6 Tips for Earning College Scholarships

Tips include starting with your guidance office, not paying for a search tool, trying for scholarships that require an essay, and seeking out professional associations.
Calendar on desk to keep track of college scholarships

It's never too early to start looking for college scholarships, and the summer before senior year of high school provides many students the time needed to research opportunities and apply. As you and your child spend time searching for scholarships, keep in mind our tips below. We've compiled a list that should point you in the right direction and help you narrow down your search.

1. Start with the high school guidance office

School counselors often keep an updated list of local scholarships. Compared to national scholarships, local scholarships only attract a small pool of applicants – those eligible students within the region – and are therefore generally easier to win. Many guidance offices post the scholarships on the school's online college planning portal, such as MEFA Pathway or Naviance. Others might have a binder within the office. Connect with your child's counselor to ask questions and get the details.

2. Never pay

Don't pay a fee for a scholarship search tool. Plenty of free online search tools exist, and they include the exact same scholarships as those that require a fee. Start with Fastweb and Big Future.

3. Try for scholarships that require an essay

Essays are time-consuming. They require thought, revision, and creativity. As a result, most students avoid scholarships that require an essay, opting instead for easier and shorter applications. What does this mean? Essay scholarships, in general, have a smaller pool of applicants, increasing the chances of winning. Which is exactly why your son or daughter should apply for them.

4. Seek out professional associations

Does your child aspire to a specific career? Research professional associations related to that vocation. Some groups offer scholarships to high school students interested in that particular career field. Does your son want to teach one day? Look for teacher associations in your area. Does your daughter hope to become a doctor? See if any medical associations are offering money to help young, aspiring physicians.

5. Look for scholarships related to favorite activities

Scholarships are often catered to students with specific interests or talents. Make a list of your child's extracurricular activities – sports, music, art, clubs, etc. – and search for scholarships that award students with those interests.

6. Look for opportunities at your job

You might work for a company that offers scholarships to children of employees. And your son or daughter might have a summer or part-time job at an organization that offers scholarships for aspiring college students. Check at each place of work for all scholarship opportunities.

Keep in mind that most private scholarships are only awarded for one academic year. So if you win a scholarship for freshman year, you shouldn't count on receiving it for future years unless you know it's renewable. When in doubt, check with the scholarship agency to find out if you can receive the scholarship for multiple years, and any criteria you need to meet to do so.

Do you have other scholarship tips? We'd love to hear them. Share with us on Twitter (@MEFAtweets) or Facebook (mefaMA).

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