The Do’s AND Don’ts Of College Scholarship Pursuits, From a Veteran Parent
If you have a child who will be contemplating any sort of post-high school education, some advice to make it easier, and not pull your hair out when it comes to searching for and getting college scholarships. The Do's and Don'ts. I learned this helping our son Dhylan, who is graduating Saturday as one of the Salutatorians at Kamiakin.
DO: make sure your child gets the best grades possible. Kinda duh huh, but the higher the GPA the better. AND make sure they take the SAT. If necessary re-take it. It's worth it. A high SAT score will have you getting 'fan' mail from colleges you never heard of. It will astound you.
Dhylan got letters from Vanderbilt, Northwestern, Yale, Stanford, Oregon (3) and 23 other schools. The strong SAT is the door-opener.
DON'T: do not let your student take 'easy' courses to prop up GPA and grades. Prospective colleges and scholarships DO strongly consider AP and other advanced classes.
DO: Make a list of every possible bank, credit union, civic organization or athletic or booster group in the Tri-City Mid Columbia area. THINK LOCAL. There are dozens of groups who provide scholarships, often because they're not well known, few kids apply for them. Also include labor unions, building associations, realtors etc. It never hurts to ask. Think outside the box. Check with your employer. Many of them offer scholarships and you might not know it. Kiwanis, Rotary, etc. these kind of groups. They're great and they fight for kids. Regardless of which school they are attending, these groups (if you win) will send the money to your school.
DON'T: Don't bother with Google searches, unless your trying to find a specific scholarship. The web is loaded with scammy-style groups who offer to round up scholarships you can apply for if you pay them. In these cases, you're competing with thousands across the country, and the odds of getting them are practically zero. So forget the Foot Locker, Wendy's High School Heisman and other well-known efforts (unless your student is the second coming of Cam Newton in football). So forget national. think local and regional.
DO: Prepare a resume for your kid. List every significant academic and athletic award they have won, include GPA and SAT scores if applicable. Get a copy of SAT and transcript from your kid's school. Make numerous copies or scans, so they will be easy to include with scholarship applications. Some scholarships do ask for a resume. Include work experience, even if it was just organized lawn care on their own. Also include civic and volunteer work (our son coached Grid Kids and KN baseball for 5 years). Scholarship people eat that stuff up.
DON'T: Although your school counselors and others will swear by it, don't get too caught up in what's called the WASHBOARD. It can be an effective tool to help locate scholarships, but in our experience (especially if your child is planning a career in medicine, engineering, physics, math or other 'challenging' fields) it only provided maybe 2-3 opportunities that would have fit our criteria for what our son wanted to do.
DO: Become best friends with you student's high school guidance and academic advisors, and the person who oversees scholarship information. Get on the school's scholarship email list. Each month or sometimes bi-weekly they will email you the latest scholarship opportunities. IF you know which school your student wants to attend, reach out to them and discover their scholarship and in-house awards. They are out there...lots of them.
DO: If your student clearly wants post-high school education, start looking and applying as soon as their junior year is over. For incoming college freshmen, most scholarships 'start' the opening date after current school year is over. For students already in college, there are lots of opportunities for scholarships while you're in school. We didn't know that, but we found them. We plan to apply for them after he starts his freshman year.
And finally, prepare for disappointment. For every 10-12 scholarships you apply for, you can expect to maybe win 'one.' Keep digging, and followup at least every three weeks after submitting them. They won't mind. Keep a notebook of all the applications so you won't forget. We applied for a total of 18 'realistic' applicable scholarships (and 7-8 'maybes') and Dhylan got awarded 3. But that's better than NONE!
The keys? Local, persistence, and good grades and strong SAT. That will help you get the most money for your student...regardless of junior college, trade school or university.