches, and community leaders. You will need these adults to write letters of recommendation for you when you are ready to apply.
  6. Work on your essays diligently. Make the first sentence of the essay stand out and grab the reader! Getting the attention of the judges is half the battle. It does not have to sound like you are a perfect person, but it should allow the judges to get to know you as a person - faults and all.

Scholarships for Graduate School

Congratulation on earning your undergraduate degree! Now that you have built the base of your education, it is time to prepare yourself for another few years of rigorous study. Graduate school will allow you to pursue your passion with even more depth. It will let you go further in your career and become a subject matter expert. These days, it seems like everyone has a Bachelor's degree, so a graduate degree will really set you apart from the crowd. In many corporations, you need a Master's degree or MBA to work in the executive's office or become a CEO.

You have decided to continue your education. This is a worthy goal. One obstacle remains - how are you going to pay for it? It is no secret that graduate school is very expensive, often reaching the tens of thousands of dollars. A lot of students are still trying to pay off their undergraduate loans on top of that. Although the cost of graduate school may seem prohibitive, there are fellowships that will help offset some or all of the tuition.

There are quite a few awards for people interested in business school or graduate school in general. A lot of these are offered by corporations hoping to recruit some new talent. The companies will usually pay for your schooling, but then you will have to work for them for a set number of years afterward. The military is known to do this quite often.

Unlike undergraduate scholarships, graduate ones are not as heavily advertised. They are a little harder to research, even online. There are also not as many out there for graduate students. Many of them are "work study" related, which means you have to work for the college a few hours a week in exchange for tuition money. Some of them require you to teach an undergraduate class in exchange for graduate coursework. All of these are popular options into which applicants should look.

Some graduate scholarships are solely dedicated to minority groups or women. Companies who want to diversify their businesses will attempt to attract certain groups that they lack. Giving away aid money with strings attached is a common way to recruit employees.

Some companies will help you search for graduate school aid. They do include a fee, so perform due diligence before you give someone your credit card. These companies promise to find graduate school awards that you might be able to win. It will save you a lot of time, which is helpful if you work full-time or have a family.

How to Get an Excellent Recommendation Letter

The letter of recommendation can either make or break your application. Scholarship judges want to get someone else's opinion of your leadership skills, academic skills, and/or athletic talents to find out what kind of person you really are. Having a strong letter full of praise can elevate your application to the top of the list. You can start collecting letters of recommendation at any time in your academic career, but you want to get the "right" kind of person to write the letters. Just who is the "right" kind of person, you ask? It is somebody that is a strong community or school leader who can write well and recommend you to the judges.

  1. Ask people who know you very well to write a letter for you. Judges would rather read a letter from your high school science teacher than a Senator who barely knows your name. Although you might think it looks good to have the governor sign his name on a pre-printed form letter, it is actually better to get a handwritten, thoughtful note from someone who knows you personally.
  2. Look for people who have decent writing skills and seem willing to write a strong letter for you. If the person seems less than enthusiastic, you can politely withdraw your request or simply not use the letter he writes.
  3. Make appointments with people you want to write letters for you. It is better to arrange a short meeting than to surprise someone after class with your request. At the meeting, give the person a copy of your transcript and resume that details your hobbies, work experience, and grades. It will help him or her to write a good letter. Also let this person know what the committee is looking for so he can stress your talents. For example, if they are looking for someone who exhibits leadership skills, the letter-writer should mention your experience as student body president or as a school club leader.
  4. Give the person writing your recommendation a SASE (Self-Addressed Stamped Envelope) that has the scholarship address already written for him or her. It makes it easy for this person to print out the letter, stuff it in the envelope, and simply drop it into a mailbox. Do everything you can to make his or her job easier.
  5. Send a thank you card or note after you ask for the letter. This person is taking valuable time out of his or her days to help you win the award. It will also remind him or her to mail the letters if they have not already been mailed.

Facts about College Tuition

As you may have heard from your teachers or the newspaper, the price of college is rising every year, and government aid is shrinking. This is unfortunate, because everybody should have the ability to go to college if that is what they want. It makes the scholarship process more stressful, too, because the competition is fierce. Higher education costs billions of dollars a year. Some of the money comes from private donors while other sources come from the American government.

Each year, thousands of students graduate from college with debt. Some people spend decades repaying their student loans, which cannot be erased by declaring bankruptcy. Scholarships are the best form of money to receive, because you do not need to pay them back. The people giving you this free money, however, expect you to do something great with your education. If you expend some effort during your high school years, you could have your college education paid for when you pick up your diploma!

Here are some quick facts about college tuition and what the average student pays these days, according to the Trends in College Pricing 2010 and Trends in Student Aid 2010.

