For some students, getting into college is a challenge in and of itself. Add on top of that finding the money to pay for college and it can feel downright impossible. But let me assure you, it’s not! There are plenty of tools and resources available to help you get into and pay for college. But some students turn to a scholarship search in hopes it will find the money they need.
But is that really the best way?
Scholarship search resources
Every year during this time, I hear from parents who are worried about the costs of college and want more information on available scholarships. I certainly understand their concerns and will suggest these sites to them for a scholarship search:
The truth about performing a scholarship search
But I also point out something else they need to know: these private scholarships only represent a fraction of the monies available to students every year.
In fact, the 2011 Trends in Student Aid from College Board reported that scholarships from private and employer sources (combined) represented only 4% of all student aid. More recently, the total amount of aid that undergraduate and graduate students received from all grants, loans, tax credits, and work-study was $246.0 billion as of 2018-2019. Click here to see more highlights from Trends in Student Aid 2019.
Not to mention, these private scholarships typically require an application, recommendations, and, often, essays! Imagine the time it takes to compile this information.
By the way, here’s how juniors can get the best teacher recommendations before their first college application.
Let’s take for example this popular scholarship: Coca-Cola Scholars Foundation, Inc.
This program offers 250 scholarships valued at $2,500 – $5,000. Recently, there were 70,000+ applicants for these awards. Hmmm. . . that’s a 296 to 1 odds of winning.
But, if you are indeed one of the 2,200 finalists, you must submit an application, essays, recommendations, and transcripts.
On average, students could spend several hours writing these essays and collecting all the required information. You should apply for this scholarship if you meet the criteria. Keep in mind that you can not apply until senior year when you’re likely spending time on college applications, academics, athletics, and more.
Scholarship opportunities with better odds
For students who may be sophomores or juniors and have a little more flexibility in their schedule and time to carefully write their essays and obtain strong recommendations, you can consider other scholarship opportunities with better odds.
US Bank offers even an online scholarship application that must be used at selected colleges. There are 40 recipients of these $1,000 awards.
Recently, 14,000 applicants. Hmmm. . . 350 to 1 odds of receiving this one.
So, where’s the money?
For freshmen, sophomores, and juniors, here’s where you can really get more bang for your buck and save time . . .
Do well in the things you already do well, i.e. academics, athletics, musical talents, school leadership!
There are so many colleges that are competing for new students. Some colleges are seeking “A” students. Other colleges are seeking quality “B” students. There are even other colleges that are seeking “C” students with potential!
Another set of colleges is seeking those students who will lead community service efforts. The list goes on in terms of great college matches for athletics, musical talents, and future club leaders!
Focus on your strengths
By continuing to do well in your areas of strength, students have access to about 17% of the student aid pie.
That percentage represents monies that come directly from the colleges. For many of these colleges, such as Agnes Scott, Occidental, or the University of Michigan, students apply by submitting an admissions application. So the time you spend completing your application with recommendations and essays benefits your search for student aid.
Being a student that’s a good match for the types of students that college recruits have much more favorable odds than only completing a scholarship search.
For example, the University of Rochester offers millions in merit aid. Ninety-one percent of their students received aid from the university with an average package of $21,000. Their admissions rate is about 35%. Hmmm. . . that’s about 3 to 1 odds!
Those odds seem to be a better use of your time!
Okay, now fill me in. Where have you been finding money for college?
Are you looking for the right college to get in and get money? Click here to check out my free master class.
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This article was updated from the original post from February 4, 2012.