Many students (and parents) assume that they don’t need to worry about scholarships until they are getting ready for the senior year. But failing to take action now means winning a scholarship could be more challenging in the future, making it harder to secure enough funds to finish college debt free. In fact, there are a lot of ways younger students can set themselves up for success with scholarships. Here’s how your child can get started today.
1. Start College and Scholarship Discussions NOW
Sometimes, it can be hard for your student to focus on activities that will help them land scholarships with going to college feels theoretical. If your conversations refer to getting a degree as an “if” instead of a “when,” it makes it feel either optional or like it may not be attainable.
Instead of discussing college and scholarship goals like they may not happen, switch up the language to be more definitive. This makes it feel more real (to the both of you) and makes planning seem increasingly crucial to their success.
2. Focus on Good Grades
sophomore in high school can prepare for scholarships #scholarships #education Having your child keep their grades up can make a big difference come scholarship time. While not every scholarship is based on academic performance, many of them do either focus on it or factor it into the decision-making process.
Now, this doesn’t mean your child has to maintain a 4.0 GPA their entire lives (though that certainly doesn’t hurt), aiming for A’s and B’s is a smart move. This also gives them a little wiggle room if they are struggling, as it relieves the pressure associated with a perfect GPA, but is often attainable by almost any student who applies themselves.
Having good grades also makes it easier to become a member of the National Honor Society and National Junior Honor Society, both of which offer scholarships to members and serve as strong credentials for other scholarship applications.
3. Pick a Hobby
Many scholarship committees want to see that your child is interested in things outside of school or work. Having a hobby on the side such as scrapbooking, painting, hiking, or whatever else your child can think of can also make them more competitive when it comes to applying for scholarships. They don’t need to spend tons of time on this but having an answer to “what do you do outside of school?” can be an important one!
4. Get Involved
Volunteering and community service can be valuable experiences for your child on their own, as it teaches your student the value of helping others and contributing to society. But, the benefits don’t end there. Many scholarship committees want to know about volunteer hours and community involvement, with some considering it the deciding factor when it comes time to select who gets the award.
The earlier your child starts accruing volunteer hours, the easier it is to hit any minimums that may be stated in the scholarship application requirements. Plus, if they choose a cause they believe in, they’ll benefit from the intrinsic rewards of doing the work. And, if they select something that relates to their future career goals, your student could gain valuable experience that can help them land a job down the road.
Easy Ways to Build Experience
5. Explore AP Classes
If your child is particularly strong in a subject, have them sign up for the advanced placement (AP) version of the class. Not only is the material more advanced, replicating the standards of most colleges, but those who pass the AP exam at the end of the course can earn college credit. This means your student won’t need to take those classes in college, shortening the amount of time required to graduate and saving money along the way too. As an added bonus, they may improve your child’s GPA, as many AP courses count for more than a 4.0 if they get an A in the class.
Many high schools offer AP courses for major subjects like English, Science, Math, and History, and the classes are typically part of the core requirements your student must complete while earning their degree, regardless of the degree they choose.
6. Build Up Trusted Recommenders
There will come a day, very quickly, when your child needs to ask for a recommendation letter. Building relationships now with teachers, administrators, counselors, coaches and other adults in your child’s life will make it much easier when they need a recommendation letter. Each new school year, have your child choose one adult in their life that they can foster this type of relationship with.
7. Check Out Colleges
If your child has an idea of what they want to major in, then there’s no reason not to start discovering which colleges offer the program. During their exploration, they can learn about tuition costs and other expenses, helping them determine how much they may need in scholarships to attend, as well as institutional scholarship and their requirements.
8. Start Scholarship Applications
Did you know that not every scholarship is limited only to seniors or current college students? It’s true!
There are a lot of scholarships out there that younger students can apply for, including some that are limited to those under a particular age or below a specific grade level. That means, if your child waits to start their scholarship search, they could miss out on opportunities that won’t be available once they become a senior or get ready to head to college.
Getting ahead of the crowd can have a lot of benefits, so there’s no reason not to begin exploring the scholarship process today. Plus, by starting early, your student won’t be under the same amount of pressure when their senior year arrives, as every dollar scored today is one less they have to worry about tomorrow.