It's no secret that the cost of a college education in the United States is quite high. Taking into consideration that the "typical" college degree requires four years to obtain, that easily adds up to nearly $100,000 when all is said and done. And even if your child is still far from being college-aged, it's never too early to start planning for the expenses related to higher education. After all, prices are only expected to increase.
One of the best ways to lower your (or your child's) financial burden for college is for him or her to secure as many scholarships as possible.
Know When to Look and Apply
One common misconception people have about scholarships is that they're only available to high school juniors and seniors. While it's true that the majority of college scholarships are available to high school and college students, there are also scholarships out there for much younger children. In fact, you can find scholarship opportunities for children as young as four or five years old (kindergarten age), so why not start early if you have the opportunity?
Understand the Requirements
Depending on the scholarship for which your child is applying, different requirements may be in place. For example, some scholarships are awarded randomly; these typically require no more than a simple application form with basic information. On the other hand, merit-based scholarships will likely require your child to write an essay or submit some other kind of unique material in order to be considered. This may seem like a lot of work, but these are the kinds of scholarships that tend to receive fewer applications, thus increasing your child's chances of being awarded the prize.
Explore Different Options
The Internet makes it easier than ever to locate scholarship opportunities across the country. However, when using a scholarship database, be sure to expand your horizons and don't hesitate to try out a few different databases/sites. A scholarship opportunity offered on one site may not be found on the next, after all. Our website offers access to the Sallie Mae Scholarship Search Tool which is one of the largest scholarship databases available. Furthermore, don't rule out the possibility of finding scholarships through word-of-mouth or other means. For example, consider checking with your place of employment (or your parents', spouse's, etc.) to see if they offer any scholarship funds for employees or children of employees.
Signs of a Scholarship Scam
Last but not least, be aware of the signs of a potential scholarship scam. You should never have to pay a fee to apply for a scholarship, nor should you ever have to give out personal financial information (such as bank account numbers or social security numbers) to receive scholarship "awards." You should also never have to pay to use a scholarship database, so stick to free options.
By having your child apply for as many scholarships as possible before and even after starting college, you might be surprised at just how much more affordable higher education can become. Just remember: it's never too early to begin looking and applying for these opportunities.