Money, Money, Money!
It is early morning and I am noticing a trend. Early morning seems to be the only time that I can really research scholarship deadlines for my clients. It is quiet, and I have a good cup of coffee with some peppermint flavoring, and I am scouring my sources for the best scholarships. I have already found several for my family in Georgia who thought the only award they might be eligible for was the Hope. I also have an athlete who is working hard on her applications. She is a senior and she is running out of time. Actually, many of these scholarships have deadlines in January, February, and even May. She has enough time but I do wish she had started this in her sophomore year. She would have it behind her. Some of the scholarships are open to early applicants. Life could have been so much easier and lucrative for her! I am compiling a list of her options at this point because even the smaller scholarships add up and defer the inevitable....student loan.
Both of my sons managed to graduate with zero debt from their undergraduate degrees but it took a lot of planning, applying to the right schools, and showcasing their talents and academic accomplishments. Community Service never hurts either. Donors love to see students who give back to the community.
Now, my youngest son is in search of awards for Graduate school. His plan is to defray as much debt as possible. When I graduated with two degrees, I only had $10,000 in debt. Two degrees, eight full years of college, and only $10,000 in debt. That was an easy loan payment, too. I will never forget $119.19. I wrote out that check every month for 10 years. It was less than my cell phone bill is now. I recommend after you gather up your short list of colleges and universities, and visit them that you to shorten the list of possibilities. Then you need to seek out someone to show you the way to make college affordable. You might need to spend a little money if you want to make a little money.
You need to review each college and look closely at the cost, and I do not mean just the cost of tuition. There are hidden expenses for books and fees. Then you need to look at the time it will take you to graduate with the degree and major that you need for your established career. Some colleges have graduation rates that are less than desirable. You also need to look at the loan indebtedness that you will carry from your bachelor degree to your advanced degree. Let's face it many of you will need a professional degree and that could add substantial debt. If you minimize your debt now and make a wise college choice, you can create your path to success.
There are so many variables with financial aid. It is just a little bit different with every school. The scholarship money, or merit aid as they like to call it has different rules and different deadlines. National scholarships do as well. Another good question to ask each college is about renewal. In other words, are your scholarships renewable each year, and how long are they renewable. Most of the time, you will need to fill out the FAFSA and maybe the CSS Profile every year. My list of scholarship deadlines is getting longer and it is still early. By mid-day, I should have a substantial list to review with my clients. We will see who the savvy winners are this year.
Most of the scholarships require an essay on a themed topic. The topic usually relates to the purpose or reason that the company or donor is offering the scholarship. Once you master the idea of the "why" it all becomes easier. Therefore, it is a great idea to start polishing up those essay skills or get someone to work with you to design your theme. The committee who reads scholarship essays will be excited to read the essays from my students. We always come up with creative and thoughtful essays that speak to their authentic, and genuine activities. I hope you do the same!