Scholarship Myths and Tips

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College is becoming more expensive by the year.   We have a soon to be sophomore in high school, and we’re being faced with the sobering task of figuring out how to pay for it. Since the cost of college tuition continues to rise, scholarships are on our radar to bring the price tag of college to a more reasonable level.

But you can’t receive scholarship money if you don’t apply for it. And as with most things in life, the early bird get the worm. Now is the time of year to get those applications completed in hopes of handsome rewards in the summer.

Applying for scholarships should be one of the first steps in your plan to pay for college. However, scholarship myths continue to flourish and need to be dispelled.

Myth 1: Billions of scholarship dollars go unclaimed.
In reality, the number of unused scholarships is minuscule. You’ll need to do your research and apply early to have a chance at getting your share of available funding.

Myth 2: Scholarships go only to the best students.
Many scholarships are awarded based on elements other than academic achievement. Some scholarships are based on the student’s major field of study, involvement in extracurricular and community activities, ethnicity and geographic origin, or other factors. Actually the more we look, the more evidence there is that academic scholarships are actually quite rare, and most of the ones available are for speciliazed interests.

Myth 3: Scholarship searches are worth paying for.
This myth will hopefully die as people discover the many free resources available on the Internet or in the print media.

So how do students and their parents sort through the myths and get to the facts? Start the process early – January is perfect for the next school year – and utilize the resources around you. But it’s never too late to look for scholarships to apply for.

To find scholarship opportunities, start with your high school guidance counselor and local library for a list of possible resources. Next, check with your college financial aid office. It doesn’t matter whether you have your sites on the college down the street, one in San Diego or Miami Colleges, most states and many colleges offer scholarships, so students should also inquire about them. Finally, the Internet and organizational websites are excellent places to search. Remember, this information should always be free. The more scholarships you apply for, especially local and regional opportunities, the better your odds are to be selected.

Though the scholarship application process can be time consuming, most scholarships require similar information. Once you complete your first application, you can easily re-use the same information for additional scholarships. Scholarships come from many sources, but the student may have to do some detective work to uncover them.

Scholarship search tips

* Start early – Experts recommend college-bound students and their parents start looking as early as their freshman year in high school. By identifying potential awards, students can choose classes and activities that will increase their chance at winning a specific award in the future.

* Use the Internet – But be wary of scams posing as scholarships. If a scholarship is reputable, you should be able to find information about it through multiple sources. Try to use two sources and make sure the profile submitted is accurate; paying fees does not increase your chance of winning.

* Think small – Competition can be tough for large awards. Smaller awards ($1,000 and less) typically have less competition and are easier to obtain.

Good luck in your scholarship applications!

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