Learning Center for Parents

Find the Scholarships you need to pay for College!

More information available at the College Board

How to Develop a Scholarship Strategy
Although most student aid comes in the form of federal education loans and grants from colleges, scholarships—with their lure of free money—get a huge amount of attention from students and their parents. If you and your child decide to invest your time in a search for scholarships, it’s important to have an organized system to find, apply for, and win scholarship money.

Start With a Personal Inventory

Start With a Personal Inventory
Most of the information your child will need to fill out a scholarship search questionnaire will be easy to come up with—year in school, citizenship, state of residence, religion, ethnic background, disability, military status, employer, membership organizations, and so forth.
Beyond those questions, your child should give some thought to academic, extracurricular, and career plans.

Your child should ask:

  • Do I want to participate in a competition? If so, what are my talents and interests?
  • What subject do I plan to major in?
  • What career do I plan to pursue?
  • Do I want to apply for all types of aid or only scholarships?

Answers to these questions will help determine scholarship eligibility. Your child should take time to brainstorm thoroughly—the more personal characteristics your child discovers, the more scholarships she could potentially apply for.

Research Local Scholarships First

Research Local Scholarships First
In general, the smaller the area a scholarship covers, the better your child’s chances of winning. Your child should start at the high school counselor’s office. Counselors will know about scholarships for students graduating from the local high school. They may also be aware of scholarships for residents of your town, county, and state.

Your child’s next stop should be the college aid section of your local public library or bookstore. Look at a range of books about financial aid, including scholarship guides.
Then, it’s time to start looking at large national scholarships such as Reserve Officer Training Corps (ROTC), National Merit, Gates Millennium, Siemens, Coca-Cola, and Robert Byrd.

Check Membership Organizations and Employers

Check Membership Organizations and Employers
Here’s an area where you, as a parent, can really help out. Think of all of the organizations you have an affiliation with—religious, community service, fraternal, military, union, and professional—and find out if any of them sponsor scholarships for children of members.

Don’t forget your employer. Many large companies offer scholarships or tuition reimbursement programs for dependent children of employees. Check with your human resources department to see if your company offers such programs.

Employers of students such as fast food chains, department stores, and supermarkets often provide scholarships. Awards related to student employment can come from unexpected sources. For example, there are a number of scholarships for golf caddies.

Use a Free Scholarship Search Service

Use a Free Scholarship Search Service
A scholarship search company collects information on hundreds of awards and compares your child’s student characteristics with scholarship restrictions. Based on answers to a questionnaire, your child will receive a list of possible scholarships. It is up to your child to decide which ones to try for.

You should never have to pay for scholarship information. If you are asked to pay a fee for “exclusive” scholarship leads, there’s a good chance the scholarship service is really a scholarship scam.

Here are some free scholarship search services:

  • Scholarship Search
  • FastWeb
  • Sallie Mae

Contact Your State Department of Higher Education

Contact Your State Department of Higher Education
Almost every state has a scholarship program for residents—keep in mind, however, that awards are usually limited to students who attend college in-state. For example, the State of Florida offers Bright Futures scholarships to academically-qualified Floridians who decide to attend in-state colleges and universities.

Research Institutional Scholarships

Research Institutional Scholarships
Since a great deal of scholarship money is disbursed by colleges, it makes sense to research what kinds of scholarships are available at your child’s favorite colleges. Investigate college websites, catalogs, and financial aid offices for this information. Institutional awards can be offered on a university-wide basis, or within a particular college or major. Eligibility for such awards can be based on merit, financial need, intended major, ethnicity, or a variety of other factors. Here are some questions your child might want to ask about these awards:

  • Are scholarships awarded automatically if a student matches certain criteria (such as GPA or SAT score)?
  • What is the application procedure? What materials are required?
  • Is the award renewable? What are the requirements to maintain the award?

How to Apply for a Scholarship

How to Apply for a Scholarship
Information available at the College Board

The Money Is There, but You Have to Ask for It

The Money Is There, but You Have to Ask for It
There’s a lot of advice out there about the best way to apply for scholarships—how your child should “package” himself in his essay, which extracurricular activities to emphasize, and what color paper to use for his resume. The truth is, much of this advice can vary widely, depending on the author—and what works for one applicant may not necessarily work for another. Your child will discover that most of the scholarship secrets simply boil down to using common sense and following directions carefully.

Application Tips

Application Tips
Here are some tips your child can use to create solid applications and avoid common scholarship mistakes:

1. Start Researching Scholarships Early
The more time your child can put into a scholarship search, the more options there’ll be. Your child will need time to research scholarships, request information and application materials, and complete applications—plus, some scholarships have deadlines early in the fall of the senior year. Please see your CBT College Campus F.A. officer for assistance.

2. Read Eligibility Requirements Carefully

If your child has a question about eligibility for a particular scholarship, contact the scholarship sponsors immediately.

3. Organize All Scholarship Materials
Your child should create a separate file for each scholarship and file by application date. Keep a calendar of application deadlines and follow-up appointments.

Many scholarships require your child to provide some combination of the following:

  • Transcript
  • Standardized test scores
  • Financial aid forms, such as the FAFSA or PROFILE
  • Parent’s financial information, including tax returns
  • One or more essays
  • One or more letters of recommendation
  • Proof of eligibility (e.g. membership credentials)

Your child may also need to prepare for a personal interview. For students competing for talent-based scholarships, an audition, performance, or portfolio may be required.

4. Proofread Applications Carefully
Your child can use the computer’s spelling and grammar check features to scan for any careless mistakes, however, it’s also a good idea to ask others—you, a teacher, or a friend—to read the essays and share thoughts and ideas.

5. Don’t Leave Items Blank
Blank items will slow down the processing of your child’s application. Your child should contact scholarship sponsors with questions on how to fill out any part of the application.

6. Follow Instructions to the Letter
Make sure your child does not go over the length limit for the essay. Another application don’t: sending supporting materials that are not requested in the application.

7. Make Sure the Application is Legible
Type or print application forms and essays.

8. Make Copies of Everything
If application materials are lost, having copies on hand will make it much easier to resend the application quickly.

9. Double-Check the Application
If your child is reusing material (such as a cover letter or essay) from another scholarship application, be especially careful he hasn’t left in any incorrect names or blank fields. He should not forget to sign and date his application.

10. Get Your Applications in Early
Missing deadlines means missing out. Consider using certified mail and/or return receipt.

Scholarships affect the financial aid package!
Private scholarships can actually reduce parts of your child’s financial aid package. How? Colleges must consider outside scholarships as a student’s financial resource, available to pay for education costs. If a college financial aid office meets your child’s full financial need, government regulations specify that any scholarship money won lowers the need figure on a dollar-for-dollar basis.

What should matter to you and your child is which types of aid are reduced or eliminated—self-help aid (loans or work-study) or need-based grants. Colleges, following federal regulations, can adjust aid packages in a variety of ways—some will subtract the value of unmet need first, others will reduce self-help aid before reducing grants, still others will use scholarship funds only to replace grant money. Some colleges even give the option of using scholarships to reduce the expected family contribution.