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“I want to help my parents out with my tuition by landing as many scholarships as I can. Where should I start, what do they usually require, and what are some crazy scholarships you know of?” – Aimee N., Baltimore, MD
Apply for as many scholarships as you can. You need to be willing to make time because there are required essays, forms to complete, deadlines to be met, and recommendations that must be sent. Fastweb.com, Finaid.org and Scholarshipexperts.com are two reliable websites where you can begin your search. Scholarships are available from private corporations to community organizations. Students should check with the financial aid offices at their colleges of interest to see what scholarships are available through that school. Sometimes, essay prompts are similar so you may be able to reuse one strong essay.
A: Want lower tuition? Look for colleges looking for you!
Some colleges award generous scholarships or “merit aid” to entice students to bring them something they want. For example, look for private colleges far from your home that have a large percentage of students from their regions—you can contribute to campus geographic diversity. Grades and test scores above or near the top of the school’s averages (which might be lower than you expect) may bring big tuition discounts along with an acceptance letter. In some cases, merit offers reduce private college tuition to near the cost of in-state tuition at public universities; so don’t be afraid to apply!
A: Look locally and identify your best matches
My first tip for maximizing your scholarship search is to look locally. Visit your high school college center to get a list of local scholarships. Local scholarships have much less competition than national one's. While their dollar amount is sometimes less, the likelihood of receiving them is far higher. Also, when looking for scholarships, take some time to identify your best matches. Look for scholarships that reward your strengths. There are scholarships for almost everything including: academics, talents, interests, cultural background, religion, etc. And remember to think outside the box. I have heard of scholarships for exceptionally tall students, best duct tape prom dresses and students with specific last names.
A: Scholarships reward what a student has done—perform and they will pay
In looking for scholarship money, one must first distinguish between the school sponsored ones and those sponsored by outside groups or organizations. Concerning the outside sources, to avoid a scam remember the general rule: if you need to pay them, they won’t pay off for you. Meanwhile, school sponsored scholarships are the most common form of merit scholarships. To earn them, the best thing a student can do is maximize their academic record and test scores. Schools will reward those efforts in part because those measureable attributes help the school enhance their profile and serve as valuable marketing data.
A: Use Several Resources and think BIG!
Start with the mindset that you will need to think big and use several resources, books, websites, and personal connections. In brief, winning scholarships requires insight, the right match between student and scholarship source, and attention to detail. And, in terms of extra-ordinary scholarships, here’s a short list-there are more! For twins and more: http://www.twinstuff.com/college_scholarships.html, for the aspiring chef: www.theculinarytrust.org and for students interested in the study of language (really!): Klingon Language Institute, www.kli.org/scholarship
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