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Staying Afloat

Finding the Funds for your Future

After the momentum of enrolling in a college or university runs its course, you’ll start to realize what higher education is all about: the money. Pursuing a degree can be expensive if you’re not prepared. A good way to stay above college debt is to become a scholarship hunter.

Get Rid of Your Camouflage (Brand Yourself)

Before you apply to any scholarship opportunities, you should ask yourself, “How can I stand out?” There are probably thousands of other students applying for the same scholarship you’re considering. Stand out by getting involved early at your school. Usually GPA criteria are listed as a deciding factor on these applications, but what many companies really look for is a balance of academics, community service and extracurricular involvement. Likewise, you should join a student organization and volunteer early on.

Strike First (Apply Early and Often)

Deadlines can be your worst enemy. Never let them get too close. Always applyto a scholarship in advance and create personal deadlines within a deadline when approaching due dates. Set a time and date for three stages of the application:

  • Stage 1.   Fill out the application.
  • Stage 2.   Complete the personal statement/essay prompt.
  • Stage 3.   Submit the completed scholarship application.

Once one is completed, continue to apply for many more scholarships. You can never have too much money.

Hunt Big and Small (Every Dollar Counts)

Scholarships come in different forms. Some have huge payouts and cover more than one school year and some are much smaller and might cover the costs of books fora class. That doesn’t mean it’s not useful. The money will add up. My advice is to give the bigger scholarships your first priority, then work around the smaller ones. Where should you start? Ronald McDonald House Charities Scholars has been a major contribution to funding the education of students across the country. Since 1985, over $48 million in scholarships have been awarded. If you attend a Historically Black College, another opportunity is the Thurgood Marshall College Fund. Much like the skills I’ve listed above, this competitive scholarship seeks leadership in its student recipients in addition to academic success.

Get comfortable with aggressively seeking financial aid but remember to passon what you learn. The best hunters share their knowledge with the village.

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