$$$$ Scholarships: Something for everyone...Posted on Mon, 01/27/2014 - 13:22
Do your parents work in the beverage industry? Are you from Malta? Do you have a part-time job? Well, college advisor Alice Kleeman wants to talk to you about scholarships. Don't assume there are no scholarships available for a student like you. Read on for her excellent advice and some new ideas about what might be out there for you...
“Yeah, that’s if your family has NO money …”
“You have to have straight A’s to get one of those, right?”
“Oh yeah, those are for basketball players and other athletes, aren’t they?”
“Well, sure—if you’ve done four years of community service without stopping to breathe, you might get one!”
These are the views some students have about scholarships. And believing that scholarships are only for the top students, athletes, and those who serve might cause them to miss out on opportunities!
In the 19 years I have been administering scholarships, I’ve seen the most amazing opportunities -- opportunities to earn scholarships ranging from $500 to ten or even twenty times that amount and for unusual and even quirky talents, interests, and goals.
And as for the belief a family must have “NO money” in order to qualify for scholarships, many groups that award scholarships define financial need broadly, so students should not necessarily eliminate themselves from applying for need-based scholarships. Scholarship groups may choose to evaluate financial need holistically (looking at the number in the family, the cost of living in a certain area, and other factors), or they may use formulas (some even use the Expected Family Contribution, or EFC, generated by the FAFSA to determine need), but some students rule themselves out before even learning how need might be viewed.
Outside scholarships, these days, are highly unlikely to cover any student’s college costs in their entirety. It may be unrealistic, even, to think that most students could entirely eliminate loans by applying for scholarships, though it does happen. And of course, applying for twelve scholarships might net a student one scholarship. But as my daughter said to me when she added up the scholarship funds she had received from three scholarships and divided it by the number of hours she had spent applying to many more scholarships, “Mom, I earned $80 an hour if I look at it that way!”
I can walk into any classroom with a list of scholarships and know that there isn’t a single student in the room who could not apply for one or more. How do I know? Because there are essay competitions open to all; scholarships open to students who plan to go to two-year colleges, four-year colleges, and vocational schools; scholarships that have no need component, and scholarships that touch larger, less well-defined groups of students.
Local scholarships are the treasure trove where I believe students should focus their energy. Fewer students will be competing for them than state or national scholarships! A local scholarship that’s great for my students is one for only female seniors from our school with a 3.0 GPA. There are dozens of students who qualify! Another local scholarship looks for students from a particular middle school that feeds our high school. Still another seeks to reward students who have part-time jobs in our local area.
Does this mean students should ignore the state or national scholarships? No, of course not, but they need to be realistic about the competition (enormous!) for those awards. And if they see a state or national scholarship that awards students from a particular niche that might be smaller than the entire state or country, they should go for it! Examples might be scholarships for students whose parents work in a certain industry (there’s one for students whose parents work in the beverage industry, for example); or scholarships for students of a very narrow racial, ethnic, or geographic background (is anyone from Malta?); or scholarships for students whose career goals are quite narrow (there isn’t a ridiculous level of competition for the scholarship for students who want to become legal secretaries).
The sure way not to earn a scholarship (just as this is the sure way not to be admitted to a college) is not to apply. Duh! So students should give thoughtful consideration to the scholarship opportunities where they have the best shot, and go for it! And just as they did with their college applications, students should have an adult proofread their applications. Last year, a student at my school was eliminated from consideration for a $5,000 scholarship for which only six others applied. Why? Because he wrote his application in pencil, and seemed not to care a lot about the quality of his application.
Wondering where to start? Head first to the guidance or college office at the high school to see if scholarships are listed there, and then reach out further to web sites, books, and internet searches.
For more information and links to resources for scholarships, visit the Resources section of collegeadmissionbook.com here.
Alice Kleeman has served as the college advisor for 19 years in the College and Career Center of Menlo- Atherton High School, a public high school of 2,000 students in the San Francisco Bay Area. She also teaches each summer on the faculty of the College Board’s Summer Admission Institute for new admission officers, serves as an advisor to the Common Application and was named a Counselor That Changes Lives in 2014.