Hello! I’m Nicholas and I'm back with another post for College Knowledge Month! Last week, I talked about how to pay for college with federal and state grants. This week, I will focus on scholarships!
"Everyone is applying for scholarships. Why should I?" This is often something I hear students say when talking about scholarships. We think the competition is intense and our chances are slim, but the reality is:
"Everyone is NOT applying for scholarships!"
Contrary to what most think, ANYONE attending school can apply for scholarships and not all scholarship applications require you to write that scary long essay. I once applied for a scholarship that was sponsored by a fire sprinkler company and all I had to do was write a short essay on why fire sprinklers are important. Yes, I had to write that short essay, but it was not that difficult and that is all I had to do!
There are hundreds of thousands of scholarship opportunities out there. Check out websites like www.fastweb.com or www.scholarships.com to research scholarships that you qualify for. The great thing about these websites is they filter scholarship opportunities that you qualify for, which saves you hours of time researching!
Once you find the scholarship opportunities that you qualify for - spend time APPLYING for them.
Let's say you spend 20 hours a week researching and applying for scholarships. If you only get 1 scholarship awarded for $1,000, you just made $50/hour! Good luck trying to find a job that will beat that rate while in college! This is the mindset you should have when applying. View it as a job and know that the effort will pay off (literally)!
If writing the essay is stopping you from applying, take advantage of the resources around you. Ask a friend, former teacher, classmate, or really anyone to help you draft a short essay. There are often writing centers or college offices on your school's campus that will help you, if you ask them!
Let's say you’ve checked out these scholarship websites and you have applied to a few, but you are still looking for more options to make more money. Where else can you look? Here are three additional places to look that I wish I would have known about when I was in high school!
- College/University Scholarships
Most of the time students only look for scholarships online and forget about the ones that are staring them right in the face. Look up your college's website and research what scholarships they are offering. You’d be surprised by how many are available! Most universities are broken up into different colleges, such as the College of Arts and Letters or the College of Natural and Social Sciences, for example. Make sure to look into what scholarships your college and even your major is offering. Lastly, check to see if there is a President’s, Chancellor’s or Dean’s scholarship that you can apply for at your school. And remember, not everyone is applying, so you should be!
- Club/Organization Scholarships
If you are a part of a club at your school, check to see if they have any scholarships available. Most honor societies, Greek, and cultural organizations offer scholarships to their members. If the clubs don’t offer scholarships, then propose that they begin to do so. Contact alumni of the organization or contact their national office to see if they are willingly to set one up. You can also check out your local student government because often times they will have scholarships they are offering students. I served on my university’s student government for three years and the competition is not as fierce as you may think. In fact, there were times they had to extend the deadline for scholarships because students were just not applying! As a rule of thumb, if you ever see a scholarship that has extended its deadline, then apply immediately! This means they have funds available and not enough people applied! Your chances will increase tremendously!
- Private Scholarships
Research every big or small business that you can think of and start looking to see if they have scholarships for students on their websites. Although some of these may be a bit more competitive than the other options, they tend to have more scholarships available.
Take advantage of every option out there and get to applying!
In all reality, you will not get awarded every scholarship you apply for. And if we are even more realistic, you probably won't even get awarded half of them. Do NOT get discouraged. Stay committed and be strategic about your scholarship search. You WILL earn scholarships if you stay committed and the money you make will be worth it!
See you next week for our next post!
I Thought College Was Expensive, Now I'm Getting Paid!
My name is Nicholas Carrillo and I am a Senior at California State University, Los Angeles studying communications. This semester I am the PLUS ME project's Communications/Outreach Intern and will be assisting PLUS ME with community outreach and this blog. Throughout the month of October, I will be posting weekly posts about things I wish I knew about college when I was in high school. In this series, I will walk you through tips on how to navigate life after high school especially for those who are the first in their family to attend a university.
Let's get started! High school is an emotional roller coaster filled with fear, excitement, confusion and puppy love! Contrary to what students in high school may think, it does not last forever and the mistakes you make there do not have to follow you. Although high school ends, life’s emotional roller coaster does not. This is why I will be focusing my posts on how to prepare yourself financially, act professionally, and navigate socially for life after your senior year of high school.
Tip #1 College is more affordable than you think.
Have you ever thought to yourself "I cannot go to college because it is too expensive?" Or have your parents ever shown hesitation about supporting your college journey because they think it is not financially affordable? I'm here to tell you - it IS possible and realistic.
There are various forms of government and state funding for those who apply and qualify. The Federal Pell Grant awards a maximum of $5,775 per year to students who demonstrate financial need. In California, students have the opportunity to qualify for Cal Grants, which can be awarded for living expenses and tuition/fees. These range based on the school you attend and your overall financial need.
When I received my financial aid package, I qualified for a maximum Pell Grant award ($5,775 for the year) and two additional Cal Grants. One of my Cal Grants was for living expenses/books ($1,656 for the year) and the other was for tuition and fees ($5,742 for the year). These grants pay for my all of my tuition, books, fees and afterwards I am left with around $2,000 for living expenses for each quarter (3 months).
Because I applied and qualified I now get paid to go to school!
Now of course this won’t be the situation for every student. You might be thinking, “But Nick, I already know all of this and I still cannot qualify for these grants. My family makes too much money to receive financial aid, but not enough to pay for college!" If this is you, don’t worry there are options for you, too! The middle class scholarship funds awards to students in California whose family income ranges up to $150,000 per year. These students can use these funds while attending a University of California (UC) or California State University (CSU) campus.
Where do I apply?
You will begin your journey to financial stability on the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) website. The FAFSA handles the application for the Pell Grant, Cal Grant and Middle Class Scholarship. The deadline federally is listed as June 30th, but more importantly the state deadline in California is March 2nd. Be sure to fill out all proper forms and submit necessary information by the deadline!
What if I am undocumented?
If you are an undocumented student, then make sure you apply to be an AB 540 student. To find out if you meet the qualifications for AB 540, click here.
The great news about all of this is that this is just ONE of the categories of financial aid that can be offered to you when attending college. Stay tuned for my upcoming post that will go into more detail about some of the other forms of financial aid that you can earn!
The overall message is: there are funds out there for you to apply and earn. Do not let the negative voice in the back of your head that is worrying about funding college stop you from pursuing your dreams.
Questions or Comments for Nick?
Reach him at: firstname.lastname@example.org