Like so many other students thinking about going to college, I too worried about the price tag that would come along with a college education. With the cost of attendance, books, housing, and transportation, the cost of college can sometimes feel overwhelming.
Many families may think it’s impossible for their child to go to college because they can’t afford it, but that couldn’t be farther from the truth. There is money to be found for help with tuition, housing and general expenses, especially for many Hispanic students.
Aside from financial aid in the form of student loans, there are other resources available including grants, work-study programs and scholarships. The secret is knowing when and where to look, especially for scholarships.
It’s never too early to start your search. The key to finding scholarships is to do your research. Starting your search in the first two years of high school will give you a strong head start in knowing what types of scholarships are out there. Students who start too late sometimes find that they’ve missed out on significant opportunities. You want to start early and look for scholarships that are closely tailored to your academic strengths, your interests, and any extra-curricular activities that you may be involved in. You can also focus on scholarships at the specific colleges where you think you’ll be applying for admission.
There are generally two ways in which scholarships are awarded:
- One is “Merit based,” which is based on the academic performance and talent of the student, and the other is
- “Need based,” which is determined by household income.
An important thing to look for when doing your research is to find out what the pre-requisites are for each scholarship application. Some common requirements include submitting your resume, letters of recommendation from teachers or professionals who you’ve worked with and providing written essays. Other pre-requisites may be describing what type of extra-curricular activities you’ve been involved in and giving examples of community service that you’ve participated in.
An excellent source of scholarship information is available to you right on your own high school campus – the College and Career Center.
Make an appointment to speak with an advisor. They can tell you where to find applications for college scholarship programs and can give you both regional and local resources that are available to students in your local area and community. Organizations that offer scholarships often work together with advisors so that they stay abreast of the most current and important scholarships available.
If you’re a senior at El Rancho High School, you can check in at the College and Career Center where you’ll find one program that specifically assists high school seniors with college planning and guidance in applying to scholarships. The Be A Leader Senior Boot Camp program provides students with a detailed and easy to navigate “support system” during the scholarship and college application process.
Another great resource is attending college fairs on campus. Several colleges come out to the high school every year and give information to students and parents about the admissions requirements for attending those colleges. This is a great way to talk to people from each college and university and to make a contact with someone from those schools. You can later follow up with that contact and ask where you can find more information about scholarships for their school.
Organizations outside of campus like the Hispanic Scholarship Fund, offer events and information sessions for families as well. There, you can learn about college enrollment, financial aid, and scholarships and learn how to apply for each.
Of course, in this day and age, one of the best ways to look for scholarships is going online and using scholarship search engines like www.fastweb.com and www.latinocollegedollars.org. These sites have scholarship information based on your strengths, interests and skills. Both Latino College Dollars and the Hispanic Scholarship Fund list scholarships specifically offered to Latino students. At the Hispanic Scholarship Fund site, www.hsf.net, high school students, college undergraduate students, and graduate students can all search for scholarships.
Reach out to your school advisors and use the many resources available at your school that have been set up to help you succeed. Working together with your advisors and parents, you’ll be well on your way to applying for scholarships that may already have your name written all over them.
Here is a recap of the best scholarship search tools: