Here’s How to Use Scholarships to Help Pay for College

Chyten-Endeavor Scholarships to Pay for College

By Harpreet Singh, Chyten College Access Counselor

Most families are aware of how expensive college is, and if you’re worried about how to pay for post-secondary education, you aren’t alone. It’s a dreaded but common question for many households: How will we afford college? One of the best places to start looking for financial aid is through scholarships.

A common misconception is that you need to be a straight A student and have near-perfect SAT or ACT scores to qualify a scholarship. While it’s true that some scholarships are based on academic performance, many others are not. Merit scholarships will take into account your GPA and your standardized test scores. These may be provided by your individual academic institution or by an independent group.

Other scholarships are solely contingent on your passion for an activity or topic. All that may be needed is a well-thought out answer to the question: “Why is [fill in the blank] important to you?” These types of scholarships range from volunteering to swimming to practicing a certain religion to what type of music you listen to. A lot of these scholarships are smaller in amount, but the good thing is there are many scholarships out there!

Other scholarships may take more of an academic approach, asking why you want to pursue a particular school of study or career path. The scholarship committee wants to hear about your passion for that topic and to understand what you bring to the field that may be interesting or unique.

These examples just begin to scratch the surface of scholarships available to you, but you must do work to find them. The following are some free resources that will help match you with appropriate scholarships:

These websites will typically ask you to create a detailed profile that includes your interests, background, colleges you’re applying to, activities you’re involved in, and other information. Do not let this prevent you from applying – though it may seem daunting at first, this information helps match you with scholarship opportunities that are the best fit.

In addition to scholarships, be aware of other opportunities, such as Federal Pell Grants, scholarships specifically for immigrants and refugees, and other federal grants.

When it comes to apply, you must gather a few things. Not every scholarship will require each of these elements, but it will be helpful to have them available if needed, and you don’t want to scramble to get everything together at the last minute:

  • A resume
  • Letters of recommendation
  • Official transcripts and official test scores
  • A list of extracurricular activities

The last component most scholarships will require is an essay. The topics for these essays can be virtually anything, but there are a few key ways to make sure your essay stands out. Here are a few suggestions:

  • Be very specific when answering the prompt.
  • Be concise and effective. Make sure your words have an impact in the briefest way possible.
  • Provide personal examples from your life whenever appropriate.
  • Don’t be afraid to #humblebrag. Some scholarship applications may ask you to list your achievements in an essay, which means you’ll need to learn the fine line between bragging and acknowledging your successes and accomplishments.

Additional things to consider in the scholarship search:

  • Apply to as many scholarships as you can. The more you apply to, the better chance you have of being awarded one of them.
  • Don’t underestimate the value of “smaller” scholarships. A scholarship of $500 is still free money!
  • Stay organized and track deadlines. The worst way to lose a scholarship is by accidentally submitting it late. Be on top of all deadlines to maximize the amount of scholarships you win.

By following these tips, you’re sure to create a solid application for each scholarship you apply to. With your scholarship money, you can help pay for classes, books, or possibly a college laptop or dorm supplies. Even small scholarships can help alleviate the financial burden of college, so start your scholarship search early and apply to as many as you can.

Chyten’s College Endeavor Program is demystifying the college process for high-school juniors through a 5-step program that helps students establish a personalized college admission blueprint. Want to learn more? Email or call Academic Director Vicki Jones at (617) 487-4401.