choosing a college

"Backyard Scholarships And How To Find Them"

Each year there are large scholarships awarded by nationally recognized companies such as Coca-Cola, Tylenol, and USA Today. While you should definitely apply to these awards, keep in mind that competition is stiff and of the thousands who enter, only a few will win. While applying to these national jackpots you should not overlook one of the best sources of scholarships--your own backyard.

Think about all of the groups, clubs, businesses, churches and organizations in your community. Each of these is a potential source for scholarships. Plus, because of their limited marketing budgets, many are not widely publicized. That means fewer applicants and higher odds of winning.

There are probably some great local scholarships that are just waiting to be discovered. Hereís how to find them:

Counselor Or Financial Aid Office. If you are a high school student, start with your school counselor. Before your appointment, prepare information about your familyís financial background and think about what kind of college you want to attend and what special interests or talents you have that would make you eligible for special scholarships. Be sure to ask if there are any scholarships for which your counselor can nominate you.

If you are an entering freshman or a current college student, make an appointment with your schoolís financial aid advisor. For your appointment, think about what interests and talents you have and what field you may want to enter after graduation. If you have one, take a copy of your Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) as background. Mention any special circumstances about your familyís financial situation. Ask your advisor for recommendations of scholarships offered by the college or by community organizations. Inquire about being nominated for scholarships that fit your background.

Itís important whenever you speak to a counselor (either in high school or college) that you inquire about any scholarships that require nomination. Often these scholarships are easier to win since the applicant pool is smaller. The largest hurdle is getting nominated. You have nothing to lose by asking, and if anything, it shows how serious you are about financing your education.

School Activities. One fringe benefit of participating in activities might be a scholarship sponsored by the organization. Inquire with the officers or advisors of the organization about scholarship funds. Bands, newspapers, academic clubs, athletic organizations, and service organizations often have scholarships that are awarded to outstanding members.

Community Organizations. Donít limit yourself to only organizations that you belong to. Community groups will often sponsor scholarships that are open to all students who live in the community. For example, local Rotary and Lions clubs often offer scholarships for outstanding students in the community whether or not their parents are members. They view scholarship programs as a way of serving their community. Open a phone book and call the five largest organizations in your area. Chances are that at least one will offer a scholarship.

Employer. Many businesses that employ young people offer scholarships as a way to reward students like you who both study and work. Ask your manager if your employer has a scholarship fund and how you can apply.

Parentsí Employer. Companies often award scholarships to the children of their employees as a benefit for their employment. Your parents should speak with someone in their Human Resources department about scholarships and other educational programs offered by their company.

Parentsí Union. Some unions sponsor scholarships for the children of their members. Your parents should speak with the union officers about scholarships and other educational programs sponsored by the union.

Parentsí Organizations. Are your parents involved in civic or other local organizations? These organizations may offer scholarships for members. Ask your parents to find out.

Church Or Religious Organizations. Religious organizations may provide scholarships for members. If you or your parents are members of a religious organization, check with the leaders to see if a scholarship is offered.

Local Government. Some cities and counties provide scholarships specifically designated for local students. Often, local city council members and state representatives have a scholarship fund. Even if you didnít vote for them, call their offices and ask if they offer a scholarship.

Local Businesses. Local business owners who want to see students in their community succeed often set up scholarship funds as a way to thank their customers and customersí children. Contact your local chamber of commerce to see if there are local businesses that offer scholarships for students in the community.

Local Newspaper. Some local newspapers make announcements about local students who win scholarships. Keep a record of the scholarships printed or go to your library and look at back issues of the newspaper. Check last yearís spring issues (between March and June) and youíll probably find announcements of scholarship recipients. Contact the sponsoring organizations to see if youíre eligible to enter the next competition.

Internet. One of the benefits of online scholarship directories is that they can be updated at any time. Thus, if you search an online scholarship directory you can find up-to-date information on new scholarships.

Local scholarships are truly the hidden backyard gems of financial aid. Students often find the greatest success with smaller, local scholarships. Youíd be surprised how quickly the awards add up.

Thank you for visiting,

Al Brouillard

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