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The quest for college scholarships
Question: How can I find scholarship money?
Answer: I recommend that you start your search by rummaging through the file cabinets in your high school counseling office or school Web site as counselors are sent information about many of the local scholarships that you might be eligible for. It is always far better to start locally, as you will be competing with a much smaller pool of students. While in the counseling office, make an appointment to meet with your counselor to see if they know of any scholarships you might be eligible for, especially since many scholarships require being nominated by your school. Most students don’t even think to look for scholarships until they are accepted to college in April. Since many of the scholarship deadlines are in the fall or early winter, your chances improve considerably simply by submitting applications on time. I also recommend that you talk to the financial aid office or check the Web site of the colleges you are interested in attending, as they will often offer scholarships either for freshman or for upperclassmen once you have declared your major. In addition, many local employers offer scholarships for students who are employed at their company or at nonprofit organizations, where you might have done your volunteer service. I also advise students to check out credit unions where you do your banking.
While authors such as Gen and Kelly Tanabe write of being able to fund their Harvard tuition with multiple small scholarships, in actuality I find this much harder than they make it out to be. I recommend that you start out with Web searches such as FastWeb.com, Scholarships.com or frschinfo.com, to name a few. I will warn you that they will take a lot of time and often leave you coming up empty-handed unless your parent is affiliated with an organization that offers scholarships or you claim an attribute that meets certain criteria. Some of the hundreds listed included being a duck caller, tall, a fat acceptor or transgendered. Having personally just completed this search with my daughter, we came up with very little on multiple search engines other than essay contests writing about Ann Rand, religious freedom, Veteran’s Day or courage. Did I mention Junior Miss or making the video on the merits of tea? Having not checked duck calling, perhaps other options might have appeared on our screen that were more appealing.
Lastly, I recommend that you spend some time in the local library, perusing an up-to-date scholarship book such as the one put out by the CollegeBoard or the Ultimate Scholarship Book 2009 by Tanabe. You will probably need to think outside the box, especially if you do not share an affiliation with any specific organization, ethnic group or disability.
Joan Franklin is the owner of The College Source, an independent college consulting practice: www.thecollegesource.org. She is also a certified school counselor in the Issaquah School District. She can be reached at (206) 232-5626 or firstname.lastname@example.org.