Question. Considering the high cost of a college education, we thought it might be advisable to start looking for scholarships now for our daughter, a junior. We would welcome any recommendations you might have about a systematic approach to locating funds for her. She is an excellent student and will probably be accepted at many schools but we can’t afford to pay the total cost of college considering it’s upwards of $30,000 a year. She has two younger siblings not far behind.
– DJW, Centennial, CO
Answer. Actually most financial aid (90%) for college comes in the form of loans from the government and the colleges themselves. As you know, loans must be paid back, with interest. Scholarships (10%) are the best form of aid because there’s no need for repayment. Scholarships are typically awarded for achievement or merit, often recognizing a talent. Because many of the deadlines for private scholarships occur in the fall, you definitely should start your detective work now.
The Boettcher, Colorado’s most prestigious “full ride” merit-based scholarship, is by far the premier opportunity available to high school seniors planning to attend college in Colorado. It recognizes 40 outstanding seniors who have the potential to make a contribution to our state. To be eligible, students must be in the top 5% of their class and have an “intense intellectual curiosity and passion for community involvement.” Some students who compete for the Boettcher and don’t make the final cut often find themselves eligible for excellent stipends from highly competitive colleges around the country.
Four places students should start their scholarship search are: your high school, colleges, the library, and the Internet. Other places worth searching are local businesses, religious organizations, the student or parents’ place of employment, and various volunteer organizations. The Herald Dispatch frequently carries announcements about scholarships.
Efforts to land scholarships can often be disappointing so it’s best to identify those which are compatible with your child’s talents and interests. An excellent student, special talent, a well-defined career interest or major, the first college student in a family and members of minority groups may be eligible for more awards than others. Remember, there are numerous applicants for every scholarship. Keep applying!
Previously, colleges would deduct the amount a student received in outside scholarships from their aid package. This situation has changed over the past few years whereby students aren’t usually penalized when they pursue and receive scholarships from sources other than the college. As with college applications, all scholarship material should be completed thoughtfully, carefully, with no typos, and on time. And don’t waste your time applying for scholarships that have no relevance to you. CollegeInvest, a not-for-profit division of the Colorado Department of Higher Education, has a nifty workbook, Roadmap to Scholarships that provides a systematic approach to the process. Request one at 1-800-College or www.collegeinvest.org.
Above all, don’t rely solely on scholarships to fund your child’s education. Apply for federal financial aid by completing the FAFSA early in the year and start investing systematically for your children when they are young. A 529 has become one of the best instruments available. Remember, except for a lucky few, there are no “full rides” for the majority of students.