Start Your Scholarship Search This Summer
When your teenager says that they are bored this summer, suggest that they start looking for scholarships for college. Scholarships are free money and do not have to be repaid, unlike a loan. While your student has down time, it’s a great opportunity to start searching for those free funds that can support their higher education without any cost for your family. Scholarships can help to stretch those education savings in your Ohio’s 529 Plan account as far as possible.
According to the 2021 “How America Pays For College” study by Sallie Mae, families are using scholarships to pay for up to 16% of higher education expenses. Additionally, over 56% of families are using scholarships to cover costs at the higher education institutions. These numbers shows how scholarships can be a critical part of your game plan to cover your child’s college costs.
Why start the scholarship search early
It’s important to start early as some scholarships may have deadlines a year out from when the dollars are released. So if your student would like to earn these scholarships to cover their higher education costs for freshman year, then they will need to fill out the application the summer before their senior year of high school.
Also, it takes time to do the research to find all the available scholarships for which your student may be qualified to increase those college savings.
And even if your student is heading off to college this fall, it’s never too late to try to earn some scholarships this summer to be used this or the following school year.
Before starting the scholarship search
Your teenager can start preparing for their scholarship search earlier in their high school years. Besides grades, scholarship organizations put a high emphasis on activities outside of the classroom.
What is your student passionate about? This could lead to volunteering opportunities to add to their scholarship applications and may even inspire the field they will want to study for their post-secondary education. Are there any extracurricular academic clubs that they have joined and any sports in which they participate? Do they work a part-time job to add to their college savings? Not only do these activities show off your student’s skills but also shows that they enjoy challenges and have good time management.
Organizations with which your child might volunteer or participate in athletically or academically, may offer specialized grants for individuals who have served with them.
How to get going on the scholarship search
It can be hard to know where to start. You can learn more by visiting the Federal Student Aid, an office of the U.S. Department of Education. This is the federal agency for which you will fill out the Free Application of Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) to determine how much federal financial aid your student will receive. The agency offer guidance on scholarships, including what other sources to tap for more information, including the free scholarship search tool from the U.S. Department of Labor.
High school counselors are an asset in your search
An appointment with the high school counselor may be a good second stop. They have access to many resources and scholarship tools to point you and your student in the right direction. The counselors also can offer guidance on scholarship essays, and help your student prepare for the scholarship interview process. They can also assist your student on deciding which teachers to ask for recommendation letters to strengthen their applications.
Free scholarship aggregate websites
After seeing what resources the guidance counselor can offer, it’s time for your student to hit the web. There are many free online scholarship sites for you to do your research like Sallie Mae, FinAid, and FastWeb. On these sites, your child would create a profile with their academic scores, community service and volunteering, athletic and academic activities and they will be matched with scholarship applications for which they are eligible. Sallie Mae has also recently started the Paying For College Resource. The website assembles free tools, videos and checklists to keep your family as you all move forward in preparing for your children’s higher education. It even shows what steps to take to fill out FAFSA and how to understand your financial aid letters.
FinAid also created a list for the more unusual scholarships that are available.
If your child is still a few years away from heading off to their higher education, make sure to write down the names of the scholarships that you might want to apply for at a later time, or use the list functionality that some scholarship search sites offer.
Also, be sure to apply for scholarships with smaller monetary amount. If your student earns a few of them, their scholarship total will grow. There also can be fewer applicants for these rewards so your student’s application can better stand out from the crowd.
Remember, you should not have to pay to apply for a scholarship. If an organization ask for a fee or credit card number, do not share that information with them and search elsewhere.
Save with Ohio’s 529 Plan
Before your child starts their scholarship search, you can help them with their higher education expenses by saving in Ohio’s 529 Plan, CollegeAdvantage. Ohio’s 529 Plan offers tax-free earnings, tax-free withdrawals for qualified costs, and a state income tax deduction for Ohioans who contribute to Ohio’s 529 Plan.
Ohio’s 529 Plan can be used nationwide for whatever comes after high school, including federally accredited apprenticeships, trade and specialty schools, community colleges or technical schools, certificate programs, four-year universities and colleges, graduate school, law school, and medical school.
Visit Ohio’s 529 Plan online to start saving today for your child’s future education. An investment in a 529 plan is an investment in your child where every dollar saved today is a dollar that doesn’t have to be borrowed later. A 529 account can be used for whatever comes after high school. Learn, plan and start an Ohio 529 Plan today at CollegeAdvantage.com.
This article was originally posted in August 2019 and has been updated to reflect new information for 2022.
Posted on June 10, 2022