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Why you should start the college scholarship search in 9th gradeThis summer, as rising high school seniors all across the country are eagerly filling out college admissions applications and writing practice essays, many parents are wondering, “How do I pay for all of this?”

And, with good reason!

According to the College Board, a moderate college budget for an in-state public college for the 2017–2018 academic year averaged $25,290 per year. A moderate budget at a private college averaged $50,900 per year. Factor in room, board, fees, and expenses, add in a semester or two abroad, then multiply by four years and the “cost of attendance” can be overwhelming.

Sights set on one of  nation’s top colleges? Get ready for severe sticker shock:

  • Columbia University, Total cost: $68,405 per year ($273K+ over four years)
  • University of Chicago, Total cost: $67,584 per year ($270K+ over four years)
  • University of Southern California, Total cost: $66,631 ($266K+ over four years)
  • Northwestern University, Total cost: $66,344 ($265+ over four years)

Scholarships offer a perfect solution for many families. Unlike student loans, which must be repaid (with interest), scholarships are “free money” that students can earn through essay competitions, poetry recitations, high SAT or ACT scores, sports, activities, and of course, stellar grades.

Of course, not every student is an Olympic-bound athlete, Julliard-worthy violinist or member of Mensa. But, there are still many scholarships available for all different types of students, from all areas of the country, with a wide variety of interests and experiences.

The key is to start early. And, while the majority of college scholarships are geared toward rising seniors, they are plenty which accept applications from students as young as 9th grade.

Where to start the college scholarship search

Starting the summer before high school, parents and students should create a plan for scholarship applications. Lucikly, finding scholarships is easy. There are many sites dedicated entirely to sharing scholarship information. Here are the Big 4:

  1. www.fastweb.com – Create a profile and let Fastweb do the research for you. Over 1.5 millions college scholarships listed.
  2. www.cappex.com – College search, college reviews and scholarships all in one free website.
  3. www.scholarships.com – Over 3.7 million college scholarships and grants, as well as  college scholarship search and financial aid information.
  4. www.brokescholar.com – 100% free and over $3 million in college scholarships listed.

Winning scholarships takes a little organization and a lot of dedication

After just one visit to these sites, you are sure to have a file folder stuffed to overflowing with information sheets, dates, requirements and more. It’s time to get organized! Create an Excel spreadsheet, organized by due date, to keep you on track. Filling out a scholarship form is a moot point if you miss the deadline, so keeping on top of the process is the key.

Also, many scholarships require advance work – from reading a book and then writing an essay based on the work, to procuring letters of reference (sometimes several), to writing stand-alone essays on such topics as “If you had a superpower, what would it be?” (Yes, this is a real prompt.) But again, advance planning is necessary, so a detailed list by date is crucial.

You can also use the spreadsheet to track your progress is securing scholarships. What is your return rate and how can you improve it? The “secret” to winning scholarships is really no secret at all.  With a bit of hard work, your student can earn thousands toward college tuition.

For more scholarships, please visit the Scholarships tab on this website. Have a scholarship you’d like to share? Please send information directly to susan@backtobasicslearning.com.

Need some essay writing help? Back to Basics in Wilmington, Delaware offers a college essay writing / scholarship writing workshop this summer!

College Essay Writing Workshop: This workshop will help you create a well written, thoughtfully edited, interesting, and memorable essay.

$99 for workshop:

  • June 25 -28, 2018            Mon/Wed/Thurs   10:30 a.m. – 12:00 pm
  • July 30 –Aug 2, 2018       Mon/Wed/Thurs   10:30 a.m. – 12:00 pm
  • Aug 6 – Aug 9, 2018        Mon/Wed/Thurs   10:30 a.m. – 12:00 pm

CLICK HERE TO ENROLL for the College Essay Writing Workshop.

Back to Basics Learning Dynamics is not in partnership with, or affiliated with, these organizations, or the scholarship selection committees in any way. This post is simply intended to inform Back to Basics’ clients and readers about relevant opportunities for children, youth, and adults.


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