Pursuing higher education is not by any means a low-cost initiative. In the past ten years, the rate of increase for college tuition has surpassed the national rate of inflation because of reduced federal/state funding. Data collected by the College Board found that tuition and fees have been increased at about 5.4 percent over the last ten years. What's more, since the recession in 2008, publicly subsidized funding for colleges and universities have fallen nearly 14.6 percent. While these statistics may be alarming and disheartening if you're a college-aged individual or the parent of one, it shouldn't deter you from your collegiate aspirations. Let's take a look at some ways you can afford that degree with scholarships and other types of financial assistance.
Get Your Priorities Straight
One of the best tips we've heard about scholarships is to focus your search on a few key areas including your career goals, hobbies, geographic area, and ethnicity. In other words, prioritize your qualifications that are likely to earn you a scholarship.
For example, if you're planning on going after a degree in the health care field, inquire with different organizations and non-profits in your area as to whether or not they reserve scholarships for undergrads entering the field. That's one way to approach the scholarship hunt. Another way is to utilize the host of websites available that are designed to readily match your qualifications to scholarships available. Not only will that open up the pool of possible scholarships but it'll save you vital time.
Start Early & Search Often
With any endeavor that requires searching it's best to get a head start. High school students should ideally start looking prior to their senior year. That has a two-fold advantage. The first advantage is if you're finding that your grades or GPA don't qualify you to receive many scholarships, you still have time to improve your academic record or get the experience that would set you apart from other applicants (i.e., community service, volunteering, etc.)
Refine Your Essay
The last tip we'll suggest is to refine your essay as much as you can. Consult your high school's college counselor or writing department to polish the essay that accompanies your application. Do your best to leave a lasting impression on the scholarship committee by emphasizing your personal story and reasons why you deserve the funding.
Keep the above tips in mind when searching for the perfect scholarship. Be mindful to deliver an essay that addresses the prompt as well as exemplifies your financial need. Fine tune your criteria to scholarships which relate to your personal interests or history and start searching early.