Most of us who are beyond college and into our careers know very well the financial challenges of getting an education. Soon, if not already, our own kids will be thinking about or beginning their own adventures in higher education. And there are ways they can be preparing to lessen the financial burdens by seeking scholarships.
As a high school student, it’s never too early to start thinking about college scholarships. While student loan debt may not be the first thing on your mind right now, you’ll soon learn that the less money you borrow, the better. There are plenty of scholarships ripe for the picking — both private and institution-specific. Here are some things you need to know to make yourself the best candidate you can be before you begin applying.
Start Building Your Job Experience ASAP
Good grades and school club participation will get you in the door, but for many scholarship opportunities, it’s job experience that will set you apart from other high schoolers. Having a job while in school shows that you can juggle multiple levels of responsibility.
Here are some essential job-seeking tips for teens:
- Hit the online job search pretty hard, but don’t forget about the opportunities provided by student organizations. Ask your school counselors.
- Study up on the state-specific laws regarding teen employment (when, where, and how much you can work).
- Get some help preparing your resume and cover letter from someone who knows what they’re doing (a parent, teacher, counselor, or online expert).
- Be flexible. Being able to work weekends is vital.
- Understand the most important part of your application process is the job interview. You can ace it if you prepare. That means reading up on common interview questions so you can be ready for anything and also knowing what you should ask of the interviewer (an overlooked aspect of giving a good interview).
Cast a Wide Net
The more scholarships you apply for, the more chances you have to get money for college — it really is that simple. If you qualify for one, then apply. You should also “pursue less competitive scholarships, such as small awards and essay contests, since they are easier to win and the money adds up and helps you win bigger scholarships,” according to FastWeb.
Check out these scholarships:
- Essay Contests for Ayn Rand’s Anthem, The Fountainhead, and Atlas Shrugged. Deadline: January 15, 2019, and April 25, 2019
- Discover Student Loans Sweepstakes. Deadline: January 31, 2019
- Create-A-Greeting-Card Scholarship. Deadline: March 1, 2019
- Getting Real About Distracted Driving Scholarship. Deadline: December 31, 2018 (fall contest) and May 31, 2019 (spring contest)
You will want to check your school for local scholarship opportunities as well and use an online scholarship database tool like FastWeb.
Begin Prepping for College as Early as You Can
Before you even hear back about scholarship decisions, you should start preparing for college. Start getting into healthy habits. Eat right, exercise, and stick to a specific sleep schedule. All of that will be harder once classes begin, so it’s best to get into a routine now.
Get involved in more activities. Being active opens doors for you, allowing you to make connections that will make your college experience richer and more beneficial. Some of these activities may even help push you in the direction of a possible career path. You in no way need to know what you’re going to do with the rest of your life as a high school student (or even as a college student for that matter), but it doesn’t hurt to start researching professions. Spend your last years as a high school student thinking about the future. It comes faster than you think.
Any extra work you put in during the scholarship application and early college prep phase will manifest benefits far beyond what you can do once you’re close to graduation. This is the time to set yourself apart from other students by working toward specific goals — even if you still have months or even years of high school left to go. It’s hard to understand why it’s so important now, but know that starting early and putting in the maximum effort now can make a difference.