  1. Almost half of all college students go to a four-year college whose tuition is less than $9,000 a year.
  2. Private colleges generally cost over $35,000 a year for tuition, room, and board. Larger or older institutions have more alumni that support the college, so they usually have more aid available for students. Smaller or newer schools tend to offer less money.
  3. Two-year community colleges usually cost almost $3,000 a year. Many students go to community colleges for the first two years of college to save money and then transfer to a larger university.
  4. There are several institutions that do not charge any tuition whatsoever! These schools include Berea College, College of the Ozarks, the Webb Institute, University of the People, and the Curtis Institute of Music. Some of these schools require their students to work during the week. Other schools are extremely selective, so gaining admission to them is a privilege.
  5. In 2009 and 2010, over $154 billion was awarded to students attending college. The money included loans, grants, scholarships, and other sources.
  6. The average college student receives $11,500. About $6,000 of that money is scholarship funding that requires no repayment and the rest are loans.

Why Private Schools Give More Aid

Just about every high school student knows that public, state-run universities are often much less expensive than private four-year colleges. The tuition for public schools is subsidized by the government, whereas private schools rely on donors. Thousands of high school graduates flock to public colleges in an effort to save money, but it might actually be cheaper to attend a private college. How can this be, you ask? Private schools are ramping up their programs in an effort to attract more students. They are hoping that since most public universities have slashed their funding, students will apply to private colleges and hope to earn aid.

One benefit of a private school is that most of them will offer money to students that are not financially needy. They also give out money to minorities, women, valedictorians, and athletes. High school students who have earned good grades are especially likely to earn a scholarship from a private college. Some schools take into account an applicant's grades as well as his or her financial situation.

Some people complain that private school scholarships do not seem very fair. They might give out free money to students who have no trouble paying for tuition out of pocket, while "poor" students do not receive much assistance and have to drop out. Why do private colleges give out so much money each year if students are able to pay their tuition bills with no problem.

  1. They want to attract a diverse, academically-successful student body. Private schools rely on their reputations to attract applicants. A good school typically has a high average GPA and high SAT and ACT test scores. Schools want the best and brightest students to attract more of the same.
  2. They want to compete with public universities, who usually offer more majors, are larger, and have more sports teams. Higher education is a business. The school makes more money when more students enroll.
  3. Philanthropists want the school to comply with their requests. Generous donors support private universities. When they stop donating, the school suffers (or even closes). In order to keep up good relations with alumni, the school administrators will often try to comply with the donors' requests. Graduates want to support local students who have a lot of talent and will give back to their communities.

Do not be afraid to apply to both public schools and private schools, even if you think it is out of your price range. You might end up winning a full-ride to a private school, while a public school can only offer you loan money!

Three Tips to Keep Track of Scholarship Deadlines

On top of your regular schoolwork, you also need to keep track of deadlines. Nothing feels worse than missing out on a good awards just because the deadline slipped your mind! This is why it is important to maintain an accurate calendar that you check often. There are several useful tips that can help you keep your scholarships organized. It is not simply about writing down the date when the application is due - it's about strategy, too.

Apply Early

National scholarships tend to be extremely competitive. Hundreds or thousands of students from all over the country are fighting for the same reward. Big awards tend to be more impressive to schools and employers than local awards; therefore it is important to try to get a big-name award. Most of these tend to have earlier deadlines. Applications must be in by September or October, at precisely the same time you are finding your balance in the rhythm of a new high school year. Research them before you hit your junior year of high school, if possible, since many of them will accept applications from sophomores.

Even local scholarship judges prefer that applicants send in their packets early. Although the deadline might be later in the school year, it is impressive to submit your application ahead of the competition. Since the judges are volunteers leading busy lives, they need lots of time to look through every application.

Watch the FAFSA Deadline

The FAFSA deadline is at the end of June every year. Everyone who wants to go to college should fill out this form; even someone who thinks he makes too much money to qualify for a loan, grant, or scholarship should fill it out. It is advisable to submit this form as soon as it is posted online to increase your chances of getting money. Look up the deadlines for your state's scholarships, too.

Use Free Calendar Tools

You do not need to rely on a paper calendar anymore. If you have a smartphone or PDA, you can easily keep track of deadlines on an electronic device. Remember to back up your device often in case something happens to it!

Google Calendar is also free to use to organize your deadlines. Anyone can get a free account in mere minutes. Once you win an award, make a note as to when you need to renew it every year or semester.

Your junior and senior years of high school are going to be a whirlwind of activities. Not only do you have to perform well at school, but also you may be juggling work and/or a family. By following these three simple rules, you maximize your chances of winning money for your education.

