Are you worried about how you’ll pay for college next semester or even next year? Many students share this worry. But did you know that websites like Collegeboard.com provide access to more than 2,300 scholarships that total in more than $3 billion in aid? The numbers are staggering.
What’s even more important to know, is that each year there are a number of scholarships that are never awarded. Often, this is because no one applied for the scholarship. Many students simply don’t take the time to research scholarships or they think they won’t qualify because they didn’t have perfect grades or didn’t play sports. But, did you know there’s a scholarship especially for those who are good at duck calls? Or one for women over 5’10” and men over 6’2”? There’s even one for students who promote vegetarianism.
So, while the expenses can make some believe that college is not an option for them, I believe that with proper planning, that which seems impossible could become a reality.
How much do you need?
The first thing that you need to do is to assess your need. How much money does it cost to go to the school that you want to go to? Based on your Student Aid Report (SAR) that you received after completing the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA), do you qualify for any “free” money such as grants? Once you know if you qualify for the federal Pell Grant or other state grant programs, you’ll know how much of your school bill is left for you to pay.
Scholarships are awarded to students without consideration to financial need, but are based on specific academic, athletic or other criteria. The best part about scholarships is that they don’t need to be paid back. Here are some good places to start your search:
- CollegeBoard – 2,300 scholarships and $3 billion in aid
- FastWeb – provides a tool to match your background with scholarships
- ScholarshipAmerica – helping 1.7 million students since 1958
- College Scholarships – a listing for non-traditional students
- Scholarships.com – a listing of unusual scholarships
Look for scholarships in your community
One of the things that I realized while working on my graduate degree is that often times funds are closer than you think. Here are some local sources that may provide you with some opportunities:
- Local Politicians: Call your local senators and let them know that you are interested in a Senatorial Scholarship. They issue funds twice per year and the application process is really easy. I will let you in on a little tip – after you receive the funds, send the senator or politician a thank you note with your grades enclosed. This small gesture could potentially set you up to get twice the scholarship money next year.
- Religious Organizations: Many churches, synagogues and temples have monies set aside for its members. You will never know if you do not ask.
- Civic Organizations: Community organizations like the Moose Lodge, the Elks, the Rotary Club and other fraternities and sororities often have scholarships available for students who are interested in their organization or have a family member in the organization. This is a common place where students don’t apply for the scholarship or monies are unclaimed.
- Ethnic Organizations: I have also found that many ethnic groups will offer scholarships to persons within that ethic group. Again, this is another time where you’ll never know if you don’t ask.
Federal Scholarships Available!
This may surprise you, but the federal government has a huge number of scholarships that are available for students who want to study a specific subject. For example, a few years ago there was a lack of teachers in the United States and the government offered scholarships for those majoring in educations as well as a loan forgiveness program.
Another resource that you may not have considered is corporate America. Many corporations offer scholarships to students who have similar ideologies as the company. For example, the Sodexo Foundation operates a philanthropic initiative called STOP Hunger. The foundation offers a scholarship to students who are like-minded and committed to the fight against hunger in their communities.
Your dreams are possible!
Finding money for college really does allow a student’s dreams to come true. Recently I was at a scholarship luncheon at the Universities at Shady Grove, a consortium of nine different colleges and universities. During the luncheon, over $250,000 in scholarships were awarded. Some of the students received four-year scholarships while others received one time awards.
Perhaps the most touching part of the event was when two students were asked to speak about their personal journeys. They both spoke about the fact that for them, college was a dream; neither had the funding to attend college and their parents did not have the money to send them. They spoke about the assistance their college financial aid offices offered and how they found scholarship money. Through the help of this aid, they both are planning to graduate with bachelor’s degrees in May.
Like these two students, you, too, can have a steadfast commitment to be successful and not allow money to stand in the way of your dreams. Scholarship money is available, if you simply to take the time to look for it. Good luck!
Derren is the Manager, Diversity Recruiting for Sodexo which is a leader in integrated food service and facilities management. He is responsible for managing the Sodexo Future Leaders Internship Program as well as executing diversity sourcing initiatives for both campus and targeted experienced hires. With over 14+ years of experience with Sodexo, Derren has had great success as a General Manager in the company’s Health Care Services division as well as in several positions within their Talent Acquisition Group. He’s an active corporate partner with the National Society of Minorities in Hospitality (NSMH). Derren is an AIRS Certified Diversity Recruiter (CDR) and Certified Internet Recruiter (CIR).