If your family is going to have a fresh undergraduate student next year, this is a great time to look for scholarships that will help offset the cost of education. Scholarships are considered ‘gift aid’, which means that they do not have to be paid back later. Some are one-time prizes that can be used while the family’s savings continue to grow; Others are renewable as long as the student remains eligible.
While we hear a lot about sports scholarships or awards for high academic achievement, no student should overlook the possibility of getting some scholarships. Many different organizations offer scholarships, so creating a broad network will help students identify opportunities for which they are most qualified.
Here are some tips on searching for and applying for scholarships:
• Use free online scholarship aggregator sites. There is no need to pay for a service with many free tools available. Sites like scholarships.com, College Board, and FastWeb all offer free searches. Students can often create profiles or filters to make searching easier.
• Use of school and community resources. The school counselor’s office generally has a list of local scholarships. Employers of parents, civic organizations, businesses in the area, and religious and community groups are potential sources of scholarships. The colleges themselves often offer scholarship awards, so it’s well worth the time to explore admissions, financial aid, and department pages for the best college options for students.
• Complete the first application. Once you submit one application, it may be easier for students to complete the others. It can be helpful to set aside time each week to research and apply for prizes. The first thing to start with is the Iowa ISL Education Lending Challenge: Graduate Scholarship at IowaStudentLoan.org/Know-How. In an hour or less, high school seniors in Iowa can complete the required steps to be considered for a $25 2,000 college scholarship.
• Do not give up. It is important that you keep looking for scholarships because sponsors open their opportunities at different times. Research must continue during the college years as well, as students may become eligible for management or industry-related awards later on.
• Look at the big picture. Although smaller scholarships may seem insignificant compared to the total cost of college, remember that each scholarship awarded allows savings to move forward and reduces the need for student loans that have to be paid off with interest. It can add up many small prizes quickly as well.
Member of the Student Loan Board of Iowa