Searching and applying for scholarships for college is a daunting task for any teenager, especially given the overwhelming course load and activity schedule that most students carry.
You can be your teen’s best advocate and supporter in this endeavor by following these simple steps.
The earlier your teen starts applying for scholarships, the more money he’ll have access to. It’s an obvious statement, but so many students wait until senior year to apply.
I typically recommend that student begin their scholarship search starting the summer before the sophomore year. As the high school years pass by, course loads, testing and other responsibilities increase, so starting in sophomore year allows your student to gain traction before workloads become heavier.
Also, many of the essays or short answers your teen will need to write for scholarships can be repurposed and tweaked for other scholarships later on, so much of the heavy lifting is done sooner.
It’s also really valuable to apply for scholarships that are awarded early enough to be listed on (and therefore enhance) your teen’s college application!
Help to express future goals and dreams.
Many scholarship application essays require some deep thinking from your teenager about who he is as a person, what his core values are and what he aspires to become or do in the future. This can be a pretty intimidating exercise for a teenager!
Help your teen think about personal strengths, plans and dreams for the future. Start with what makes him feel inspired. To do this, ask open-ended questions like, “What problems do you feel passionate about trying to solve? If you had an unlimited amount of money, what would you do with your time?”
For a list of 30 thought-provoking and brain-churning questions, download the What’s Your Passion? worksheet.
This will jump start your teen’s thought process as he moves through those applications. (These questions are great for conversation starters, too!)
Use your personal network to find scholarship opportunities.
One of the best places to search for scholarships is within your own work, social and community circles.
- Check with your employer. Your company might offer scholarships for children of employees – many do.
- If you’re part of a religious community, ask about local, regional or even national scholarships for denominational eligibility.
- Head over to your local Chamber of Commerce to inquire about scholarships that local businesses may be offering.
- Local Rotary, Elks, Eagles and Lions clubs tend to have scholarships, too. If you or your teen’s grandparents are members, check into what they may offer.
Help to organize and manage time effectively.
The process involves lots more than just spending a day online searching for scholarships and choosing a couple to apply for. Help your kid make a plan and manage time.
Some teens have a good sense of how to plan time wisely in order to complete tasks, schoolwork and other projects they’re responsible for. Many more could really use a hand with that, especially when it comes to something like applying for scholarships – something they may not really be that motivated to do.
Help your teen to plan out scholarship searches and submit applications before deadlines. In addition to putting deadlines and setting small goals using a calendar, download my Scholarship Application Organizer Worksheet to help your teen to keep track of which scholarships he’s applying for, what criteria each scholarship requires, award amounts, when deadlines are and what he needs to submit to be eligible.
Be encouraging and supportive.
It’s easy for teens to get down on themselves when they don’t immediately see the fruits of their labor. Applying for scholarships is hard work. Inevitably there will be scholarship awards that your teen just doesn’t win – they’re subjective and unpredictable.
Be a support for your kid when there’s a temporary setback. It’s important for him to keep things in perspective, and it’s a great lesson in perseverance. Learning how to win sometimes means first learning how to lose. Be an encouraging force for your teen throughout the process.
Let’s keep the conversation going! I’d love to hear your tips and ideas for supporting your own teen with scholarships in the comments below.