Your Stress-Free Guide to Applying for Scholarships
When I graduated high school, I didn’t think I could afford college. The acceptance letters arrived in the mail and then came the cost of attendance. As a first-generation college student, my parents and I had no idea how to go about getting money for education and the scholarships out there seemed distant and unachievable. It took some time but I finally made it to my senior year of college with several university sponsored scholarships and Federal Work Study.
University of the Pacific made finding scholarships as easy as possible. Besides automatically considering admitted students for in-house scholarships, they had an entire page of financial aid information and links to external sites like FastWeb and College Board. Another great source of information is the U.S. Department of Labor’s scholarship, grant, and fellowship website. You can check it out here.
I know first-hand that paying for college is daunting—rumor has it getting into college is the easy part and that paying for it is where the real work happens—and that’s why I’m here to share some knowledge to make this whole thing a little easier on you. Here’s some advice from one college student to another:
APPLY. APPLY. APPLY.
Scholarships have deadlines and no one’s going to pester you into applying for them (or maybe someone is and you should thank them when you’re rolling around in free money). This is the point where you just put yourself out there by finding and applying to everything you qualify for. Every scholarship is different and they all require different levels of work. Give yourself a day of the week (Money Monday has a nice ring to it ) and dedicate an hour (or two) to applying for scholarships. Trust me, this will help you throughout your academic career.
MAKE EVERY WORD COUNT
If you can say it in four words, say it in four words and move on.
YOU CAN’T TALK ABOUT EVERYTHING
This bit of advice comes from Susan Weiner, Ph.D. (University of the Pacific’s Fellowship Advisor) and it piggybacks on advice #3. She says to think about all the aspects of yourself as stars in the sky and the application essay is your attempt at creating a single constellation from your numerous stars. Find the points that pair well with each other and make the connection.
ASK FOR HELP
Reach out to friends, teachers, and even people working at your future university. Find out what advice they have about application processes and even see if they know of any scholarships you didn’t know about.
DON’T FEEL BAD IF YOU TAKE OUT A LOAN
The website Student Loan Hero states that the average debt of graduates from the Class of 2016 was $37,172 and it’s only expected to increase. Even former president Barack Obama had student loans that he struggled to pay off.
"Michelle and I, we’ve been in your shoes," he stated during a speech at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. "Check this out, all right. I’m President of the United States. We only finished paying off our student loans about eight years ago. That wasn't that long ago. And that wasn't easy— especially because when we had Malia and Sasha, we're supposed to be saving up for their college education, and we're still paying off our college educations.”
Let that be both a reminder and an inspiration that you’re not alone in the struggle that is paying for college.