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Finding scholarship dollars

Friday, June 26, 2009

Only 10 percent of full time college students had a scholarship in 2007-08. The average for those who did was less than $3,000. Why? Well, you might think that the simple answer is because they're stupid. But, not so. Many were qualified to receive scholarships-yet they paid the full tuition themselves. Why? Because they were either lazy or uninformed. Many either didn't try, or they waited too late to qualify. The net result was that millions of dollars of scholarship money went unclaimed. So, to avoid looking at our lives in the rearview mirror of missed opportunities, let me share a few thoughts on how to go to college with serious cash in hand.

> Be your own public relations expert. Colleges everywhere are looking for great students. So it is your job to let them know great you are. I encourage young people (and their parents) to start this process in junior high school. Open a file and begin filling it with notes, accolades, citations, newspaper clippings, school letters, and generally anything else that you accomplish. This way, when college counselors ask about your accomplishments you have ready answers and written proof.

> Don't wait too late. Some scholarships must be applied for well ahead of fall semester at college. In some cases applications must be made as early as the student's junior year in high school. Start early.

> Proof, proof, proof! There have been a lot of bright young people who failed to get scholarships because they didn't proof and re-reproof their scholarship applications and essays. In a world filled with text messaging, it's more important than ever to be certain that you have spelled it correctly!

> Athletic scholarships may be easier to get than you think. You don't have to be big school, NCAA material to get an athletic scholarship. If you've been a moderately successful athlete in high school, consider a smaller college. Just last week I learned about a girl at our church who has received a full four-year scholarship at a very good (but not particularly prestigious) university to play basketball. She wouldn't have gotten the same deal from a top tier basketball university. But this smaller school was glad to have her-and rewarded her handsomely.

> Talk to other scholarship winners. Ask friends who have received scholarships how they got theirs. And remember, scholarship winners tend to be favored students at their colleges. If you have friends who have won scholarships, ask if they will put in a good word for you at their schools.

> Check out the local scene. Often there are scholarships available to local kids in your community. Ask around. Maybe the Lions Club or the women's groups have special scholarships that you are eligible to receive.

> Troll the Internet. Google "scholarships." Go to scholarship websites like www.fastweb.com or www.finaid.org. After all, if you invest 10 or 20 hours of your time and get a $500/year scholarship at a four year school, you've earned $100-$200 per hour. That beats flipping burgers at McDonalds any old time!

> Steve Diggs is an international speaker, broadcaster, and a writer who can be reached at www.SteveDiggs.com