Chart a Course for a Successful Scholarship Search

By Dr. Raymond J. Huntington

If you think your child has to post perfect SAT and ACT scores and become the high school Valedictorian to get scholarship money for college, think again! While it’s true that students at the very top of the achievement scale tend to get the “free rides” to a college cap and gown, above-average and even average students can track down scholarship funds as well. Following the tips on this list will help your teen conduct a successful scholarship search.

Start early. Most scholarships require students to do quite a bit of legwork and paperwork, and it can take several months to find out if you’re going to receive an award. For this reason, it’s a good idea to start thinking about scholarships as early as the 9th grade. This will help your son or daughter gain a fuller view of the opportunities and have more time to take advantage of them.

Know all the options that are perfect for you. Since many scholarships are available to students interested in a particular field of study, starting early also gives students time to boost their chances by selecting courses and activities that will improve their eligibility for these types of awards. Having an athletic or artistic talent can also open the door to scholarships for students who earn special recognition for those talents. Awards are also available for those in underrepresented groups, such as Hispanic and African-American students, and those who will be the first in their family to attend college. Creating a checklist of your child’s talents, interests, and demographic factors will help you both hone in on various angles you can pursue.

Talk to the school counselor. Begin your scholarship search by going to your school counselor, discussing your areas of interest and any colleges that you’re considering. You should also discuss the factors on the checklist described above, and any distinctions you may have earned based on talents or academic abilities. These could include awards for accomplishments in the arts, top grades in science or mathematics and recognition by honor societies.

Look for links at home and in the community. Continue the search by looking close to home. You may belong to a religious organization that offers scholarships. Your parents or other adults in your family may work for corporations that offer scholarships for children of their employees. Many volunteer organizations, such as the Kiwanis and Rotary Club, also offer scholarships. You should also be able to find directories of scholarships at your local library.

Go on-line. The Web can be a treasure trove of opportunity for scholarships. It can also be a bit overwhelming. Once you’ve developed your checklist, use Google or other search engines to scout for scholarships that are connected to the various attributes you’ve listed. You can also chart a course through www.fastweb.com , the Internet’s leading scholarship search service. It’s free and recommended by thousands of high schools and colleges. Another free service that will open the door to information about scholarships and other financial aid is the National Research Center for College and University Admissions (NRCCUA). By visiting its website at www.nrccua.org , you can fill out a survey that will enable you to receive information from several institutions suited to your needs.

Be alert for scholarship scams. As noted by Finaid.org (a public service website that offers comprehensive information about student financial aid), “scholarship scams” victimize several hundred thousand students and parents every year, at an annual cost to victims of more than $100 million. By visiting the site at www.finaid.org,  you can learn the most common characteristics of come-ons that defraud scholarship searchers or simply don’t deliver on their promises. As a general rule, if you have to pay money to get money, it’s probably a scam, and if you hear that somehow out of the blue you’ve won a scholarship “prize” that you haven’t even applied for, chance are it is indeed “too good to be true.”

Dr. Raymond J. Huntington and Eileen Huntington are co-founders of Huntington Learning Center, which has helped children achieve success in school for 28 years. For more information about how Huntington can help your child, call 1 800 CAN LEARN.

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