College is expensive, and while families should focus on saving what they can, students should not forget to apply to the wealth of scholarships available nationwide.
Millions of scholarships, worth billions of dollars are awarded annually. Beyond in-house scholarships offered by the institutions themselves, a number of federations and organizations offer money to students with particular aptitudes, achievements and aspirations.
“Scholarships can make a significant dent in out-of-pocket college spending, but finding and applying for them requires an up-front investment of effort,” says Martha Holler, senior vice president, Sallie Mae.
The college financing experts at Sallie Mae are offering scholarship application tips:
• Applying is worth the time and effort. Even if the award is small, take the time to apply to every scholarship for which you are eligible. It is money that doesn’t have to be paid back, and it can be used for textbooks, supplies or other college-related expenses.
• Deadlines and details matter. In the highly competitive scholarship arena, missing a deadline or overlooking application requirements will likely disqualify an applicant. Stay organized with a spreadsheet that includes due dates and other important information.
• Apply each year. Approximately half of available scholarships are for students already enrolled in college. Take the time to apply annually to ease the year-to-year tuition burden.
• Impress the judges. Something seemingly as small as a thank you note can have a disproportionately large effect on how an application is regarded. Be courteous and thoughtful throughout the process.
• Shop around. Go deep. There are scholarships for students who want to study subjects as diverse as candy making, potato growing and welding technology. Additionally, scholarships are available for particular circumstances, such as community college students transferring to four-year institutions, or students who are the first in their family to attend college.
• Don’t spend. The goal is to save money, not spend it. Guidance counselors and school financial aid offices can recommend free, reputable scholarship search sites, such as Scholarship Search by Sallie Mae, which just added two million scholarships to its database, offering access to more than five million scholarships worth nearly $24 billion. Those who register are automatically eligible to win the Plan for College Sweepstakes, which awards $1,000 each month to a winner selected at random.
• Continue to save and plan. Landing a scholarship is just one component of being prepared for college. Continue to set aside savings. Free college planning tools are available online in Sallie Mae’s College Planning Toolbox.
For more tips on how to get started finding free money for college and for information on saving, planning and paying for college, visit www.SallieMae.com.Spend some time investigating all your college financing options. Scholarships are an excellent way to supplement your savings and other funding sources.