Applying For And Getting Scholarships

It is getting increasingly, and at times prohibitively, expensive to go to school. Whether you are aware or not, there are millions, even billions, of dollars in scholarship money waiting in various coffers for an eager, destitute student to claim. The challenge in getting these scholarships is twofold first, you need to find them, then you need to convince them to give you their money. 

When you are starting out, financial awards and aid can be very confusing. There are scholarships that universities award to get you to come to their institution (these can be for academics, sports, community service, or other special interests). there are private scholarships that are not attached to a specific institution, but rather are awarded because the student has a certain quality the granter is hoping to promote, there are bursaries, which are more general awards spread out over a student body, and there are fellowships, which are aimed mostly at graduate students. 

Whether you are in your final year of high school or already in the university system, the time to start looking for scholarships is immediately. Deadlines for scholarships vary, but most of them are at least six to eight months before you start your academic year. Applying for scholarships the summer before you attend is not going to help you much for that fall. 

Where To Look
The best place to start looking is at your current academic institution. This is to say, if you are in high school, go to the library, career counselor or guidance counselor and ask for direction. More than likely, these resources will give you information on local and institutional scholarships, but they should also be able to guide you to private scholarships. 

If you are already at university, go to your financial aid and awards office. Ask if they have a general application that will qualify you for institutional bursaries. This is a pot of money that is doled out each year to students, and often, you just have to apply to get your piece of that pie. After you have done that, ask about scholarships specific to your area of study. They probably won’t know, but they can lead you in the right direction. Many have databases linking to scholarship sites. 

The second place you should go, once you have picked a major, is to your department office. Most departments have money available to students in their field of study. You should be able to access these on your department’s web site, but if not, ask in the general office. Many of these awards, if the money is given directly to the department, are doled out by a faculty committee who decide the most deserving or needy students. So be nice to your profs. 

Once you have checked out those places that seem to be the most obvious, take another look right under your nose. Often times, the best places to look for scholarship money is through family connections and in your home community. Find out if your parents’ employers or union offer scholarship money to employee families. If your parents or grandparents are part of any community groups, like Rotary, Kinsmen, Shiners, Masons, many of these community groups offer scholarships to members. Even if you have no family connections to those groups, find out if the local groups offer them and apply anyway. One of the greatest shames is unapplied-for money. If no one else more qualified applies for the money, your own community involvement or accomplishments may make you a candidate. 

Once you have exhausted these places, there are vast resources available on the Internet to research scholarships. This is where scholarship hunting is going to get a little more overwhelming. There are tons of sites that will help you find scholarships. Reputable and helpful sites that you will want to concentrate on will ask you for a full profile that they will feed into their database in order to link you with scholarships for which you may qualify. Make sure you are honest in your profile, and also very broad. Include any hobbies, characteristics, jobs, even parents’ jobs, in the search. You would be surprised at the bizarre criteria for which some scholarships are granted, and you would be surprised at how many go unclaimed because people think they don’t qualify. If you even remotely qualify, send in an application. 

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