The process of searching for scholarships, writing essays to various prompts, gathering transcripts, polishing resumes, and requesting teacher recommendations can be exhausting. As students near the end of their high school careers, it becomes apparent that earning acceptance into colleges and universities is highly competitive, and receiving financial aid may seem out of reach. However, using the following strategies can help maximize your efforts as well as the time you devote to alleviating the financial strain of higher education.
Note: Create an email address that you use solely for scholarships and other college-related information so that you don't lose important emails in a crowded inbox. It is also best to create an email address from your name or initials, which is not only more efficient for those sending emails to you, but also helps you appear more professional as an applicant.
The search is half the battle. When searching for a scholarship, you should always consider your strengths. Whether you are researching scholarships based on merit or financial need, keep in mind how well your application fits the criteria listed by the scholarship provider. Before you can become a serious contender in essay-based scholarship competitions, you must first meet the application’s basic qualifying criteria. There are opportunities for students interested in certain college majors, such as STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics), public policy, business, performing arts, communications, psychology, etc., or volunteerism, and much more. Search online with phrase like "scholarships for..." and look for any scholarships that relate to your own circumstances, interests, talents, family situation, geographic region, and community. Your parents' employer may offer scholarships to employee's children; your local civic groups may offer scholarships. There are scholarships for twins and children of veterans, religious-affiliated scholarships, ethnicity-related, gender-related, among a plethora of others. And don't forget the annual duct-tape prom dress scholarships! Search scholarship sites such as Zinch, scholarships.com and fastweb.com, internationalscholarships.com, and of course, NSHSS member scholarships. Additionally, be sure to research the financial aid and scholarship areas of the colleges you are interested in for information and deadlines for their university-provided awards.
Once you have narrowed your list to the scholarships most suitable for you, you should add the deadline to submit each application to your calendar. Then you should prioritize your tasks. Contact your recommenders and provide them with your scholarship deadlines. After requesting your transcript and fine-tuning your resume, writing your essay will prove to be your most important task. If you set aside an hour each week for your scholarship search and preparation strategy, you are less likely to find yourself in a last-minute anxiety-ridden time crunch.
Do your research, make a plan, and present your best self!