Home » College » Tips on helping your students pay for college

Tips on helping your students pay for college

blogging-15968_960_720By Neil Allen 

Scholarship season is now upon high school students who are starting to receive their acceptance letters from colleges and college students planning for the next year of college — finding money for school doesn’t end after the first year.  

If you’re like most parents, the thought of your student having crushing debt after college is disheartening. There is hope — if your student is diligent. And, it can seem like it is a daunting task and a bit depressing when your student discovers that they’re not academically eligible or meet the income qualified requirements, they just need to dig a little deeper. 

My daughter recently graduated from a New Hampshire college owing just $30,000 of the more than the $80,000 price tag for tuition and room and board for four years. Thankfully, my daughter qualified for a Pell Grant and federal student loans. She also found a number of scholarships and grants through local organizations and the college to cover many of her expenses. It was a yearly struggle to find scholarships and grants but it made a significant difference. 

The good news is that your student’s guidance counselors have tons of information on local and regional scholarships. If you’re not hearing about them, ask your student if they’ve been getting the information. If they haven’t, then follow up with them and the guidance counselor to make sure you have the list as well so you know when the deadlines are and what is needed to apply. Also check with your town to see what they may have listed as well as local service organizations like the Rotary Club if they’re not already on the list from the school. 

The Common Application for college now also offers scholarship help through Scholar Snapp under the Financial Aid Resources. The real benefit is that it will re-use the information already submitted to the Common Application on the scholarship applications, which will make the process faster and eliminate the potential for mistakes, and help you more easily identify scholarships you may be eligible for. 

Once your student finalizes their choice for college, they can help reduce the costs by applying for scholarships and grants offered through the college itself. Your student will have to apply for each one of them individually as they all have different requirements and deadlines. The information will be on the college website or available through the admissions or financial aid offices.  

If that’s not enough, there are tons of websites out there that list scholarships and provide links to them so that your student can see if they are qualified for them, such as Fastweb and Cappex.  

And, if your student is qualified for the work-study program, make sure they start looking online early and apply for as many jobs as are available and will fit into their schedule. Most schools have fewer work-study jobs than students who qualify so students have to be diligent and watch the work-study job listings regularly for new opportunities. 

Some tips to make applying for scholarships easier: 

  • Help your student identify at least three people, not family or friends, who would be able to provide a reference for your student—one former teacher and at least one employer or leader of a club they may have belonged to or had done volunteering with. And, just like with a job reference, have your student make sure the reference is willing to provide one for them.  
  • Write one generic essay that can be altered to fit the requirements for each scholarship application. Have someone proofread the student’s essay for spelling or grammatical errors as well as making sure it flows well. 
  • Get a digital copy of your student’s transcript to include with online scholarship applications and to print out for applications that have to be mailed in. If your student took college classes while in high school, make sure you have the transcript for those classes if the high school doesn’t include them on their transcript. 
  • Encourage them to be brave and apply for as many scholarships as you can, even if it is only for a few hundred dollars. The worst that can happen is they don’t get the award, and even little amounts add up quickly.
  • Your student should be checking their email regularly to make sure they are not missing any requests for further information or notifications of awards that may have a deadline for accepting them. 
  • Once your student is in school, have them continue to monitor the offerings from the college as new scholarships and grants may be available, aren’t offered every year or are available every semester. Continue to check online to make sure they’re not missing other new scholarships. 

It is a lot of work and can be challenging, but it will make a huge difference when your student has graduated and is faced with having to pay for their education and the scholarships are offered for a reason—to make college more affordable. Do you have any tips for applying for scholarships or finding money to pay for college? Share them in our comments section.