While higher education is an important milestone that can launch your successful career, its cost can leave you in crippling debt for life. In 2021, the average cost of a year of college education in the United States is about $33,000 per student. Obviously, the better status the school has, the more you would have to pay to attend it.
If you can’t handle all that on your own, and you don’t want to pay the interest on your student loans your whole life, there is always a chance for you to get a scholarship. Over $7 billion gets awarded in scholarships every year and this number grows consistently. Best of all, this financial aid is non-refundable. So, how can you get your education at least partly paid for? Here’s a quick guide on scholarships and how to apply for one.
How Helpful the Scholarships Are?
The cost of tuition has grown more than 50% in the last 20 years. However, it should not be your only concern. During the years of college education, you will have to pay additional thousands of dollars in supplies, textbooks, and other fees. And if you plan to study off-state don’t forget about the price for a room on campus (or rent for an apartment off-campus).
Summing it up, a bachelor’s degree might cost you from $100,000 and up to $400,000. This total sum is often so large that some people will continue to pay it off 20 years from now. At this point, any financial assistance seems like a blessing, and scholarships are among the best options.
While only a small percentage of students get the full cost of their education covered by a scholarship, over 1.5 million people get a substantial amount of money from the public and private sources. If you know, where and how to apply for them, there is actually a high chance that you end up among them. Want to learn more? Let’s take a closer look at the application process.
Scholarship Application Guide
The scholarship application process can be divided into certain stages. Here’s some scholarships advice for each of them:
This is the first stage, and you should start working on it long before the scholarship application deadline. It is a common misconception that the only thing you should focus on to get a scholarship is your achievements in one certain category this scholarship favors. Actually, scholarship committees often prefer to pick well-rounded candidates.
Take SAT preparation courses even if you feel that you’re ready for it. This will demonstrate your dedication and earn you some points in your application. However, you should not take up additional extracurricular activities if you don’t have any genuine interest in them. It is noticeable whether you have a real passion for something.
Gain more information specific to your case from counselors. Dedicated counselors are always ready to help not only with helpful information but with interview and application tips as well. They can also help you to contact the scholarship winners from previous years. These people have hands-on experience, so don’t be afraid to ask them for specific tips that might help you.
It may seem obvious, but you need to organize all the relevant documents at the preparation stage as well. Don’t stop at documents either – add relevant essays and descriptions to your achievements whenever needed. It is better to have extra papers on your side than to realize that you’re missing a critical piece.
While this step is the next on the list, you can often merge it with the first one. You should search for scholarships way before their application deadline, and the earlier you apply the better. New scholarships are created fairly often as well, so search the market for them as well.
Try to apply to as many relevant programs as possible. In this case, you have a better chance of getting accepted at least once. However, direct most of your attention and efforts to the highest paying options.
If you already know that you got into college, search among the scholarships that work directly with the school of your choice. In addition, filter out the options that are clearly not suitable for you, either due to failed deadline or for other reasons.
Use all the tools you have to the fullest. Annoy your counselors, contact the local foundations and non-profit organizations, and, of course, use the internet. There are multiple free websites where you can search for scholarships available, like scholarships.com or fastweb.com.
Now onto the application process itself. The first thing you have to remember is that no clearly defined algorithm would suit each scholarship program. Each of them has its own requirements, so read them carefully and follow them to the last letter.
If you want to get chosen, you need to stand out from the crowd. Two main ways scholarship committees often provide to present yourself are an essay and an interview. So, first of all, make your essay unique, tell your own story, use real experiences. Ask others for an opinion before sending it through, an outside perspective might be really helpful.
As for the interview preparations, the most basic tips are the most effective. Practice answering questions with your friend or simply in front of the mirror. Dress smartly, look groomed. Make sure your answers are direct and to the point, try to sound confident.
Another thing that might help you get points at this stage is a recommendation letter. If you have a relevant person to refer to, you should definitely ask them for one. Try to provide them with clear instructions on what to write about and who to direct it to.
Types of Scholarships for You to Apply for
There are various scholarship categories for you to apply to. They include:
- Academic scholarships – scholarships for academic achievements. If you’re at the top of your class, this might be the category for you;
- Athletic – scholarships awarded to people with outstanding skills in a certain sport;
- Artistic – for people with exceptional talent in arts;
- Need-based scholarships – for families that struggle financially;
- Scholarships for minorities – scholarships provided based on such criteria as race, religion, sexual orientation, gender identity, etc. Often provided by non-profit organizations;
- Career or industry scholarships – scholarships provided by companies if they need certain specialists. The requirement for such scholarships is often further employment or fellowships after the end of education.
Other Forms of Financial Aid
A scholarship is not the only way you can lower the price of education for yourself. Other forms of financial aid include:
- Student loans – the aid you have to pay back with an interest. There are federal and private student loans, so you can shop around for the best option, but they still will probably take a long time to pay them out;
- Grants – another form of financial help you don’t need to give back, grants are usually need-based and come both from federal and private sources;
- Income Share Agreements (ISAs) – instead of paying off a set amount of a loan, you agree to pay a certain percentage of your future salary.
All in all, when it comes to acquiring a scholarship if you set a goal and work hard towards it – you will succeed. There are multiple options, some of which are probably even tailored perfectly to your conditions. Do your research and sooner or later you will find the right scholarship for you.
If you’re having trouble searching for scholarships, try visiting the Edubirdie Blog. Here you can find various scholarship opportunities for all kinds of students. Apply for as many of them as you can and increase your chances of getting your education paid for right now.