College Scholarships: What You Need to Know

The Career Center recently hosted a seminar on helpful tips when applying for scholarships. Guest presenter Meagan Davenport, an academic counselor with experience in college advising, offered insights about what she has learned throughout her experience of interacting with high school students. Here are some of the main takeaways in case you missed it:

why is this important?

Paying for college is a problem that has become all too common. Students are taking out more loans in order to get a degree that is needed in today’s workforce. In 2018, the average student graduated college with at least $37,000 in loans with an interest rate of 5%. Scholarships have become more necessary as the struggle to pay for college grows. Applying to scholarships can relieve some of the financial burdens of going to college.

When do I start looking for scholarships?

You should ideally start looking at scholarships at the beginning of your senior year. There are scholarships available at the beginning of the year that continue yearlong. The earlier you are able to start applying for scholarships, the more scholarships you will be able to apply to.

Helpful tips:

This is all a numbers game. The more scholarships you apply for, the more money you could potentially be awarded. It gets easier after your first 7 applications. Make a deadline list or calendar to keep track of all of the scholarship due dates. This will help you prioritize your scholarship applications.

Start with the easiest ones to fill out. There are some scholarships for which you only need to fill in your information without any essay, recommendation letter, or other attachments. These are less time consuming and can easily be completed in one sitting. When you are on a scholarship website, fill out the optional questions and use the filters. Students who do this are twice as likely to find more scholarships.

Do not be afraid of those small amount scholarships. These are less competitive scholarships, so you have a better chance of winning small amounts. Every dollar you receive in scholarships can help. Those small amounts can easily help pay for textbooks.

Apply to the essay scholarships! Considering a lot of students do not like to write essays, there is a smaller selection pool for these opportunities. This gives you a higher chance of earning money for college. The essay should fit the theme of the scholarship and should include personal aspects, such as achievements, issues you feel strongly about, academic plans or major of study, or mentors and influences in your life. Make the structure and foundation of your essay reusable so that you do not have to write a whole new essay for each scholarship.

Have a professional email address to use for scholarships as well as college applications. Clean up your social media as well. Although colleges may not look at your social media accounts, some of your college jobs or work study opportunities might. It is just good practice to have a clean social media account and email address.

online resources:

Beware of scam websites! You should never have to pay money to get scholarship money. These are not true scholarship websites. You can also connect with your school counselor about local scholarship opportunities.

Here are some legitimate scholarship websites that are very user-friendly and helpful:

Written by Meagan Davenport

Freshman Year for Free™

Do you want to get the equivalent of a year of college for free?

This might just be possible through the relatively new and innovative non-profit organization Modern States Education Alliance. Modern States is not a college and does not grant college credit directly. Instead they are taking advantage of the college credit by exam system, such as Advanced Placement (AP) and College Level Examination Program (CLEP). https://modernstates.org/freshman-year-free/

how it works

Modern States partnered with top universities and created online courses that prepare students for the AP and CLEP exams. The online courses claim to teach in a few weeks what the same college courses would take one or two semesters to achieve. These online classes are basically test prep courses. However, it is entirely free to register and take them. After completing a class it is then up to the student to register for and take the respective AP or CLEP exam on their own. Through a voucher system Modern States will reimburse the exam fees. This way it is possible to take a year’s worth of college credit entirely for free. Take a look https://modernstates.org/about-us/who-we-are/

a word of caution

Modern States is open about not every college accepting AP and CLEP credits. They include a feature on the website where you can check which university accepts those credits, and, in the case of AP, what the minimum acceptable score is. https://modernstates.org/affiliated-universities/universities/  In any case it is recommended that you check with your college of choice directly also. While some colleges do accept CLEP and AP, they might be limiting the number of credits they are willing to honor. Or they might accept AP/CLEP for Biology but not for Calculus for example. The website will not go into such detail for each institution.

advantages

Regardless of the above concerns, this is a legitimate way for many students to start working towards a college degree. It can be useful to current high school students or recent grads, as well as adults who are looking to start college for the first time or continue their previously interrupted studies. Current college students who wish to get through their degree faster than the normal four years could benefit from this initiative as well.

If you are unsure where your college or career path will take you, the Career Center can help. You can call us at 225-231-3733 or visit in person at 7711 Goodwood Blvd. We also have a number of CLEP study guides available for checkout.

Written by Anne Nowak