TUN sits down with Sarah Chomette, an eAdviser with the College Advising Corps, to discuss tips on how to get scholarships for college.
TUN: Sarah, thanks so much for joining us.
Where can students find scholarships?
There are multiple locations where you can find scholarships, depending on the type of scholarship that you want or need.
Many students use a scholarship search site to find national scholarships, and there are tons of scholarship search sites out there. Some of the notable ones include Fastweb, JLV College Counseling and Big Future.
But, students should also check with their high school to see if their guidance counselor releases a list of local scholarships. Local scholarships can be a great place to start. They tend to be less competitive because fewer people apply for them. They might not be the highest-dollar scholarships, but at the end of the day, $100 or $500 can really go a long way in terms of paying for college.
Lastly, the company where a relative or a guardian is employed might also be a great place to look. They might have scholarships for dependents of employees.
Corporations also have scholarship opportunities. Notable ones are the Coca-Cola scholarship and the Taco Bell scholarship.
How many scholarships should students be applying for?
There’s no set number of how many scholarships students should apply for. But, generally, a minimum of around one per month is a great place for students to start.
It’s also important to note that students should continue applying for scholarships after they’ve been accepted to college because you can always get scholarships while you’re in college to pay for current or future costs.
Hundreds, and sometimes thousands, of students apply for the same scholarships at one time. How can students create applications that stand out from the rest?
Just like with college applications and college essays, it’s important to be yourself in order to stand out for these scholarship applications.
Many scholarships require essays as a part of the application. This provides a unique opportunity to stand out from the crowd, because the written word really allows for your personality and creativity to shine through.
One of the best ways to do this is by showing instead of telling, which is a technique you might have heard from English class. When answering a creative prompt or inputting your personal statement, it’s important to provide the reader with a story instead of just telling them about your goals and accomplishments. That can be kind of boring and it makes you get lost in the crowd.
Additionally, there are four major things that you want to incorporate into an essay, whether it is a scholarship essay or just for a college application in general.
The first one is going to be about your values. Share what’s important to you as an individual in your essays.
The second is going to be vulnerability, making sure you’re being open and honest about your feelings and emotions so that the reader can really feel a connection to you.
The third is going to be insight, letting the reader know you know why your story is important. You’re answering that “so what” portion. Think, “Why am I telling you this?” and “Why am I applying for this scholarship?”
Last is going to be craft, which is the most important in my opinion. It can just be summed up by, did you actually read your essay and did you put any effort into the revision process?
Are there any scholarships that students should be wary of and maybe try to avoid?
Absolutely. You should never pay to submit a scholarship.
There are scholarship programs where you pay $2 and you get access to a lot of scholarships. That’s not what we’re talking about here. But, if you have to pay to submit a scholarship, that’s definitely something that you should be wary of.
You should also be wary of any scholarships that are asking for credit card information and social security numbers. There are very few reasons why a scholarship would require a social security number, and those are normally just going to be for the high-dollar, well-known scholarships.
If you ever feel uncertain about if you’re applying to a legitimate scholarship, you can always get a second opinion from a guidance counselor or a teacher. You can also Google if the scholarship is a scam or just decide, “Hey, I’m not going to move forward with a scholarship. There are tons of scholarships out there, and there are always more to find.”
Can outside scholarships — I’m speaking about the types of scholarships that are offered by companies and organizations — take away from the amount of financial aid that your college offers you?
Absolutely. This is possible. What you’re referring to is something called “aid displacement.”
As a college student, you are required to report outside scholarships to the college or university that you attend. You can only receive enough money to cover the net price of the college.
So, let’s break down what the net price is. Net price refers to the direct and indirect costs of attending a college. Direct costs are what you pay directly to the college. So, that includes things like the tuition, the fees and the room and board. Indirect costs are things that are attributed to college. Indirect costs include things such as the cost of transportation, textbooks and miscellaneous things like personal hygiene supplies.
A financial aid package from a college can have aid coming from a variety of different sources. If you have your entire cost of attendance for a college covered already, they just won’t hand you a refund check and say, “Here’s an extra $5,000 that you get to pocket and use for whatever you want.”
Instead, you have the option to replace specific types of aid, like work study or loans, with scholarship money. It’s important to note that this is not true for every single college, so you’ll have to double-check and make sure that your college allows for something like this.
But, let’s break it down into an example, because I know that aid displacement is a little bit of a confusing topic. Say, for example, the school expects you to take out $5,000 in loans to pay for college, but you later receive a $5,000 scholarship from an outside source. It’s possible to replace those loans with that scholarship so that you’re not taking out loans, you’re just covering this cost with scholarships instead.
It’s important to note that this does not mean normally that you can replace the family contribution with an outside scholarship. You’ll definitely need to check with the schools. But, in most cases, the family is still expected to contribute a certain amount to attend college.
Lastly, are scholarships taxable? Will students have to pay taxes on their scholarship awards?
This is a tricky question and the answer is yes and no. It’s going to depend on how the scholarship money is being used, particularly scholarships that are used to cover room and board and transportation are normally taxed.
In these cases, the college will normally provide a W-9 form for the student to fill out. Then, the student will receive a 1099 form. Or, if the money goes directly to a college, they will receive a 1098-T form as part of their taxes.
If you have additional questions or concerns about this, definitely reach out to the financial aid office of your prospective college, or where you are currently attending, and ask how that scholarship money is stacking up for you and if there’s anything that you need to make sure that you’re aware of.
Thanks, Sarah, for joining us today.
Absolutely. Thank you so much for having me.
This interview has been edited for clarity.