The Truth about Athletic Scholarships

Getting an athletic scholarship in the U.S. is an exciting possibility for thousands of high school students. The road can lead to fame and riches at best and a fun and free education at worst. Every parent wishes that his or her child could win a full-ride athletic scholarship! There are, however, a few things you should know about these types of scholarships:

You Have to Work Hard to Get Noticed

Unless you are a superstar athlete that has been featured in your local newspaper, you should hit the pavement and contact coaches directly. Send videos, cards, and letters and make phone calls. Ask intelligent questions and express your interest in playing for a specific team. You do not have to be a pest, but make sure your name gets across their desks.

One easy way to get noticed is to film a clip of you playing the sport and then upload it to a free video sharing website. Send the link via email to various coaches along with an email message and your contact info. It is free and easy to do, even if you have no idea how to edit videos. Coaches usually prefer to click a link rather than deal with DVDs, which can get lost or scratched.

Division III Schools Offer More Academic Merit Awards

Although Division III schools do not give out athletic awards, most of them give plenty of aid to students that do well academically. You can play for the team while cutting your tuition costs significantly. Good students should seriously consider applying to Division III schools simply to increase their chances of getting a merit scholarship.

Not All Athletic Scholarships Cover the Full Four Years

Athletic awards have to be renewed every year, so there is no guarantee that you will get free tuition for your entire college career. It is up to the coach whether to renew the aid. This causes many student-athletes to worry about impressing the coach more than working on their grades, which can suffer.

The Average Scholarship Is Less than $11,000

The sports that give out full-ride scholarships include women's and men's basketball, women's volleyball, and football. Unless you play one of these sports well, do not expect to get 100 percent free tuition.

Competition Is Very Stiff

Division I and II sports offer about 138,000 athletic awards each year. There are, however, over 1 million student athletes in high school. Your chances of winning the award are not zero, but understand the type of competition against which you are competing.

Lastly, it is important to stay out of trouble while you are competing for an athletic scholarship. Getting arrested or being in trouble in school will decrease your chances for admission to the school of your choice.

Affording College Costs

Of course, you hope to win multiple scholarships to help you pay for school, but the chances are high that you will have to pay some of your college tuition by yourself. If your last name is not Gates, Zuckerberg, or Buffet, it may be a struggle for you to afford school. It is never too early to start preparing yourself for college. Even very young children can figure out ways to earn and save money so that when they turn 18, they will have plenty of cash to pay for room, board, and other school expenses. Read the tips below to find out more ways to increase your bank account before freshman orientation.

Ask Relatives for Money

Grandparents are the obvious choice, but other close relatives may want to assist with your plan. You can throw a big party at your house and ask everyone for donations to send you to school. At the very least, you will get some money to decorate your dorm or pay for gas to get to school!

Apply to Less Expensive Schools

While you do not have to limit yourself to state schools, it might be worthwhile to check out some more affordable schools. Some states, such as Florida and Georgia, offer generous aid to in-state students who get decent grades.

Cut Costs by Buying Used Books

College textbooks are very expensive, as anyone who has walked through a campus bookstore can attest. These books are brand new, which is not necessary for someone who will only use them for a few months. Ask your professor if it is okay to purchase an older textbook edition online. Most will allow it, and it will save you a bundle. You can also re-sell the books at the end of the semester.

Get a Job on Campus

On-campus jobs do not pay much, but they allow you to get more involved with your school and earn some money at the same time. Working at the bookstore or cafeteria is great for enriching your social life, too!

Did you know that Resident Assistants (RAs) get free housing in the dorms? Usually, you have to plan social events, keep the noise down, and make sure the other students living there have everything they need.

Lower Your Housing Costs

In some cities, it may be cheaper for you to live off campus. You can share a house or apartment with a few friends and divide costs. Don't cringe, but you might also want to consider living at home for a while to save money! Another good option is to purchase a small condo nearby and live in it for four years. You can always sell it or rent it when you graduate and recoup your money.

The Hidden Costs of College

Even if you happen to win a scholarship or two, you still have other bills to pay. You might be surprised at the hidden costs of college once you begin to analyze everything. Scholarships may or may not cover room and board, but there are other expenses, too. The sticker price of the tuition is only one component of the costs of higher education. Having a part-time job can really help you save money for these hidden expenses:

College Fees

Along with tuition, students also have to pay "fees" to the school. The fees can be related to the school healthcare center, athletics, and gym or lab fees. Every school can set its own fee schedule. Some scholarships will cover fees; others will not. Even if you never use the facilities paid by the fees, you still have to pay them.

Room and Board

Housing costs can eat up a lot of your budget. It helps if you live with several other students because you can all split costs. If you decide to live alone, however, be prepared to furnish the unit and pay utilities, cable, and internet by yourself. One way to cut down is to live at home for another year or live with a nearby relative for free.

