Attention Seniors! March of your Senior year is absolutely the worst time of year to start your scholarship search. My heart goes out to students who have great potential for getting scholarships but miss out on opportunities because they waited too late to begin their search. It’s amazing the number of calls I get from parents when they get their financial aid award letter and see how much loan they are being assessed, the cry goes out to the student to start looking for scholarships. As was previously discussed in my blog, the best time to begin your search is in your freshman year. If you don’t start then, certainly you should begin your search no later than your junior year.
The scholarship cycle basically runs from September-June. The bulk of scholarships are available January-April. Students miss out on the September-December deadlines because they get caught up in submitting their college applications and the scholarship search gets pushed in the background. In addition to paying attention to outside scholarship deadlines, students need to pay attention to merit based institutional deadlines which in some cases are attached to application deadlines.
Juniors: The best time to solidify your college search is the summer going into your senior year. That summer is also the best time to visit your out-of-state schools and get a head start on your applications. Essay questions are usually available on the college website in August. Why wait? Senior year is a busy time for students, the more you can get done ahead of time the better off you are. For instance, you should ask for recommendation letters from teachers or counselors prior to the end of the school year. The beginning of the school year is challenging for most teachers and they may have difficulty getting back to you in a timely manner. By the end of the summer you should also have narrowed down your college choices to at least 6 colleges, no more than 10. I am not an advocate for applying to 15 or more colleges. When you meet with your counselor in the fall you should have done your research and get their opinion on your choices and any other recommendations they may have.
If you are unable to visit out-of-state schools, check the school’s website for meetings they may have in your area. These are very important meetings to attend because the admissions counselors can see you and remember you when they read your essay. Many colleges have online virtual college tours, live chats and twitter chats. Follow them on social media to keep abreast of current happenings to help you decide if they are a good fit.