By Beverly Stewart, M.Ed. – Published August 2014

With move-in day just around the corner and tuition bills arriving in the mail, many parents and students alike are wondering how to pay for all of those college expenses! If it seems as if college costs have increased exponentially in recent years, you’re right. From 2002-03 to 2012-13, published tuition and fees (at public four-year institutions) rose at an average rate of 5.2% per year beyond inflation.

For cash-strapped families, loans are a popular source of college funding, as are part-time on-campus jobs for students. But, one funding source that families frequently overlook is the wide array of scholarships available.

If your child is not an All-State star athlete or Valedictorian, don’t despair! Finding, apply for, and winning college scholarships are all possible if you follow these helpful tips:

  1. Start Early. Although the majority of college scholarships are available for high school seniors or those already enrolled in college, there are also many available for students in 9-12 grade. There are even some awards for middle school students!
  2. Identify your child’s strengths. Every child will not be a match for every scholarship. Identifying your student’s strengths — from art, to science, to marching band – will help you focus on the scholarships that your child has the best chance of winning.
  3. Think local. Large, national scholarships promising $10,000, $25,000, or more towards college tuition are tempting… and highly competitive. When searching for scholarships, think outside the box. Many local organizations offer smaller awards of $250, $500, or $1,000. While they won’t cover the entire cost of a four-year degree, smaller scholarships can really add up. So, don’t overlook local resources like the Lions, Kiwanis, and Rotary Clubs.
  4. Do your research. There are many convenient scholarship listing services on the Internet. A quick Google search can get your started. Some of the most reputable search sites include http://FastWeb.com, http://Scholarships.com, http://www.studentscholarshipsearch.com/ and https://www.scholarshipexperts.com/.
  5. Don’t be taken in by scholarships scams. Never pay for a “guaranteed scholarship.” All legitimate scholarships offer free submissions.
  6. Get organized. Creating an Excel spreadsheet will keep both you and your student organized. List by application deadline and include any specialized requirements. Some scholarships require extensive essays, high school transcripts, multiple letters of recommendation, or even video submissions. Leaving ample time to create the perfect submission package is crucial.
  7. Follow directions. If the scholarship requires transcripts, include them. If the package offers “optional” essays, have your student write them. Send all requested elements in one package to avoid confusion and possible disqualification.
  8. Proofread. Once your student has created a submission package, proofread his work for vocabulary, grammar, punctuation, and spelling. Extensive edits, if necessary, should be completed by the student. Under no circumstances should you or anyone other than the student write an application package.

It’s estimated that approximately $3.3 billion in scholarships are awarded annually by private sources like foundations, corporations, and nonprofit groups. So, while applying for scholarships can be a time consuming process, the rewards can be tremendous!

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Beverly Stewart, M.Ed.

Beverly Stewart, M.Ed. is President and Director of Back to Basics Learning Dynamics, Inc., an area leader in 1-on-1 tutoring and test prep for children and adults, and translating/interpreting since 1985. In addition, Back to Basics is a Department of Education approved 1-on-1 Private School for K-12, as well as a Business and Trade School for ages 16+.
Email Beverly at beverly@backtobasicslearning.com, call her at (302)594-0754 or visit on the web at www.backtobasicslearning.com or www.backtobasicsprivateschool.com.

Back to Basics Learning Dynamics, Inc. is located on 6 Stone Hill Road, Wilmington.

Beverly Stewart inducted to Hall of Fame of Delaware Women