Special thanks to the counselors at Panguitch/Escalante High, Bryce Valley High and Wayne High Schools for the following article. It is their purpose to help the students and parents in Garfield and Wayne County.
This time of year, seniors and their parents start to dream of scholarships. Scholarships and other financial aid can make it easier to think about attending a post-secondary institution. Scholarships are available at colleges, notifications are sent to counselors, and many more are out there hidden. Here are some tips that may help:
1. Scholarships are earned not given. Most scholarships are a culmination of grades, test scores, citizenship/service, leadership, and involvement. There are very few scholarships that are given based on random drawings. So, if you are waiting until your senior year to start doing these things you are too late. Get started doing these things before your senior year.
2. Apply. In order to get a scholarship you must fill out the application AND submit it. Scholarships don’t go looking for you. You must find them and follow the instructions.
3. Colleges are a great place to look for scholarships. Some colleges have an application and scholarship application all in one; others use a separate application. Check with the college or university you are interested in to see what they use.
4. Apply for more than one college. Often seniors are not 100% decided on which institution to attend. Apply in October and November to three or four colleges that interest you the most and fit your career interests. You can be accepted to several colleges. After applying, wait to see which college is going to offer you the best financial package then make up your mind about which college to attend in the spring.
5. In addition to merit-based scholarships, (those that are based on high school grades and test scores), there are many other scholarships available at colleges. Other types of scholarships are departmental, talent, leadership, and private donor scholarships. These scholarships will often require a separate application and are often hidden. They are also typically renewable each year and often don’t require the same GPA requirement to maintain the scholarship over time. Contact the colleges recruiting or financial aid office to find out where to look for them.
6. Counselors only get a handful of scholarship notifications across their desk, so look online. There are many free places to look for scholarships. Fastweb.com, zinch.com, cappex.com and schoolsoup.com are some great online scholarship search engines. They take a few minutes to fill out the profile but once you do, you will start to receive e-mails about scholarships that match the information entered. One helpful idea is to create a separate email account to handle these. You will receive some spam from these sites but they are worth it. In addition to those sites, parents check with your employer, union, or other affiliations you belong to; they often have scholarships available for students.
7. No matter what the scholarship, find out the due date and criteria behind it. Make sure you strictly follow them. If letters of recommendation are required, jump on it early. Don’t wait until the day before to ask someone for a letter of recommendation.
8. Appearance. Many scholarships are completed by submitting a form online. There are also scholarships that you can download the application and fill it out on your computer or by hand. If you can’t type your application make sure to use your best handwriting in pen. It is a good idea to copy it and make a rough draft; then have someone proofread it before sending it.
9. Many scholarships are based on an essay. Most students click delete as soon as they see that word. Scholarships based on essays are not applied for as heavily and so your chances are actually better with an essay scholarship. Most essays are 500 words or less which is not much writing.
10. Start searching early–before your senior year. There are a lot of scholarships out there for students who are in 5th through 11th grade. The above listed search engines (point #6) have many in their databases.
11. Keep track. As listed in point #1, most scholarships are a culmination of activity. Make sure that you keep track of the service projects, leadership positions, activities, and other involvement so that you can remember when it is time to apply. Scholarship opportunities favor those who are able to be exact on their applications. Also, keep certificates and write down dates of activities you have participated in throughout high school.
12. Scams. There are many scams out there disguised as something great–be careful. Keep your identity safe; don’t give out information that could put it in danger. Never pay to enter a scholarship; if it asks for a credit card, don’t do it. If you have questions regarding the validity of a scholarship, you can ask the financial aid office at the college you are interested in if they have ever heard or dealt with them. They are a great resource. You can also go to http://www2.ed.gov/about/offices/list/oig/misused/sscams.html for additional information.
13. For students in Garfield County go to the district web page (www.garfield.k12.ut.us) and put your mouse over the “Parent & Student” tab at the top. Follow it down to the “Counseling” button and click on scholarships to the right. This is where the scholarships are posted. Wayne students go to www.wayne.k12.ut.us and then “Counseling Office” to find scholarships.