Podcast: How to win private scholarships for college

Posted on May 12th, 2016

We write often about the necessity of making college more affordable in order to minimize student debt. One of the best ways to reduce your college costs is through private scholarships.

They can be time-consuming to apply for, but winning free money for college is definitely worth it. With scholarships, you’ll have to take out less in student loans and avoid having them build up more interest over time.

Scholarship strategies and tips

In this recent podcast from Higher Score Test Prep, J.R. Vasquez of College Money Man explains why private scholarships are important–and how you can maximize your chances of winning them.

Skip to 1:45 to hear where he starts talking about the benefits of private scholarships. At about 9 minutes in, he start providing some great advice on winning scholarships.

Vasquez offers a lot of great tips and information in this podcast on maximizing your chances of winning college scholarships. We’ve broken out some of the best advice and information for college-bound students and families to keep in mind as they apply.

Find and applying for scholarships

  • Start looking for scholarships as early as 9th grade. Bookmark different scholarship for your child and keep tabs on them.
  • Apply for everything, even smaller scholarships. They really add up. A $500 scholarship might not seem like much, but it can pay for your books for a semester and prevent you from taking out more in loans, which end up costing you even more in the long run because of compounding interest.
  • Don’t assume you or your child won’t win a scholarship because of income, ethnicity or any other factor. Focus on the student’s strengths, find scholarships that match that, and create the best application you can.
  • Private scholarships generally won’t reduce your financial aid. As long as your financial aid award is still under your cost of attendance, you won’t have to worry about losing federal financial aid if you win a scholarship. Your scholarships can potentially be used to replace some of your loans, which are part of most financial aid packages. Some colleges may reduce merit aid packages, but it depends on the school.
  • It may seem overwhelming to write a lot of different scholarship essays, but sometimes you can reuse essays or slightly tweak them to make them more applicable to another scholarship.
  • Use every resource and website you can to search for scholarships. Some scholarships will be on some sites but not others, so don’t assume you can use just one site and it’ll cover everything. He recommends using Cappex, ZinchThe Ultimate Scholarship Book and Scholarship Opportunity. But the best tool, he says, is Google–you just have to look past the first few pages.
  • Parents can help their students by helping them edit essays, put the scholarship application together and make sure the child is staying on top of deadlines.
  • Create a scholarship team–a group of people tuned into your scholarship search, including friends and families who can keep an eye out for scholarships.
  • Parents and students should check with employers, associations and clubs that they belong to because they may offer exclusive scholarships.

Improving your scholarship application

  • Not every scholarship requires an essay. If writing isn’t the student’s strong suit, look for scholarships that require a video or something more creative.
  • The most important part of the application is building the narrative of you and your life. Scholarship committees are looking for students that excel in a certain area and have clear purposes and goals. Look for scholarships that fit your background and interests and focus on the aspects that will be most appealing to the audience.
  • Limit your words, focus on the questions that are asked, and confidently talk about yourself and why you’re the best candidate for the scholarship.
  • Some scholarships specifically cover things like living expenses. If you’ll be living on campus, consider these scholarships because room and board costs can really add up.
  • Don’t apply for scholarships just for the first year. Some awards are just for a single year, so you’ll need to keep applying to maintain the amount of aid you’re receiving. And you may find that you’re even more qualified after a few years of college.
  • Be careful what you post on social media. Scholarship committees are watching–even after you’ve won the scholarship.

Use scholarships to reduce college costs

Vasquez says the most important thing for families to focus on is the idea that the money that you earn now through scholarships can save the student 6-7 years of repayment on the loans when interest accrues.

It may seem overwhelming and be time-consuming to look for and apply for scholarships now, but breaking the process into bite-size pieces will help manage the work and stress. And the payoff is well worth it.

We think this is all great advice and use many of the same recommendations when helping students and families find ways to reduce their college costs.

If you’d like to learn how we can help your family make college more affordable and maximize financial aid, including grants and scholarships, call us at 1-888-234-3907 or send us a message.

Category: Financial Aid

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