Develop strategy to land college scholarships

It seems the kids just went back to school and all of a sudden — Bam! — time to hunt for college scholarships.

Here’s the rub: Students need to apply for some scholarships before they have a good idea of all the costs going to college entails.

Each school is required by law to post a net price calculator on its website by Oct. 29 this year, helping families estimate the full cost of four years in college. Some applications for merit-based scholarships, however, are due as early as Saturday, especially some that are more prestigious or competitive. And there might be a lot of work involved: essays, recommendations from teachers and counselors, plus gathering transcripts and multiple test scores.

But a little preparation today can prevent you from missing a lot of deadlines tomorrow. Some tips from local area guidance counselors:

Strategize: One option is to get out of town. And state. And region. Colleges typically try to maintain regional diversity, so selecting a school far from home could result in more scholarship money.

“Students from the Southeast, if you’re interested in going to Iowa, you’ve got a great shot,” says Terina Isaac, a North Atlanta High School guidance counselor. “Maine and Vermont colleges heavily recruit our students.”

If an out-of-state college sends you information pamphlets in advance, it may be because you’d be a geographical rarity for them. In fact, Isaac says, colleges in Ohio and Maine just sent her essay topics for students to complete for a four-day visit to the schools, transportation included.

“It’s not always the students who are doing the searching. Sometimes the colleges are as well.”

Organize: Once you’ve narrowed your choice of schools, create a timeline, spreadsheet or calendar of deadlines. Zero in on the application and scholarship process for each school.

“Sometimes for the regular [application] deadline, you’ll be automatically considered [for scholarships],” says Joni Towles of Towles Educational Consulting. “In some places you have to complete an additional application or essay.”

Additionally, many schools have a priority deadline for scholarships and early admission of students dead-set on going to a particular school. That’s often two to three months before the regular application deadline.

Prioritize: “You should always apply to ‘rolling’ schools first,” Towles says. Applying early to a college that accepts applications until its freshman class spots are filled, she explains, “does show interest.”

Also, if you apply, say, in early October, admissions offices have fewer applications to process, Towles says, meaning you’ll receive an answer, and possibly scholarship information, much earlier than if you wait until December or January to apply. She says one exception to this is if you’re trying to boost your GPA with first-semester grades to land merit-based aid or if you still need to take standardized tests.

And remember, Towles says, to pick your battles — there are thousands of merit-based awards out there. “You cannot apply for everything that you hear about.”

More information

Collegeboard.com: Search for national scholarships, plus info on standardized tests and more.
Gacollege411.org: Information on Georgia’s HOPE scholarship, plus search for national scholarships.
Fastweb.com: Search for national scholarships.
Collegedata.com: Financial data for freshman, undergraduates.
Meritaid.com: Search by state for a number of merit awards at each college.
Nces.ed.gov/collegenavigator: Average financial aid each student receives, by income groups, for every U.S. college.

– By Lauren Davidson, Atlanta Bargain Hunter

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10 comments Add your comment

Simosakhe

September 27th, 2011
4:49 am

I i’m a student at Damelin so my parent now can’t affort to push me my subject

Simosakhe

September 27th, 2011
5:01 am

I i’m a student at Damelin. I really need schoolarship or bursary so that i can able to oush my subject. I come from rural area and ym parent daesn’t earn enough money to tearch me thank you.
I will be very happy if my reqeust will be successful thank you.

MiltonMan

September 27th, 2011
7:25 am

It can be summed up like this: Come from a “poor” family, be a female or of a miniority race and be an average student taking on-level courses & BAM! You will get all kind of need based scholarships. Being a male of caucasian persuasion, graduating with a 4.1 GPA taking all AP & honors classes while working a part-time job results in nothing more than “well your parents can afford to send you to college.”

It blew me away how many scholarships/grants are solely need-based these days. This country is more intersted in educating those who do not need to be in college than those who do.

tina

September 27th, 2011
7:44 am

@miltonman….well….more than likely your parents CAN send you to college. Or are you poor, too? Just askin….

Mark

September 27th, 2011
8:00 am

My family isn’t poor, but they didn’t spend a dime on me to go to colllege. Dosen’t mean I don’t deserve the same scholarships. Kids from poor families can attend any University they want. All it takes is hard work and dedication. Get a job, save your money. Do not rely on scholarships, parents, or the Gov. to put you through college.

mike

September 27th, 2011
8:05 am

I agree with miltonman. We should just bar poor people, females and people of color from getting an education. How about just make them all go to middle and south Georgia to work in those fields where the immigrant were ran out of. That way we know where they are and we can keep an eye on them. How about we just change the state laws and nobody has any rights except those who look like miltonman. This way Georgia can remain the laughing stock it presently is.

Electric_Pink

September 27th, 2011
8:28 am

Wow MiltonMan, you sound bitter. Your anger is misdirected. Seek counseling to deal with your bitterness before it eats you up and destroys your life. Each individual should be judged individually and not based on some harmful stereotype or generalization. After my parents divorced when I was 15, my mom worked three jobs to keep us in our home (in a nice working class neighborhood), and encouraged us to do excellent work. My siblings and I all financed our own college educations through grants, scholarships, loans and part-time jobs. Our mom worked hard enough not to have to contribute a dime towards our college education. There’s nothing in the parenting rulebook that says that parents must pay for their children’s higher education. After my siblings and I all graduated and started our careers, our mom went back to school and now has a doctorate. No one gave me or my family anything; we worked hard for everything we have, and we are proudly African American.

PTC

September 30th, 2011
11:15 am

Electric_Pink, What an inspiration!!! I know your Mother is proud, as I’m sure you all are of her as well. It makes my day to hear stories such as yours. MiltonMan get a life that extends beyond racist, stereotypical, resentment filled comments

leslie

October 4th, 2011
5:49 am

hy i finish my matric in 2008 i couldnt furthure my studies because of financial problems,im willing to work hard so i can achieve my dreams,i will be happy if my application will be successful i will be glad if you could because nothing is impossible may god help me thank you