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College Admissions: 10 Scholarships Anyone Can Apply For

Monday, November 12, 2012

 

Many families wonder about private scholarships--sources of funding for college that are not offered by the federal government or colleges. Advertisements on the Internet make it seem as if there are abundant untapped private scholarships to fund education. And while it is true that there are private scholarships available for undergrads, they are few, far between and involve a LOT of red tape.

Cover all the bases first

Before we discuss private scholarships, it’s important to point out that the largest source of financial aid is at the college and federal levels. Your BEST chance for need based and merit aid is to file the forms each college requires by the due dates. These forms usually include FAFSA or the CSS Profile. Students who need aid should also plan their college list strategically by understanding the percent of students receiving need and merit based at each of their targeted colleges. There are MANY colleges in the U. S. that will meet 90% or more of need, and some will even guarantee to meet 100% of need. The second area to research is which colleges on your list offer no merit aid and which offer generous merit aid. Sites like www.collegedata.com will also list the percentage of students at each college receiving aid. Then, you should check each college website on your list for additional scholarships that have separate application requirements. Once you have exhausted those options, check your state’s education website to understand what state level scholarships and loans are available, and ask your guidance office about scholarships specific to graduates of your high school. Finally, check employee websites where you work for scholarships—many have them.

Searching for the unicorn

Still coming up dry? Then it’s time to go hunting for the elusive unicorn: the private scholarship. I call it a unicorn because although private scholarships are often talked about, it’s hard to find anyone you know who has truly financed a large portion of their college education that way. The reality is that most private scholarships are in the $500-$1000 range. Many are also targeted for specific areas of study, minority groups or residential locations. Competition is fierce, and you must report any outside scholarship to your college financial aid office. Then, in many cases, your aid is reduced by that amount. So, it can be a shell game. However, for those students caught in the gap of not qualifying for need based aid, who don’t get merit aid, private scholarships can be the only option. Here are a few that apply to a wide range of students and have higher dollar rewards.

Ten private scholarships open to anyone

The Davidson Institute  The Davidson Fellows Scholarship awards $50,000, $25,000 and $10,000 scholarships to extraordinary young people, 18 and under, who have completed a significant piece of work. Application categories are Science, Technology, Engineering, Mathematics, Literature, Music, Philosophy and Outside the Box.

The John F. Kennedy Profile in Courage Essay Contest awards scholarships of $500-$10,000 to students who write a compelling essay on how an elected official risked his or her career to take a stand based on the dictates of conscience, rather than the dictates of polls.

The Coca-Cola Scholars Program awards 50 scholarships of $20,000 and 200 scholarships of $10,000 each year to students with impressive academic and extra-curricular credentials.

The College Prowler “No Essay Contest” awards $2000 to a student in a random drawing every month, if you register on the site.

Nordstrom awards 80 scholarships of $10,000 over 4 years to students in states with store locations. Applicants must have a 2.7 GPA or above, participate in community service and be applying for financial aid at their college.

Antique Trader holds a “Big Dig” essay contest each year and awards a $3000 scholarship to the winner.

Ayn Rand Novels gives 600 scholarships each year to winners of their essay contest.

Zinch gives away a $1000 scholarship each week in their 3 Sentence Essay Contest.

Dunkin Donuts awards over $2 million in scholarships each year to students in areas where they have franchises.

Lowes awards scholarships of $2500 each to students anywhere in the U.S.

Avoiding scams

Remember when you are searching for private scholarships that you should NEVER pay a website or individual to “find” you private scholarships. Most are not scrupulous and deliver very little. Some of the best scholarship search engines are free at www.fastweb.com , www.collegeboard.com, and www.cappex.com.

Cristiana Quinn, M.Ed. is the founder of College Admission Advisors, LLC which provides strategic, college counseling and athletic recruiting services for students. www.collegeadvisorsonline.com.

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