My heart goes out to students who have great potential for obtaining 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 receive their financial aid award letter and see how much loan they are assessed; the cries go out to the students to start looking for scholarships. As was previously discussed in my blog, the best time to begin your search is in your Freshman year. The Freshman year is a good time to research scholarships you may be eligible for in your senior year. Familiarizing yourself with the requirements and criteria for scholarships will help in your preparation to obtain the scholarship. If you don’t start then, certainly you should begin your search no later than your Junior year.
I post scholarships at www.facebook.com/Scholarshopmom/ for freshman, sophomores, juniors, seniors and continuing college students. Another excellent resource for scholarships is www.jlvcollegecounseling.com. Scholarships are categorized by the month, major, ethnicity and grade level. Scholarships are available January through December. Students miss out on the September-December deadlines because they get caught up in submitting their college applications and the scholarship search gets pushed into the background. In addition to paying attention to scholarship deadlines, students need to also pay attention to merit based institutional deadlines which in some cases are attached to application deadlines. To be eligible for the institutional merit based scholarships you should get your college applications in by the November 1st deadline.
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 websites in August. Why wait? Senior year is a busy time and 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 or by the end of September of the new school year. However, the beginning of the school year is challenging for most teachers and they may have difficulty getting back to you on time. When you ask for a letter of recommendation, give them a reasonable deadline and follow-up if they miss the deadline. Don’t forget to thank them.
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 your face and remember you when they read your essay.
The important thing is to establish a timeline and set aside time to apply for scholarships.