As a scholarship strategist, I receive a ton of emails and messages through social media on a regular basis with all types of scholarship questions from students. Many of these questions relate to the timing surrounding conducting your scholarship search—especially when you should start. The following are three of the most popular questions I get about the timing of the scholarship process. Hopefully they can help you in your pursuit of free money for college!
1. When should I start searching for scholarships?
Today. Seriously, today. If you’re a student of any age and want to go to college someday, start today. Private scholarships from companies, organizations, individuals, and foundations aren’t opportunities associated with specific educational institutions. These scholarships have usually been designed and expedited to align with a corporate or organizational mission. That mission may include younger or older students—so start researching them. There are private scholarship opportunities for students starting from age five.
For example: We the Future Contest is a scholarship from Constituting America. There are various categories of scholarships for students from age five to over 65. Each award is up to $2,000 and has a deadline of September 17.
I hear the “We have plenty of time still!” statement from so many families with younger children when I inquire about their scholarship search. My response is always, “Just imagine what your family could do with ‘plenty of time.’ Your child could really accumulate the opportunities and prepare for the scholarship road ahead.”
2. How much time does scholarship searching take?
An effective scholarship pursuit doesn’t have to feel like a part-time job. Work smarter, not harder on the process. The pursuit of scholarships is a marathon, not a sprint. Play the long game. It’s essential that the pursuit of scholarships be easy and manageable for any scholarship seeker. Set aside 30 minutes three times each week for scholarship search sessions. Use the 90 total minutes to organize, search, and apply. If during one of the designated scholarship sessions a student finds themselves inspired to extend their allotted time, that’s great. However, don’t extend the scholarship search duration if it will make you feel burnt out. You want it to feel easier to repeat the following week and the week after that. Small, focused amounts of time on the scholarship search will allow the seeker to easily weave in the process as part of their weekly routine. Routine is how you easily manage the scholarship marathon road ahead.
3. Is it too late to apply for scholarships if I'm already in college?
It’s never too late to apply for private scholarships. In fact, there are many private scholarships that require a student to already be well into their higher education programs in order to qualify.
For example: American Water Works Association Scholarships and Fellowships are scholarships for graduate and doctorate students pursuing advanced training and research in the field of water supply and treatment. They give out awards of up to $30,000, and students should apply by their December 21 deadline.
Many private scholarship sources want to award money to applicants who have a proven interest in a given career field. Pursuing private scholarships when you’re already in an undergraduate, graduate, or post-graduate program is a strategically smart move as generally the applicant pool will be smaller. Most students narrow their scholarship pursuit to only their senior year of high school and don’t continue their pursuit once they’re on campus. But with the applicant pool smaller, it’s a tremendously smart move to continue the routine of organizing, searching, and applying to scholarships with ease.
The scholarship search process should be as continuous as possible to make the most of your efforts in finding free money to help you pay for college. There are scholarships out there for younger students, graduate students, and everyone in between. The best way to time your search is to start as soon as possible and don’t stop until you have a degree in hand. Good luck!
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