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Scholarship Prep ~ Yes, it is a THING!
What can parents help their students do in the early years to increase college scholarship success?
Many parents with younger students ask in my Scholarship Help and College Talk for Parents Facebook group about what can be done early to put their students in a more favorable position when the time comes for them to apply for scholarships.
These parents are SMART, and I am happy to share many of my scholarship prep tips.
The cost of college tuition is skyrocketing, and knowledge is power, so here are several simple yet valuable ways to prepare students to win college scholarships.
I go into much deeper detail about each of these points in the How to Win College Scholarships ebooks, so download your copies right now because it’s never too early to start the scholarship process!
Here are some valuable college scholarship prep actions parents can take without pressuring their students:
Encourage good grades
From the time they enter preschool, parents can instill in their children the importance of always doing their very best on all their schoolwork. As students get older and begin to receive letter grades, they should be encouraged to always strive for A’s and B’s. Working towards being included on academic honor rolls should be a goal and a family expectation.
Helping others is not only good for students and the people they help; it’s great for scholarship applications. Most organizations that offer college scholarships want to know how many community service hours a student has worked and how it has impacted their lives. Parents can start early with their children and volunteer as a family, establishing meaningful relationships with people who may one day write detailed and personal letters of recommendation for their students.
[Be sure to read: 30 Awesome Activities for Volunteering and College Scholarships]
Save awards/honors certificates
All those certificates need a special home, so decide early on where they are going to be stored. When your child is approaching college and begins applying for scholarships, you will know exactly where they are without tearing the house apart in frustration. Scholarship applications typically have special areas in which students are asked about any awards they have received. Start saving the proof now, no matter how old your child is.
Speak about WHEN, not IF
Talking about “when” students will go to college, instead of “if” they will go, sends a message that college is an important part of a student’s education. Parents can also bring into casual conversations valuable information and lessons they learned from their own college days.
Make college visits on vacations
Family vacations are a great way to do some mini-college visits. While sightseeing and on the road, take a few extra minutes to locate any colleges in the area and drive by them to check them out. These casual visits may spark college conversations and interest without pressuring students. Make notes about each school and save them for future reference.
Write about experiences
If your student has done something exciting, or for which they are very proud, encourage him or her to take a few minutes and write down their thoughts and feelings, as well as any details about the experience as soon as possible afterward. These big events could become fantastic scholarship or college essay material, but memories may become lost or fuzzy if they are not soon captured on paper soon after the experience.
Promote Honors and AP classes
Advanced Placement and honors courses challenge young minds and look great on college and scholarship applications. Encourage AP and honors class selections, especially in the junior and senior years of high school. Students can enter college with college credit (saving mom and dad money!) if they successfully pass advanced placement tests.
Never skip the FAFSA
Financial aid is given out at most colleges and by the federal government on a “first come, first served” basis. Filling out and submitting the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) should be done as soon as possible when the forms become available, starting in October of a student’s senior year of high school. Many parents assume they make too much money to receive aid from the government, but even low-interest loans will help, and filing the FAFSA is also mandatory for many scholarship and college applications.
Expect extra credit
When a teacher offers extra credit, encourage your child to do the additional work. Going the “extra mile” is a wonderful concept to teach students and instills in them the importance of doing their very best and going above and beyond what is expected of them academically.
Teach that asking for help is smart
Teaching children that it is smart to ask for help allows them to see that it is perfectly acceptable to reach out to others if they feel confused or are struggling in school. Encourage asking questions in class and good communication with teachers, so students don’t get so far behind that they are constantly fighting to keep up and grades suffer.
[Be sure to read: How to Apply S.M.A.R.T. to Win More Scholarships]
Strive for NHS/NJHS membership
The National Honor Society and National Junior Honor Society not only have scholarships available for their members, they also have community service hour requirements that will help your student pick volunteer opportunities that count on scholarship applications. Encouraging and expecting good grades will increase your child’s chances of being invited into these organizations. There are several scholarship opportunities for NHS kids found right here.
Attend parent/teacher conferences
Even if your child is doing wonderful in school, taking the time to meet their teachers and chat about their performance is a great way to connect and discuss your plan to help your student apply for and win college scholarships. The teacher who gushes about how much they like and appreciate your student will probably be a good choice as a letter of recommendation writer. Mentioning college scholarships at parent/teacher conferences also opens up the possibility of a teacher nominating your student for those scholarships that require such nominations.
There are many after-school activities and community organizations that students can join at a young age that will teach them essential skills and allow them to have fun while showing long-term commitments. The opportunity to become a leader is also a strong plus with many of these groups. A few examples would be scouts, robotics, youth groups, 4-H, Future Farmers of America (FFA), sports, Sea Cadets, etc.
Read, Read, Read!
Reading to children from a young age has been proven to increase vocabulary, help with brain development, improve language skills, and turn them on to a lifetime of reading for pleasure. Parents who read themselves model the behavior we would like to see in our students and kids will see that reading is a fun way to escape into new worlds and relieve stress. In a college interview for one of my boys, one of the questions he was asked was, “What was the name of the last book that you read for fun?”
Word of the Day Calendar
This is something that I have done with my boys for many years and from an early age. Each new year I buy a “Word of the Day” box calendar like this one and set it in the bathroom that my kids use the most. I know they read it because they have mentioned certain words and when they are standing at the sink brushing their teeth, what else are they going to read? 😊 It is a super easy way to help your students increase their vocabulary.
Attend free financial aid workshops or seminars
These can be in-person, locally or online and are often offered by local high schools and community colleges. You can attend by yourself when your students are younger and with them as they begin high school. Do not be blindsided by the high cost of a college education when it is time for your student to attend. I also highly recommend this book for parents to learn how to increase their chances of financial aid.
Monitor social media accounts and habits
This is so very important! Students are online and creating social media accounts from a very young age (and sometimes we do not even know it). Parents need to stress the importance of always establishing and maintaining a clean and positive online presence. Many college and scholarship decisions are reversed because of negative and inappropriate social media postings and behavior.
Capture proud moments
Take and keep pictures of proud moments and accomplishments, as you can use these to build a personal website when your student is older, beginning in middle school. The website link can then be shared on all scholarship applications. Start a file now and save pictures with the date as part of the description.
Little preschoolers become college-bound students before you know it! Get ahead of the game by planning early and making these actions a part of your daily family life.
Scholarship prep is a powerful way to put your student in a prime position to win scholarships when college is on the horizon and tuition payments and the high costs of college become a frightening reality.
What have you already done in preparation for college and scholarships for your child?
[You may also like: Smart Scholarships for Kids Under 13]
Monica Matthews is the author of How to Win College Scholarships. She helped her own son win over $100,000 in college scholarships and now shares her expertise with other parents and their students. She truly has “been there, done that” in regard to helping parents and students navigate the scholarship process.
Her method of helping students in finding college scholarships, writing unique and compelling scholarship essays, creating amazing scholarship application packets, and more have taught desperate parents to help their own students win thousands of scholarship dollars. She teaches them how to apply S.M.A.R.T. with outstanding results.
Monica’s scholarship tips have been featured on many prominent websites, and she has been dubbed the “Go-To” expert on college scholarships.