Your 12 Most Pressing Scholarship Questions: Answered!
With the new, earlier filing dates for financial aid forms, the college planning timeline becomes a little more “crunched” when the Senior year of high school arrives.
If you have a student starting their Senior year this fall, you should already be quite far along in the college planning process. By now, test scores should be finalized, your school list should be firmly in hand, and you should be ready to start the application process!
Part of the application process involves applying for scholarships – a topic that we get quite a few questions about every year.
Below are 12 of the most common questions we hear regarding scholarships – and some answers to help guide you:
Q: How can I find out about what scholarships are available?
A: Your best scholarship research sources include:
- The internet (try some of the many free scholarship search engines, such as the one that can be found at http://www.fastweb.com);
- your local community (contact your local chamber of commerce);
- and your high school guidance counselor and/or college financial aid officer.
Q: Can I apply for a scholarship if I don’t know what college I’m going to attend?
A: Absolutely! You actually can (and should) start applying for scholarships as early as your freshman year in high school. If you win a scholarship before you know which college you’ll attend, the scholarship organization usually will either write you a check (with your assurance that you will use the money for college), or simply give you the money when you decide where to attend college.
Q: Should I have to pay a fee to apply for a scholarship?
A: In most cases, no. While there are a few exceptions, since scholarships are meant to support students who need funds to pay for college, they shouldn’t require those same students to shell out money. Usually, scholarships that require a fee are scams. Be aware, and avoid these types of programs!
Q: If I didn’t win a scholarship, can I apply again next year?
A: Usually. Unless you no longer qualify for some reason, you can apply for a scholarship again. However, consider whether or not your application will be dramatically stronger the next time around. If you will essentially submit the same application, you probably will be better off spending your time applying to a different scholarship competition.
Q: Can I lose my scholarship once it’s been awarded?
A: Yes. Most scholarships that are renewable, meaning that you may receive them for more than one year, will have requirements for you to keep the award. These may stipulate that you must continue to attend the same college, maintain a certain GPA, or keep the same major. If you fail to live up to the requirements, they may revoke the scholarship.
Q: Can I apply for scholarships while I’m a college student?
A: Certainly. In fact, one of the biggest mistakes that many students make is NOT applying for scholarships once they graduate from high school! There are literally thousands of scholarships available for students who are already in college… and even some for graduate students. Look for scholarship opportunities through your college or university.
Q: If I win a scholarship, will my college take away some of my other financial aid?
A: Quite possibly. Many colleges require you to report the scholarships that you win and then adjust your financial aid package. For example, if you win a $1,000 scholarship, the college may decrease your financial aid package by $1,000. However, if your college has this kind of policy, remember to ask them to decrease your loan amount, instead of your grants. It’s better to receive more in scholarships, so that you don’t have to pay back loan money later! It is still worthwhile, because scholarships look great on your resume.
Q: Can I transfer my scholarship if I go to another school?
A: Maybe. Of course, if the scholarship is from a college or an alumni organization, you can only use it at that specific college. However, if the scholarship is from another group, you can probably transfer the scholarship with you, as long as you still meet the eligibility requirements. However, don’t make any assumptions. It’s important that you contact the awarding organization directly to ask and make any necessary arrangements.
Q: Should I bother applying for scholarships even if I don’t have perfect grades?
A: Most definitely – just do your research first. There are scholarships for all kinds of things, including achievements, leadership, public service, art, athletics, theater and dance. Even the scholarships that are based on academic achievements are often not solely based on grade point averages. Instead, the scholarship boards may be seeking students who best fit their selection criteria, which may include other factors like character, motivation, leadership, ethnicity, religious affiliation, or involvement in specific activities. Find the scholarship/s that fit you best, and apply!
Q: Do all scholarships require an essay?
A: No, but most do. Essays are really the best (and often the only) way for scholarship judges to hear directly from you as an applicant, and to get to know you beyond your grades, test scores and other data that you provide on your application form. There are some types of scholarships that don’t require essays, however, especially those for art or music – which may require a portfolio, project or audition.
Q: Can I win a scholarship if my parents make too much money?
A: Yes. There are two types of scholarships: need-based and merit-based. As the name suggests, need-based scholarships are based on your financial need and your parents’ income. Merit-based scholarships are based on other factors such as academic or extracurricular achievements, and will not usually be affected by family income. (Contact us for a free evaluation to find out how we can potentially help you qualify for more of BOTH types of aid!)
Q: What is a renewable scholarship?
A: Renewable scholarships can be awarded once and then renewed in the following years. These are the best kind of scholarship, because you can win the money for more than one year. Just make sure that you live up to your end of the scholarship bargain as noted above, and you will receive additional money each year – typically for a defined period, such as 2 or 4 years.
Scholarships can be a wonderful way to help pay for college, but often award amounts may be fairly small ($500 – $3,000 each). We recommend you apply for as many scholarships as possible (that you qualify for), but don’t spend all of your time here. Remember there are many other sources of financial aid to explore.
Contact us for a free family evaluation to find out how we can help you maximize your aid eligibility from all sources – not just scholarships!