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Getting a Head Start on Scholarships

Every year there is as astounding amount of scholarship money that goes unclaimed, even completely unapplied for. There’s more money out there than you might think. Get a headstart on scholarship applications to beat the competition.

It’s the same old story about birds and worms. If you’re hoping to land one of the thousands of scholarships offered to college students every year, you’ve got to get an early start. Colleges, businesses, non-profit organizations, and memorial funding institutions offer upwards of $3 billion in scholarships and other financial aid to undergraduate and graduate students every year. But unless you allocate ample research hours into scholarships that match your personal needs and qualifications, you won’t have time to compete with other applicants.

Applying for scholarships is a lengthy process. By creating a schedule and sticking to it, you give yourself the time to identify eligibility requirements and find the more obscure scholarships that you might qualify for.

Be prepared. Most scholarship institutions require you to provide your educational transcript, test scores, application essays, letters of recommendation, forms for the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA), and parental (or guardian) tax returns. For organizations offering scholarships to members, you’ll also be asked to provide proof of membership.

Planning Your Scholarship Application Process
The scholarship essay is a show-stopper for many students. When mapping out a strategy, write down all deadlines for delivering forms. Figure out the preparation and essay-writing time you’ll need, and mark that on your calendar too. Your strategy should also include deadlines for rounding up and completing all support documents from your school, your parents or guardians, and testing institutions.

It pays to work on several deadlines at the same time, researching the wide range of scholarships available while simultaneously taking tests and working on your grades. Remember: the more time you can devote to research available funding, the greater the number of options you’ll have for paying for your education. For example, if you’re seeking merit-based scholarships rather than financial need scholarships, you should focus your energy scouting out funding organizations in that category.

Narrowing Down the Scholarship Field
Get into action as early as your sophomore high-school year. Look locally and nationally. Once you know where you intend to go to school, you might cut down the competition by approaching local organizations directly. Professional groups, businesses, religious organizations, fraternities, and sororities–local groups like these are often very happy to help out students in their community. Start networking right away. Be sure to schedule all your national tests–SAT, ACT, etc.–in your junior year because most scholarships have deadlines in the fall of your senior year.

Finally, systematically review all potential scholarship sources to find a match. Scholarships may be based on athletics, financial need, or professional orientation. How diverse are your options? Here’s an interesting assortment to ponder:

��� The National Cosmetology Association offers scholarships for new students entering cosmetology school
��� Women in Federal Law Enforcement offers scholarships to women pursuing law enforcement careers
��� The National Intercollegiate Rodeo Foundation hands out scholarships to rodeo performers
��� The Udall Foundation provides scholarships to Native American students who plan to study environmental science
��� The San Francisco Paramedic Association has a scholarship for EMT and paramedic students

Start early and stay committed! You’ll be surprised at how much a little legwork pays off when it comes to finding scholarships.

Publish date: July 30, 2009