Advertisement
Paying for College

Get a Head Start on Scholarships

Use your time wisely to scope out opportunities, polish your applications and try to increase your odds of landing college aid.

My 16-year-old son is a junior in high school. He gets good grades and is in the National Honor Society, but his school counselor says he shouldn't start looking for college scholarships until next year. Do you agree? If not, where should we look?

It's true that most scholarship money is awarded directly by schools, so you would apply at the same time as you apply for admission and financial aid.

Advertisement - Article continues below

But I'm a little puzzled by your counselor's advice, because it certainly doesn't hurt to get a head start. Find out whether the schools your son is interested in award scholarships, what the criteria are, and what he could do this year to improve his chances of getting one.

There's plenty of money is available for students who focus on schools where their grades, test scores, special talents or extracurricular activities make them attractive. Based on those criteria, I personally know of many students who have been awarded substantial scholarships (my cousin's daughter just got $15,000 from one of her top-choice schools). All three of my children won scholarships ranging from half-tuition to full tuition.

Your son may also qualify for private scholarships -- money that's handed out by sources other than the school. These awards represent only about 7% of the free money available to undergraduates, and they usually amount to less than $2,000.

Advertisement
Advertisement - Article continues below
Advertisement - Article continues below

Still, that would cover books or a computer. And it's up to you to scope out these awards.

Check the scholarship guides at your local public library, and use scholarship search engines such as Fastweb.com and Scholarships.com. (Avoid search companies that charge a fee). Check out the Dollars for Scholars program in your area, plus grants offered by local business and civic groups. See The Great Scholarship Quest for more ideas of where to look.

If your son does his research this year, he'll have plenty of time to polish his applications. He doesn't want to miss any deadlines.

And be persistent. Lynn Grochowski, of Franklin, Wis., applied for more than 40 scholarships. She won a full scholarship to Drake University in Des Moines through the school's alumni program, plus $20,000 in other private scholarships.

Book smarts

To cut the cost of my daughter's college textbooks, I buy used books at www.campusi.com. My daughter texts me the ISBN numbers on the first two days of school, and I can usually get her the books by the next weekend. This has allowed me to get $40 books for $15 or $120 books for $40.

Thanks for the tip. And here's another way to save money on books: Rent them, from discounters such as BookRenter.com or Chegg.com.

Or just have your kids buy used books from other students at their school. My college-freshman son figures he saved hundreds of dollars that way -- and got to know the campus as he trooped around making his purchases.

Advertisement

Most Popular

12 Tax Deadlines for July 15 (It's Not Just the Due Date for Your Tax Return)
tax deadline

12 Tax Deadlines for July 15 (It's Not Just the Due Date for Your Tax Return)

Between due dates for IRA or HSA contributions, paying estimated taxes and other deadlines, there's more to do by July 15 than just filing your federa…
July 10, 2020
Know Why Your Credit Score Changes: 9 Money Moves to Consider
credit & debt

Know Why Your Credit Score Changes: 9 Money Moves to Consider

Your credit score is a key indicator of your financial well-being and of the risk you pose to lenders. How good is yours?
July 10, 2020
65 Best Dividend Stocks You Can Count On
stocks

65 Best Dividend Stocks You Can Count On

These 65 Dividend Aristocrats are an elite group of dividend stocks that have reliably increased their annual payouts every year for at least a quarte…
July 8, 2020

Recommended

7 Ways the Pandemic Will Change College Forever
college

7 Ways the Pandemic Will Change College Forever

Colleges and universities face steep budget cuts, enrollment challenges and new types of competition as a result of COVID-19. We cover the changes you…
June 19, 2020
How to Fund a Memorial Scholarship to Honor a Veteran
college

How to Fund a Memorial Scholarship to Honor a Veteran

With the help of a college or community foundation, you can establish a scholarship in the name of a loved one to help students in perpetuity.
May 24, 2020
How to Endow a Scholarship to Honor a Veteran
college

How to Endow a Scholarship to Honor a Veteran

You may be able to set up a scholarship fund through a college or community foundation, or support educational programs through a charity that special…
May 24, 2020
Gifts for Grads to Build Good Money Habits
college

Gifts for Grads to Build Good Money Habits

Today’s graduates aren’t destined to share the same fate as past generations, so it’s important for them to ramp up their money skills.
May 13, 2020