So you’re planning to get some scholarships to pay for college once you finish high school, right? But just how do you go about finding and securing scholarships?
By following the suggestions below, and by carefully monitoring the scholarship application process, you should be receiving scholarship notification letters and buying college textbooks before you know it. Keep in mind, however, that this is a process; it isn’t like taking one test and getting an A. It requires diligence, double-checking, and follow-up.
When you are a high school JUNIOR:
* Take the SAT and/or ACT. Many scholarship providers will ask you to submit standardized test scores to apply for their scholarships.
* Keep your grades up! Remember that some scholarship providers will require you to have a certain grade point average to apply, or they will ask you to submit a transcript of grades.
* Consider college options. Think about how much it will cost to attend the college of your choice and how much money you will need to receive in scholarships or grants to afford to attend.
* Keep an eye on your local papers and community bulletin boards for local scholarships.
* Research your scholarship and grant options. Utilize the Internet to help you with the scholarship search process. It will save you time and headaches.
* Send away for scholarship information and applications with early deadlines. It’s never too soon to do so since some scholarship and grant applications need to be received during your junior year of high school.
* Make an effort to be involved in your community or in extra-curricular activities at school. Join a club, do a service project, or sign up for a committee at your church. Many scholarship providers will want to see evidence of your leadership and commitment to service when they review your applications next year.
In the FALL of your SENIOR year:
* Sign up to re-take the SAT or ACT. Believe it or not, you CAN improve your test scores by taking them a second time, and better scores could affect your ability to get scholarships!
* Continue to search for scholarship opportunities using an Internet scholarship search service at least once a month. Take time to fill out the entire profile on the site, making sure to ask your parents about their work experiences and association/union memberships for optimal results.
* Attend a financial aid or scholarship presentation. These are offered at schools, libraries, and college campuses. At many of these events, you can find out about important scholarships, such as local or institutional awards.
* Complete and submit the Free Application for Student Aid (FAFSA) immediately (it can be submitted anytime after January 1st in your senior year). Many need-based scholarships will require you to submit this important form when you apply. Call 1-800-4-fed-aid; the online address is http://www.fafsa.ed.gov. The FAFSA form can also be obtained from high schools, colleges, and local libraries.
In the SPRING of your SENIOR year:
* Verify that you have submitted all required financial aid forms and scholarship applications in a timely manner to the financial aid offices of the colleges you’ve applied to.
* Be sure to send in all of your scholarship applications on time; several scholarships have spring deadlines. Check back regularly with the scholarship search service you are using to look for more awards during the spring and summer months.
* Finalize your college choice, and sign and return financial aid and/or scholarship forms to the university you plan to attend.
Now celebrate! You are about to enter one of the most amazing times of your life, and one that will change you forever. Make the most of your college experience, and remember to study. It is important to maintain your GPA so that you can maintain your scholarships throughout your college career.