Scholarships Cut the Cost of College
There are thousands of private college scholarships out there, but researching and then applying for the ones that are a good fit for you requires commitment. I always tell our students at Partners For Achievement that no one will walk around giving you money—you have to put in the effort to get the return.
Where to start your college scholarship search
That said, the process can be overwhelming, so the key is to approach it in an organized, methodical manner. The best way to start is by looking right around you. For example, maybe your mom’s company or your church offers college scholarships. Maybe your family has a military history or you’re an Eagle Scout. Figure out what is unique about you and your situation, and then use that information as an entryway to your scholarship research.
The next layer is to consider your high school, school district and community. Glenbard West High School in Glen Ellyn, Illinois, for instance, gives more than $100,000 in scholarships. As for the community, organizations such as the chamber of commerce and the Rotary Club are potential sources of scholarship money.
Another point of entry is your intended major. There are scholarships related to engineering, business, the performing arts—you name it.
College scholarship search tools
Although finding scholarships that are right for you involves time-consuming sifting, there are some valuable tools at your disposal. The most prominent among these is an app called Scholly, which is used by many of our students. Scholly has you fill out a series of yes-or-no questions based on your interests, family and background and then matches you with various scholarship opportunities, ranking them on a scale of 1 to 10. Websites such as Cappex and Fastweb are similar in nature and are also effective.
Last year, 96 percent of our kids received merit aid or private scholarships. One student applied for 34 private scholarships and accumulated a total of $17,000.
—Kevin Krebs, founder of Partners For Achievement
At Partners For Achievement, we developed a scholarship toolkit to further streamline the search for scholarships. Included is a multilevel spreadsheet that breaks down hundreds of scholarships in numerous ways, such as by your interests, your high school, your community, foundations, and other organizations. We also have a 200-page document that is divided by major; it has 15 pages devoted to computer science scholarships, 20 pages of engineering scholarships, and so on. PFA runs a two-hour class that is dedicated to teaching our kids how to use the toolkit, and the final results have been heartening. Last year, 96 percent of our kids received merit aid or private scholarships. One student applied for 34 private scholarships and accumulated a total of $17,000.
Prepping for college scholarship applications
Before you begin applying for scholarships, make sure to have an updated résumé, a personal statement (these typically range from 250 to 1,000 words and center on why you want to go to college or what you want to do in your career), and one or two letters of recommendation. It’s also important to understand who is giving the scholarship and why. If you can mold your application to fit exactly what the committee is looking for, you’ll enhance your chances of earning the scholarship.
Something else to keep in mind is local scholarships that require an essay typically attract a much smaller applicant pool because kids don’t want to put in the extra effort for that step. This greatly increases your chances of winning those scholarships. Last year, a PFA student earned a $3,500 scholarship—one that required a 1,000-word essay—because she was the only person who applied.
Part of the PFA High School Program includes guidance on how students can search for college scholarships. For more information about PFA’s High School Program click here.
Kevin Krebs is the founder of Partners For Achievement. Read more about Krebs and the rest of the Partners For Achievement team.