November is National Scholarship Month, and although squeezing more work into your already frantic schedule may not seem like the best cause for celebration, free money for college certainly is. So how can you celebrate National Scholarship Month?
If you haven't yet begun finding and applying for scholarships, now is the time. While it's commonly recommended that students start searching for scholarships their junior year of high school, November is a great time to begin regardless of your grade level. High school seniors, college students, even soon-to-be graduate students, can still find scholarship opportunities, and many of those scholarships will have applications that either become available or are due in November or soon after. This is the main reason the National Scholarship Providers Association chose to designate this month National Scholarship Month. It's a reminder to students of all grade levels that scholarships are out there for them and they should begin applying for them now.
Millions of scholarship opportunities exist and you can begin to learn about them by doing a free scholarship search, such as the one offered by Scholarships.com. By completing a profile with your academic background, interests and unique characteristics, you can access a list of scholarships tailor-made for you. You can also find a variety of college resources written to help students complete their scholarship applications and prepare for college success.
Some general guidelines for finding and applying for scholarships are:
Apply early and often. Begin your scholarship search now, when most applications are just becoming available. Rather than waiting until the last minute, submit applications as soon as you complete them. Apply to multiple scholarships and devote a portion of your entire school year to doing so, rather than just the last two weeks of November.
Follow application instructions closely. The best strategy for being considered for a scholarship isn't to be an amazing scholar, athlete, and altruist (though none of those things hurt), but to avoid being disqualified by following the rules. Make sure you meet minimum requirements for all the scholarship applications you complete, and be sure to follow formatting and submission guidelines closely.
Make the most of your time. While it would be nice if you could put important things like graduating on hold to focus on funding your education, that's not likely to happen. So, when applying for scholarships find ways to maximize the effectiveness of your search. Pay attention to things like the dollar amount of the award, the size of the applicant pool, and your fit for the scholarship—how closely you match the ideal candidate for the award—when deciding which scholarships to apply for first. Also, be on the lookout for scholarships that ask for similar supporting materials, such as essays on nearly identical topics. You could potentially apply for multiple scholarships with essentially the same application.
Find free money--and only free money. Avoid falling prey to scholarship scams by staying away from scholarships with large application fees, promises of guaranteed money, notices you're a finalist in a contest you didn't enter, or requests for your credit card information to process your application. These are signs of scholarship scams. Make sure an award is legitimate and that you feel comfortable providing the requested information before you apply. The FTC has more information on how to avoid scholarship scams.
The recognition and financial reward that come with winning scholarships are certainly cause for celebration. By spending November searching and applying for scholarships, you can extend this celebration long past the close of National Scholarship Month.
This is a guest post from Emily Hilleren, Director of Content for Scholarships.com
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Scholarships.com is the leading college scholarship search site helping students find money to get a college education. Find the scholarships that match your profile and discover free money for college!