A great source of financial aid for college students is the highly sought-after scholarship. A scholarship is one of the best ways to pay for college because it never has to be repaid and a legitimate scholarship doesn’t require any kind of fee. Millions of dollars are offered every year, and it’s free money, yours for the taking. Scholarships are especially important to military service personnel when military aid, such as tuition assistance or GI Bill benefits, does not cover the full cost of education.
Scholarships are offered to nearly everyone in increments from hundreds to tens of thousands of dollars. Academic and athletic scholarships get the most press, but the truth is there are lots of scholarships out there, and many of them are specifically for those who have served in the military. Don’t limit yourself, though – make sure you investigate any scholarship that you might qualify for.
The first step toward a scholarship is to start early. The sooner you start looking, the better. Most scholarships require an application that has a deadline, and you’ll want to make sure you have enough time to gather any documentation or to write an essay if needed.
Next in the process is knowing where to look for scholarships. A great place to check is your own school’s financial aid office, if you already know where you are headed. A financial aid counselor will be able to help you figure out which school scholarships you qualify for, and they will also know about any scholarships specifically for military personnel.
Many schools offer scholarships to veterans.
Once you’ve applied for scholarships through your own school, or if you’re still not sure where you are headed, searching for private scholarships is not as daunting as it might sound. There are several ways to go about searching. First, try your local library. Every year, dozens of scholarship directories are published and include everything from how much money will be awarded to outlining exactly how to apply for it.
Also check with your local community. Employers, high schools, military organizations and other community groups are often good sources for scholarship aid. National military organizations, as well, tend to offer significant scholarship programs. Check with any organization you or your parents are members of. Many employers, too, offer scholarships to children of employees.
Another great search tool is the Internet. You can try a specific scholarship search finder, or try a simple web search to go directly to information sites about specific scholarships. Most national scholarships have websites with complete information and often have online application features. Some national military scholarships include the VFW Military Scholarship , which offers 25 $3,000 scholarships to members who are either currently serving or have been discharged in the last 36 months;
Once you have found a variety of scholarships to apply for, you’ll want to keep track of everything you do. Make a list of the scholarships, their deadlines and requirements, such as essays, transcripts or recommendation letters. Staying organized will ensure that you don’t overlook any important requirements or deadlines. It also might help to add award dates to your list so that you know when to expect to hear a decision.
Finally, remember that you should never have to pay a fee to apply for a scholarship. While there are dozens of legitimate scholarship organizations out there ready to hand out award money, there are, unfortunately, scholarship scams. Beware of any organization that asks for money.