To find something, you first need to know what it is you are searching for and such is the case with scholarship searches.
If you haven’t developed a scholarship plan to help you focus on which scholarships to seek, you may waste a lot of time searching and applying for scholarships that you have little chance of receiving.
The scholarship plan, which will also help you set a goal on the dollar amount of scholarships to receive, should include the following components:
- A self-assessment of your goals, skills, interests, and attributes. This may take some time but is an important part of reaching your career and education goals. The self-assessment will give you a clear picture of what education to pursue and which scholarships to seek.
- The estimated cost of attendance at the school, college, or university you are considering attending. The cost of attendance, which can be found by looking the institution’s website or the U.S. Department of Education’s College Navigator, includes tuition, fees, room and board, transportation, books, equipment, and other education-related expenses.
- The existing resources you have available to you. Include any savings for college, 529 plans, or any other existing resources. If you plan to work while in school, estimate a portion of your earnings that you will use to pay your expenses. If your parents plan to help pay for your education with their current earnings, estimate and include that contribution as well.
- Estimated federal and state financial aid. If you are a junior or senior this academic year, you can use the FAFSA4Caster to determine if you might eligible for any federal need based financial aid. Check with your high school counselor or your state education officials to determine if you may be eligible for any state scholarships. The South Dakota Board of Regents manages several state scholarship programs for students.
- Student loans as optional funds. Freshmen, who meet basic eligibility requirements, can receive up to $5,500 in federal student loans. In addition, parents can borrow through the federal PLUS (parent loan) program and there may be state loan programs available to you. Student loans should be a last resort and part of your goal of the scholarship search is to find free funding for your education, so you won’t need to borrow money.
With these five components in your plan, you will know both the type and dollar amount of scholarships you should seek. You can use this information to set your scholarship goal and to increase the chances that you will successfully find and receive the scholarships you seek.