(ARA) – One of the biggest challenges college-bound seniors face is how to pay for school. Applying for scholarships should be one of the first steps in their search. However, scholarship myths continue to flourish and need to be dispelled.
Myth #1: Billions of scholarship dollars go unclaimed. In reality, the number of unused scholarships is minuscule.
Myth #2: Scholarships only go to the best students. Many scholarships are awarded based on elements other than academic achievement. Some scholarships are based on the student’s major field of study, involvement, ethnicity and geographic origin, as well as other factors.
Myth #3: Scholarship searches are worth paying for. This myth eventually will die as people discover the many free resources available on the Internet or in print media. In many cases, scholarship search services charging fees turn out to be a scam.
So how do students and their parents sort through the myths and get to the facts?
Start the process early, December or January for the next school year, and utilize the resources around you. To find scholarship opportunities, start with your high school guidance counselor and local library for a list of possible resources. Next, check with your college financial aid office. Most states and many colleges offer scholarships, so students should also inquire about them. Finally, the Internet and organizational Web sites are excellent places to search. Remember, this information should always be free.
‘Don’t count yourself out just because you are not the valedictorian, class president, or star athlete,’ says Kandi Teeters, assistant director, Financial Aid and Scholarship Office at Eastern Washington University. ‘There are scholarships available for many interests, backgrounds and abilities. The bottom line is — APPLY. And, the more scholarships for which you apply, especially local and regional opportunities, the better your odds are to be selected.’
Scholarships come from many sources, but the student may have to do some detective work to uncover them. ‘Though the scholarship application process can be time consuming, the advantage is most awards require similar information. So, once you complete your first application, you can easily reuse the same information for several additional awards,’ adds Teeters.
For example, at www.usbank.com/studentbanking, you can apply to be one of 30 high school seniors to receive a $1,000 U.S. Bank Scholarship. Over the past ten years, U.S. Bank has awarded more than $260,000 in scholarship funding for this program. Scholarship award recipients are selected through a random drawing process. There are no essays to complete or minimum grade point average requirements. You simply must be planning to attend an accredited two- or four-year college full-time next fall.
The U.S. Bank Web site also features a powerful scholarship search engine. In partnership with Thomson Peterson’s, it offers students a free scholarship search. Thomson Peterson’s database contains nearly two million awards valued at more than $8 billion.
‘Parents can also really help with the search for scholarships,’ says Maria Lokensgard, program manager for Scholarship America. ‘Many large companies offer scholarship programs for dependent children of employees. Be sure to check with your human resources department to see if your company offers such programs.’ In addition, do the parents have an affiliation with any religious, fraternal, military, union, or professional organizations? If so, these organizations may sponsor scholarships for children of members.
Scholarship Search Tips:
— Experts recommend college-bound students and their parents should start looking as early as their freshman year in high school. By identifying potential awards, students can choose classes and activities that will increase their chance at winning a specific award in the future.
Use the Internet
— Try to use two sources, make sure the profile submitted is accurate; don’t pay fees — it does not increase your chances of winning!
— Competition can be tough for large awards. Smaller awards ($1,000 and less) typically have less competition and are easier to obtain.
Additional free scholarship Web site searches you may want to visit are:
Courtesy of ARA Content