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About Scholarships – What I Wish Someone Had Told Me
Kids grow up so quickly and before you know it, they will be college-bound!
Wasn’t he just in preschool yesterday???
Today I have a guest post from Melanie Prather Studer, author of College Bound: The Ultimate List of Conversations To Help Your Teen Through High School. I read her book a few weeks ago and absolutely loved it.
Are you the parent of a high school teenager? If so, her advice is SPOT-ON and just for you.
Thank you, Melanie!
What I Wish Someone Had Told Me About Scholarships
If you are reading this, then you probably have a teenager that is thinking about going to college. This is such an exciting process for your family!
When my oldest son started thinking about college, we knew that we did not have enough money saved for a four year degree. We had known that for a while, and had been very open with him about what we would be able to afford.
A quick snapshot of my son’s academic picture is this. He had a 3.4 coming out of junior year -junior year GPA is what a teen has to use on their college application (this can then be updated each semester). His ACT at that time was a 27. Other items on his resume were Boy’s State, BSA Eagle, various roles in school and community plays, and track (not varsity).
All of this to say that my son was a very good all-around student, but not outstanding. Most of the colleges that he applied for had tiered packages for merit aid starting with GPA of at least 3.5 and ACT of at least 28. He was missing both of those minimums.
One thing that my son had going for him was great writing and speaking skills for those college application essays and interviews. He was accepted to all six schools that he applied for -three state schools and three private colleges.
The problem was that we really wanted to limit the amount of student loans that he would need to take out throughout college to prevent him from accruing a massive amount of debt… So, how did we do this?
We had many conversations about many things.
As my husband and I raised our boys, we used a system of conversations to help them with different topics such as budgeting, getting those first jobs, and applying for scholarships. We were able to give our kids advice in a regular and intentional manner, so that we were able to cover many important issues before they left our home for college and/or jobs.
One thing we made clear to the boys was that because it had taken us so long to pay off my husband’s school debt, we had been unable to save for the full amount to pay for a full 4-year college for them. On average, we could probably pay for two years for each of them depending on where they chose to go to school (this is another great topic for discussion!)
Here are three things that I learned 3 things about scholarships during this process.
Applying for scholarships is NOT difficult.
The first thing to know is that your teen has many options for getting scholarships. This can look like filling out paperwork at the college for getting merit aid. They might be able to apply for scholarship interviews as incoming freshmen, and possibly later as an upperclassman.
You and your teen should get on the college’s financial aid tab and really pay attention to all the information that is there. There might be dates for scholarship applications and/or those interviews.
Your teen (with your help) can schedule a meeting with a financial advisor at the school to talk about other options that might be available. My son and I went to this meeting together. We were able to point out things that were on his resume, and the counselor was able to not only give my son more money, but gave us advice about other places to look once he was further into his degree program.
My son eventually did all of this himself. He applied for everything that he qualified for. He scheduled an interview for more scholarship money each year.
Annual tuition was at about $34k when this process started. He got it down to about $15k annually, after taking advantage of the school’s merit aid packages. We still did not have enough for all four years at this price, but we had enough for about five semesters.
This was an awesome start!
Be sure to use Monica’s advice for writing three or four essays to have ready to tweak for different scholarship applications!
And, one more thing, here is some advice for having this conversation with your teen. I quote from my book, College Bound: The Ultimate List of Conversations to Help Your Teen Through High School.
‘My husband made an analogy that our boys understood.
He asked the boys if they would go dig a hole in the yard if he paid them $8 an hour. They said yes, but they really didn’t want to.
He told them, the size of the hole would take about two hours, so they would each receive $16. Would they be willing to do this? Again, reluctantly, they said yes.
Compare that to filling out an application and maybe spending an hour or two on an essay for up to $500, $1000 or maybe even more, would they be willing to do that? Of course, they could not say no!’
There are tools that can be used to make this process so much easier.
When my son was in high school, I ran across Monica Matthews as I was doing some research for my own book and blog. I purchased both of her ebooks, the parent and student versions for my family. We used so many tips that she shared!
I loved her tip for parents to research and vet different scholarship opportunities. So, I started hunting for scholarships. A couple of places that I looked were Pinterest and ALL of our local high school counseling websites. These were the two places where I had the best luck. I also followed Monica’s blog and her Pinterest page which had even more information.
I created my own Pinterest page for scholarships, and I still add to it almost daily!
I also had my son write three essays that he could then tweak and adjust for different scholarships as we came across them. This worked really well, and I am now in the process of having my youngest son do the same thing.
[Be sure to read: 3 Top Reasons to Recycle College Scholarship Essays]
Scholarships can be earned all the way through the end of college and/or grad school.
This was something that I had no idea about! I think that I just assumed that once you were in college, unless that college gave you more money through their own financial aid office, that you were finished earning scholarship money.
I am so glad that I was wrong about this!
My son was able to apply for more money through his college during his time in school. Most of the merit aid that he was offered was renewable each year, and he stayed on top of those dates for re-enrollment. He also looked for and asked multiple people in different offices at his college about scholarship opportunities.
He was able to apply for more scholarship money through his fraternity. He was an officer starting his sophomore year, and continued to be very involved with his organization throughout college. Each year he applied, he got at least $3k from them, which more than took care of his dues and housing, plus some for tuition. This was so helpful!
Another place he applied was through Boy Scouts of America, and he received some money from them.
My oldest is now out of college – debt-free.
There are many reasons for this.
My husband and I were able to pay for about six semesters from his 529 and UTMA. Our son received monies from the school each semester from the work he did before his freshman year, and also what he was able to add each year by applying to new scholarship opportunities at his college.
And, he applied to outside sources throughout college as well.
One last factor in all of this:
**One big thing that also added to my son’s success with his debt-free degree was his choice of college. He started out thinking one school was his only choice -that was the only place he wanted to go. We did the math with him based on all the information we had at the time of his senior year in high school.
This showed him that he could graduate without debt or very little by going with the choice that he ultimately made. Or, he could go to the school that he really wanted and most likely end up with over $20k in debt. Of course, we could not know either of those things for sure, but with the information that we had at that time, those were the figures.
If I could give every parent of teens a couple of pieces of advice, it would be to keep your teen in conversation about everything -big and small, AND to start the scholarship search as soon as possible, even just a goal of one or two a month starting in middle school is a great start.
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.