St. Louis Cardinals gave us a great 2012 baseball season. The Rams are still at it, and loyal Blues fans wait anxiously for the players to take the ice. But for high school seniors, the focus has shifted to “Scholarship Season”. High school seniors have narrowed their list of schools to apply; at least one definite school they are likely to be accepted and would attend, a few they would like to attend if they get accepted and can afford, and one or two dream schools. Applications and essays are being completed and reviewed. Once the application has been submitted, it’s time for families to sit down and determine how to pay for the next four years. Scholarships, grants, and other forms financial aid are viable alternatives for most students.
The cost to attend a four-year college/university has increased dramatically since 2000. The National Center for Educational Statistics indicates prices for undergraduate tuition, room, and board at public institutions rose 42 percent, and prices at private not-for-profit institutions rose 31 percent, after adjustment for inflation between 2000 and 2010. The in-state, estimated cost to attend the University of Missouri – Columbia for 2012-2013 school year is $22,296 including tuition, room and board, books, and miscellaneous expenses. Private and out-of-state tuition can cost $25,000-$60,000+.
To offset these expenses it is important to evaluate the areas where students can maximize their potential sources of outside funding through scholarships, grants, and federal financial aid. Rather than look at these sources of funding as a magical wish list, it’s time to consider them as realistic sources of income to offset the tuition bill. Many families assume that scholarships are for students with demonstrated financial need, athletic prowess or academic superstars. While scholarships are out there for students in these categories, it is important to remember there are a lot of scholarship opportunities geared towards students with good grades (3.0 GPA), community service, leadership, art or music talents, or simply a defined sense of what they want to be when they grow up.
Consider the last three years as the preseason. It’s time to pull together a list of activities in and out of school, awards/recognition, transcripts, test scores, etc. Next, start looking for scholarship opportunities. Registering with scholarship search engines (Fastweb, scholarship.org, Cappex, etc.) is a good way to see what is available nationally. It is a good idea to set up a separate e-mail account for these and all scholarship information. These sites email notices 1-4 times per day and your regular email box will be overflowing with information. Using this separate email account is also a great way to track the incoming application information and updates about applications, including semi-final status and requests for additional information or interviews.
Check with your high school counselor for scholarships available to students at your school. A free list of scholarship opportunities for St. Louis area students can be found at www.CSOrganizer.com making it easy to connect local students with local scholarship opportunities. While most local scholarships are smaller than national scholarships, you won’t be competing with 25,000 other students either. The smaller the application pool the better the odds are to be recognized.
Most importantly, do not overlook the scholarship and grant opportunities at the colleges/universities that you are applying to this fall. Scour their websites for information about scholarships. If you have declared a major be sure to check with individual colleges and departments for scholarships. Also, look at local alumni groups for scholarship opportunities.
Nationally, 69.5% of students attending college in 2010 had received some form financial assistance that did not have to be repaid. It’s time for St. Louis area students to seize the opportunity to be recognized for their talents, compassion and hard work. It all begins with being organized, asking the right questions, looking in the right places, meeting deadlines, and most of all, applying.