You’ve completed the FAFSA. Seen your Expected Family Contribution (EFC) figure for the next academic year. Likely are thinking, “how am I going to pay for this?” You are in same boat as the vast majority of families – make too much to qualify for Federal Aid, but can’t simply write a check for the cost of college.
Your thoughts turn to scholarships… the Holy Grail of college funding.
We’ve all seen the headlines screaming, “HOW I HELPED MY SON WIN OVER $100,000 IN COLLEGE SCHOLARSHIP MONEY… AND I CAN SHOW YOU HOW YOU CAN TOO”. Don’t believe the hype. The secret – sweat equity.
The rule of thumb for national scholarship competitions: For every 100 scholarships you find, you may qualify for 10, and odds are you might win one!
There are no magic wands. Don’t be romanced by the headlines or focus your entire strategy on the big payout potential of national competitions like Coca Cola Scholars or the Gates Millennium Scholarship Program. Why? Exactly two students from Minnesota were recognized as Coca Cola Scholars in 2016. Wisconsin three. California the most populous state, 15. The odds are long. The competition is intense.
The minuscule % of families who manage such headline grabbing awards often employ a scholarship or two or three a day approach. If your child has the gumption to research, apply and submit as many as three scholarship entries a day, by all mean have at it. For the rest of us lazy souls?
Turn your attention to the greatest source of scholarship $$. The colleges themselves. To get you started visit my College and University Scholarships page which will link you to the freshman merit or general scholarship opportunities at many colleges.
Look first for automatic scholarships. Many colleges offer them based simply on test scores, GPA, and academic rank. Don’t stop there. Dig deep. The linked College and University scholarship pages do not represent a schools comprehensive list of free money. Dig into the college web site to unearth opportunities for transfer, sophomore, junior, and senior students. Hint: you will often (but not always) find this information within individual academic departments in the form of scholarships, grants, stipends, fellowships, etc. or on the schools financial aid page.
The next best source of scholarships? Local opportunities, which too many families overlook. Don’t underestimate the potential payout from local sources. You will likely qualify for many many more $500, $1,000, or $2,000 local scholarships then any national competition. Last year Cola Cola Scholars had 150 winners and upwards of 70,000 applications. Your local credit union = three $2,000 scholarships and maybe 25-30 applications, 100 tops – have to like those odds.
The first places to look locally are:
- Chambers of commerce
- Fraternal organizations (Lions, Elks, Rotary, VFW, American Legion, etc.)
- Your church
- Your financial institution
- Counseling/guidance office at your high school
- Your employer
- Athletic organizations
- Charitable organizations
- My list of scholarships open to Minnesota residents
Don’t have the time to do the research. Don’t know where to start? Need help crafting a strategic scholarship search or strategy to find good match colleges where your daughter/son may qualify for merit scholarships? Contact me.