A scholarship is a great way to pay for part or all of your community college education. Whether you have a special talent, have outstanding grades, are a member of a minority group, or have a financial need, there's a good chance that you may qualify for a scholarship that will help you pay for college. There are a number of different types of scholarships out there. For example, some scholarships are awarded to students for volunteering and for performing community service. Other scholarships aim to help students going into specific areas of study.
Many scholarship sponsors look at various outstanding qualifications as their award criteria, so you don't have to be a straight-A student to qualify for some scholarships (Kantrowitz 2007 - 1). In fact, there are a number of unconventional scholarships out there, such as ones for creativity, charity work, as well as skills in writing, photography, or dance. Exceptional scholars and average students alike should consider applying to those scholarships that best fit their grades and talents.
According to the National Postsecondary Student Aid Study, the average scholarship received by a student in the 2003-04 school year was approximately $2,000 (Kantrowitz 2007 - 1). That's no small chunk of change, considering the ever-rising costs of college education. Only 6.7% of all college students that year received scholarships, a figure that could significantly go up if more students take on the serious task of finding and applying for scholarships. The first step, which is usually the hardest for many high school students, is starting the search for scholarships.
According to Schools in the USA, there are five places to look for scholarships (Schools in the USA, n.d.):
- Check with the financial aid department of the college you are interested in attending. They should be able to provide you with a list of scholarships the school offers, and the requirements and application for each.
- Many large companies that you or your family members may work for, or, in fact, any large corporation in your area may offer scholarships to qualified students.
- It is always a good idea to check with your local government office as well as the nonprofits and charities that are based in your area.
- Check the various national scholarship search databases, both online and in print. Narrow down the list to those applicable to you, and begin working on the application for each.
- The guidance counselor at your high school should be able to point you in the right direction to search for local as well as national scholarships.
There are also a number of free, online scholarship search databases that can help you in your quest for a scholarship. By using certain criteria to search for a scholarship, you can narrow down the field to the few that are the best match for you. Follow the advice of professionals; don't use fee-based scholarship searches. By looking for the scholarship information yourself, you will not only save money, but get much more detailed and accurate information.
Many merit-based scholarships have certain requirements a student must meet in order to be considered for the scholarship. This is why it is very important to start your scholarship search early, even months ahead of when you will actually enter your local community college as a student. Having plenty of time to prepare your application, gather all the necessary documents, and possibly even raise your grades a bit will make all the difference when it comes time for the selection committee to review your scholarship application packet.
One aspect of the scholarship application that many students find the most difficult is the essay (Kantrowitz 2007 - 1). Writing a memorable and engaging essay is certainly not easy, and many find it to be a tedious aspect of their scholarship search. Here are some tips on writing a great scholarship essay:
- Find a topic that you are passionate about; this will make it easier to write an interesting essay that others will actually enjoy reading.
- Make sure that your essay has a unified theme, and don't exaggerate too much. Scholarship selection committees have an excellent eye for exaggerations, something that is sure to land your application in the rejection pile.
- Additionally, make sure to have someone else proofread and edit your essay - a fresh set of eyes is always a good bet (Kantrowitz 2007 - 1).
A word should be said about the downside of looking for a scholarship to help finance your community college education. Unfortunately, a large number of scholarship scams are out there, and you should be extremely careful not to fall for one of these scams. Doing so could cost you hundreds, if not thousands of dollars, not to mention your time and your dignity. A good rule of thumb to follow is this; if you have to pay money up front in order to get money, then it's probably a scam (Kantrowitz 2007 - 1). In addition, since a scholarship is not guaranteed until it is actually won by you, be wary of agencies trying to sell you a guaranteed' scholarship matching service. By investing your time into a careful search for appropriate scholarships for your talents and abilities, your education and your future are sure to win in the end.
Kantrowitz, Mark. (2007 - 1). Scholarships. Retrieved May 1, 2007 from www.finaid.org/scholarships
Schools in the USA. (n. d.). Finance Articles. Retrieved May 1, 2007 from www.schoolsintheusa.com/finance_articles