If your child is ready to catapult into their college years, equipping them with a financial safety harness is a must. Otherwise, your first-year college student may find themselves plummeting into the black hole that is student debt—an unfortunate fate for those teenagers already pinching pennies to make ends meet (and fuel their ramen-exclusive diets).
As a parent, fears of your student feeling held back by financial concerns during college application season may consume you. Fortunately for worry-wart parents, there are enough scholarships available for most students—all of which can give students a substantial leg up in paying for their education.
Ready to send your student soaring for success? Here are a few ways you can give your child the best scholarship odds possible.
Put out more lightning rods
While there are plenty of scholarships available for an eager student who wants to find them, they can only win the scholarships if they apply. The more scholarships your teen applies for, the more likely it is that they will win one (or more) of them.
Encourage your student to apply to every scholarship they’re eligible for. While they likely won’t win them all, each application will be easier than the last. Exhausting all their available scholarship opportunities means they’ll score as much scholarship aid as possible. If you’re not sure where to start, check out the Scholarship Finder from CollegeData (https://www.collegedata.com/scholarship-finder)
This tool allows you to search, sort, and filter available scholarships based on eligibility criteria. By narrowing the pool of available scholarships to ones your teen meets the essential eligibility criteria for, you maximize their scholarship odds and boost the chances of your college student graduating debt-free.
Encourage their interests and hobbies
Your student’s best-bet scholarships are those financial aid opportunities that revolve around passion projects, life-long extracurriculars, etc. Whether they’re interested in a sport, club, or other activity, they’re likely to find a scholarship tailored to their interests. Remember, the more unique the extracurricular, the less competition there will be for each scholarship.
Complete the FAFSA first
The Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) is your first stop for scholarship eligibility. This federal calculator determines how much your family can afford to pay for college and whether you’re eligible for any federal aid.
However, it also often opens the door for merit-based scholarships of all types. Some schools won’t offer any financial aid at all until you’ve completed the FAFSA, so start here first.
Work with them on writing the perfect essay
The application essay is your child’s chance to demonstrate who they are, so ensure their personalities shine through. Writing skills are an essential piece of their college toolkit anyway, so help them understand the importance of impeccable writing now to increase their scholarship odds.
Remember that every dollar counts
Help your teen resist the temptation to hone in on the big-dollar scholarships – $20k, $30k, or full tuition. Every other scholarship applicant will be seeking those out as well. The $25k scholarship likely has twenty times as many applicants as the $2,500 scholarship. Encourage your teen to apply for a handful of smaller scholarships rather than just a few big-ticket ones.
Work with your child’s guidance counselor
Your school’s guidance counselor knows all the ins and outs of the college and scholarship application process. They can help you help your teen find the perfect school and scholarship for them. Not to mention, these counselors an invaluable source for recommendation letters that attest to your student’s academic excellence.
While paying for college may feel daunting now, every bit of aid your family receives eases your financial burden. Helping your teen with their scholarship strategy will maximize their chances of receiving financial aid and minimize the strain on your budget.