Parents: One of the best ways for kids to cash flow their college education (yes, it’s totally possible) is by applying for scholarships. But the scholarship search can be an overwhelming and time-consuming process, especially for high schoolers who are already trying to balance school, extracurriculars and keeping up with their friends on social media.
Here are top three tips you can give kids to set them up for scholarship success.
Fill out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA): Funds go unused every year because a lot of students get intimidated by the FAFSA form and don’t bother to fill it out—or they assume their family won’t get aid because of their income bracket. But the truth is, there’s no income cutoff to qualify for scholarships, and it’s always worth a try. (Remember, your teen wants the scholarships and grants available through the FAFSA. Not the loans.)
The form might look confusing at first, but it’s actually pretty simple when you go to fafsa.gov and follow the prompts.
There are sections for you to fill out and sections for your teen to fill out, so do it together (there’s nothing like bonding with your teen over financial aid documents, am I right?).
If you need some extra help, check out my Guide to FAFSA at anthonyoneal.com/resources.
Treat the scholarship search like a job search: It is recommended that high schoolers spend at least one hour a day finding and applying for scholarships. We know that sounds like a lot, but if you think about it, the time they spend scrolling through Instagram could actually be used to make them thousands of dollars for college. Have them set a timer and just knock it out.
Some scholarship applications don’t need much more than your name and basic info—pretty painless!
Others might want an essay or written responses to some questions, so you could always help your kids by proofreading their answers or bringing them some caffeine.
Here are a few ways your teen can look for scholarship leads:
Talk with their guidance counselor at school to see if they know about any scholarships offered by local business or community organizations.
Contact college financial aid offices to get the details on all the merit-based and need-based scholarships they offer.
Research organizations in the field that interests them to see if they offer scholarships for students who want to go into that career after graduation.
Do the research: There are plenty of resources online and in print that can point your kids toward the best scholarships for their situation—they just have to be intentional and do some research.
The free money is out there! Searching and applying for scholarships does take some serious effort, but it’ll really pay off in the long run when your child graduates from college with zero student loan debt.