November 1st kicked off the start of the celebration of National Scholarship Month. Sponsored by the National Scholarship Providers Association, November is dedicated to raising awareness of scholarship opportunities for current and future college students. It is no coincidence that November is also the recommended time to start researching and applying for scholarships for the next fall semester. In fact, National Scholarship Month was changed from May to November in 2008 to coincide with the application season.
According to the 2012 Sallie Mae national “How America Pays for College” study, 35 percent of total families used scholarships to fund college costs at an average amount of $7,673. For the first time, the study asked respondents to identify the type of scholarships they received. 73 percent reported receiving a scholarship directly from the college at an average amount of $5,645; 27 percent reported receiving a scholarship from a community group or nonprofit organization at an average amount of $568; 26 percent reported receiving a scholarship awarded by their state government, at an average of $592.
In recent years, more and more families are narrowing college choices because of financial limits. In 2012, 69 percent of families eliminated colleges based on cost, up from a previous high of 64 percent in 2011.
Scholarships could be the answer for hundreds of thousands of students everywhere and it is important that students know where to look for them. The internet is one of a student’s greatest resources during the application process. The following is a list of some of the best free scholarship databases online:
- FastWeb Scholarship Search – features 1.5 million scholarships worth over $3.4 billion and email notifications of scholarships relevant to you
- College Board’s FUND FINDER – features scholarships and other financial aid programs totaling nearly $6 billion
- Scholarships.com LLC – since 1999, they have matched students with 2.7 million local, state, and national scholarships
- Sallie Mae’s Scholarship Search – updated daily and contains over 3 million scholarships worth over $16 billion
ScholarshipPoints is an interesting free, rewards-based program that awards over $100,000 in scholarships to students each year. Students earn points for completing online activities such as quizzes, surveys, blogs, etc. and each point earned equals one entry into a monthly $1,000 or quarterly $10,000 scholarship drawing.
It is important that students are creative during their scholarship search and look outside of the internet. Aside from college financial aid offices, it is recommended that students look to their local communities and organizations as well as their professional associations. They should also consider talents aside from their academic successes such as athletics, art, music, and hobbies.
In celebration of National Scholarship Month, Sallie Mae is offering the chance to win a full ride to college with $150,000 in scholarship money through its UPromise program. There is no purchase required to enter the program.
Some tips to consider when applying for scholarships:
- Start early. Start the scholarship search and application process as early as possible. There are scholarship programs available for early high school students.
- Apply, apply, apply. The more scholarships you apply for, the more likely you are to receive one. Apply for as many scholarships as possible that are relevant to you. Don’t overlook any opportunities.
- Avoid application fees.
- Proofread. Many committees will not consider applications with major errors in an effort to eliminate candidates in a sea of applicants. Also, be sure you have fulfilled all of the requirements of the application.