Let’s face it, by the time senior year rolls around you’re too busy starting the transition to college, writing essays, and attending Home Coming to spend much time looking for scholarships.
Once you turn 13 you can earn scholarships that will be held until you need them. By that standard, if you’re 15 you’ve lost 2 years in the free money hunt. No time like the present to get started.
The first thing on your agenda is to have a serious and frank discussion with your parents about what they can afford to pay for you to attend college. Remember that over the 4-6 years that you will be a student the costs will only go up, at least slightly. Keep in mind that your siblings will need college money, too. The conversation may be uncomfortable but it is a necessary step.
The very worst thing you can do is “just get in and we’ll figure it out”. That is completely backward. Here are a few facts about college costs.
1. When a college lists average student debt on their website they refer to loans in the student’s name without including debt in a parent’s name. The number is almost always just above $30,000.
2. Most Loans your parents take to finance your education must be paid beginning immediately and be paid every month like a mortgage or car loan.
3. Your financial aid package will have loans built into it that don’t cover the Expected Family Contribution for which many families must also borrow.
Now that I’ve convinced you to be serious about what you can afford, here’s a story about one student who made earning scholarships a priority and a job. The story comes from Susan Smith in the Philadelphia Inquirer on 6/15/13.
Christopher Gray of Birmingham Alabama wanted to attend a college in the Northeast. To finance his education he spent 3 months in the library researching scholarships. Ultimately, he applied for more than 70 scholarships, of which he received 34, for a total of $1.3million, enough to pay for his Bachelors, Masters and Ph.D., living expenses, and some to invest.
$1.3 million, yes your read that correctly. He is not the only student who has scored big by investing time and effort in searching for financial resources.
How to start your own search. Step One: Get Organized
You will need a filing system. Put it on your computer and consider a box you where you can put material mailed to you by colleges. You will need tabs for:
1. your resume, transcripts, test scores, and other official documents; tax records
2. informal records that you keep of community service, honors/awards, employment hours and responsibilities, leadership accomplishments.
3. scholarship information and a separate page or file for those applied for
4. articles you want to keep and leads
5. correspondence related to scholarships including from your school
6. college marketing material
The files can be used jointly by parents and students.
Christopher Gray created an app for android and iPhones called scholly that sells for $.99. When you’ve set up your organization tools and downloaded the app, read the next post to see where to begin looking for free college money.
Access College and Career Consultants help students and families through the maze of college search, applications, essays and more. Call/text 610-212-6679 or email to discuss how we can help you navigate the college process.