Yes, scholarships are wonderful for college bound students because they reduce debt burden. But scholarships are also important for schools because when students win prestigious awards, it enhances the school’s reputation. If you are a small school looking to improve visibility with colleges or even a large school trying to increase community pride in your school, you should be encouraging your students to apply for scholarships.
At a session titled “Helping students find and win private scholarships”, Mark Kantrowitz, the publisher of fastweb.com and finaid.org provided some practical and actionable tips. First, Kantrowitz pointed out that schools shouldn’t make group announcements when they announce scholarships because very few students will apply. A better method is to have teachers or counselors encourage students individually, followed up by a personal letter to the parents.
Second, Kantrowitz said it is necessary to track and publicize scholarship statistics from your school to create a tradition of applying to scholarships and a culture of pride. How to get students to self-report scholarships they have applied for? By celebrating winners! Consider announcing scholarship recipients at graduation ceremonies and profiling winners in your school paper. Inspire community pride by sending a press release to the local paper when your student wins a prestigious scholarship.
Students should look both offline and online when searching for scholarships. The best offline resource is the public library, which houses books listing scholarships. Libraries also often have scholarship announcements on their bulletin boards. Kantrowitz said another offline resource is the coupon section of your Sunday newspaper, where big companies often advertise their scholarships. Of course, there are a plethora of online resources but the best free scholarship matching services are Fastweb, CollegeBoard, and Peterson’s. A point to note here – free scholarship-matching services are comprehensive and there might not be any need to subscribe to any for fee scholarship matching services.
Like everything else, tell your students to think about scholarships early. Kantrowitz pointed out that students often wait till spring of senior year and have missed half the deadlines already. In fact, some scholarships are aimed specifically at younger classes. Also, writing essays for scholarships is good practice for college applications so thinking about scholarships early doesn’t hurt. Encourage your students to be authentic in their essays giving specific examples and anecdotes that reflect their passion. Very often, scholarships are funded by private donors and these donors want to be able to connect with the student by reading their essays.
Students with good grades and above average standardized test scores are more likely to win scholarships. Increase the chance of your students winning scholarships by making them aware of test prep options. Ask teachers or parents for help in setting up mock interview sessions for your students. If possible, videotape the students’ mock interviews so that they can self identify their bad habits such as overuse of the words ‘um’ and ‘like’. During this time you can also give students tips about proper attire and etiquette. After all, this is the first time most of them will be in a formal interview setting.
Above all, encourage your students to apply! Tell them to always remember that they’ll miss 100% of the shots they don’t take.
You can read Mark Kantrowitz’s bio here.