Supplies and Books

Books are quite expensive, especially science and math textbooks. Many instructors will let students purchase older editions in order to save money. If you look online, you can find some great deals for inexpensive, used books. Do not forget to re-sell them to another struggling student when you do not need them anymore!

Other necessary college supplies include dorm room furnishings, computers, notebooks and writing utensils. You may need to purchase software, too. Your campus bookstore will have many of these items, but they are usually marked up. The best way to save money is to go to your local office supply store or shop at online stores.

Transportation

There are thousands of college students who do not have vehicles, but they have to get around town somehow. The bus system is usually discounted for college students, but you still need cash every day. Of course, the price of gas is going up, and cars need regular maintenance. These costs can quickly add up over the course of one year.

Entertainment

What's college without a little entertainment? Sorority and fraternity fees run into the hundreds or thousands of dollars every year. Trips and club outings cost money. Movie tickets seem to be rising every year also. Make sure to save some cash for fun expenditures so you don't have to rely on free Internet radio or television shows for your entertainment!

Online Applications vs. Paper Applications

It is so easy to sit at home or the library and search for scholarships. A lot of them also allow applicants to fill out the applications online and submit them. However, did you ever stop to think whether you should submit them via the Internet or through the postal service? Online applications are better for the provider because they don't have to send out hard copy applications to students. Postage alone can cost hundreds of dollars. There are pros and cons to each application type. Obviously, an online application is simpler and faster than the postal service, but is it better?

Online Application Advantages

The first obvious advantage is that you can apply anywhere at any time. As long as you have a computer and Internet connection, you can submit your application. Some applications even alert you when you leave a space blank or make an error! How foolproof is that? You will know immediately whether your application has been submitted and accepted. If it does not, an error message will most likely pop up to alert you. Providers also like the quick delivery system because they can read through your application that same day.

Online applications also save you money on paper, ink, and postage. You won't have to worry about your printer malfunctioning or running out of ink. No more standing in line waiting to mail your envelopes! Lastly, online applications can save you a great deal of time.

Online Application Disadvantages

One disadvantage of submitting online applications is that you cannot "unsend" one if you realize you made a mistake. Once you hit "Submit," that's it. It might be harder to proofread an online application if you are used to reading printed pages. The Internet connection might malfunction, causing you to lose your data or corrupt the application. Another drawback is that if you apply near the deadline, the website might be swamped with other applicants and crash. It is important to apply early with online applications for these reasons.

Five Tips for Online Applications

  1. Apply early to avoid website server crashes.
  2. Print the online application once you have filled it out and before you submit it. Check it over for errors before you send it. File this hard copy in your records.
  3. Have a friend or relative check your grammar and make sure you have filled out every blank spot.
  4. Double-check to see that your attachments are in the right format.
  5. Write down on a calendar or spreadsheet the date you submitted the application.

Ten Tips for Winning an Award

As you get ready to apply to college and find money to pay for it, you will be inundated with advice from everyone you know. Every person who has been to college will try to give you tips on how to get scholarships and get into the best schools. These 10 tips below will summarize the best pieces of advice we have accumulated from a variety of providers:

  1. Follow the directions on the application. Do not add any extra information if they don't ask for it. When it comes to the essay question, stick to the topic at hand and don't go off on a tangent.
  2. Make sure you are eligible for the award. If the scholarship is specifically for women or ethnic minorities and you are neither, do not apply. It is a waste of everyone's time if there is no chance you might win.
  3. Make the application look neat. If possible, use a typewriter or computer to input the information. If you must handwrite it, use a black pen that writes smoothly and make your letters as legible as possible. If the judges cannot read it, it will probably end up in the trash.
  4. Fill out every blank spot you can find on the application, even if the question does not apply to you. If you cannot answer a question, write "N/A" in the blank spot so the judges know that you were not careless.
  5. Get several opinions on your essay before you submit it. Add lots of imagery and descriptive language to make the essay come alive. You might think it looks perfect, but you may be overlooking some glaring grammatical or technical error. A few spelling mistakes can end your chances of winning that award.
  6. Watch the deadlines carefully and submit your applications as early as possible. It shows you have initiative and gives the judges plenty of time to look over your application.
  7. Make copies of everything before you submit them. You may want to mail your paper applications with a tracking number or delivery confirmation to make sure the judges receive them.
  8. Ask an English teacher for help with your essay. He can give you pointers and assist in editing your essay.
  9. Apply to every scholarship for which you are eligible, even if you do not think you will win one. Give yourself credit for your hard work and think positive!
  10. Always proofread your applications before submitting them. Ask someone else to look over the application, too. Judges see simple mistakes all the time that could have been avoided if the applicant had asked someone else to proofread the application.

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Last Updated: 04/08/2014

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