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Laura DifioreThe Reality About Scholarships

by Laura DiFiore

Let's face it. The odds of you receiving enough funding from scholarships to pay for your entire education are virtually nill. The odds of receiving ANY scholarships at all are very small also!
 
The odds ARE better than the odds of winning the Lotto... but they are still formidable.

Free Money Is Not Free.

It is misleading to call scholarships "free money."

  • You will have to invest a LOT of time into searching for scholarships, requesting information, sending applications, transcripts, essays, you name it. A LOT OF TIME. Students who have been successful and won scholarships routinely report that they spend 10-14 hours PER APPLICATION that they submit. Time is money after all :)
  • You will have to spend some money on postage, photocopies, photos, transcript fees, the occasional long-distance call, and other miscellaneous things.
After spending hard-earned money on postage you might have the letter returned "Moved - Forward Order Expired" Or you might receive a letter saying that they are no longer accepting applications for this year - even though the deadline is still three months away!

You will find organizations that have changed their requirements in the middle of the application period, that have stopped offering their scholarships, and the worst ones of all - the ones you never hear from again. Despite what many scholarship books and search services say, there IS NOT a scholarship for everyone, and it is NOT easy to win a scholarship!
 
But some of you will get "lucky," your hard work and accomplishments standing far out above the thousands of other applications, and you receive a letter or a phone call stating you just won $100. Or $500. Or $1000! What a thrilling moment!! You are a WINNER!
 
Just to find out after all that work, the financial aid office at your school simply deducts the scholarship you worked so hard to find and win from funds the school itself was going to give you, not reducing your "expected family contribution" at all!
 
So why should you bother, you may ask? I want to say "Because money is money, and free money is even better!" But it is not that simple. Determine for yourself if it is worthwhile to spend time trying to get some scholarships.
 
The search itself is an incredible learning opportunity. A real-life education in research, planning, organizing, and perseverence.

  • You will make contacts with people and organizations that although they may not be able to assist you now, they may be able to assist you next year. Or when you graduate, or during the summer break.
  • You will gain a lot of confidence, especially through the interview process.
  • You will become a whiz at dealing with paperwork, which you will learn during the first time you register for class too (grin).
  • You will learn a lot about the best way to fill out an application - a skill that is essential when you begin applying for employment.
  • And if you do receive a scholarship, it may help you recieve other scholarships!
  • But most importantly, you TRIED. Whether you recieve a scholarship or not, YOU TRIED. And if you DO NOT TRY, YOU WILL RECEIVE NOTHING. Nothing risked, nothing gained, nothing learned.  
The scholarship process is NOT EASY, I cannot emphasize just how much work is involved. Is it worth it? That's up to you to decide, I think it is. So do the thousands of other students and parents out there pursuing the dream of an education.

Many find that the secondary rewards of what they learn through finding and applying for scholarships is worth far more than the time and money invested, and a few very hard working and deserving students do indeed win scholarships.
 
By the way... If you do find your financial aid office is reducing the institution's awards to you based upon your finding funding from sources outside of the school (scholarships!), do not hesitate to negotiate with them. Ask them to reduce your family's expected contribution. If they say no, ask them to reduce the loans you are taking out. If they still say no, offer to split it in half. Ask them to just reduce the institution's funding by half of your award, and your loans or family contribution by the other half of the award. Be pushy, but be VERY VERY nice. (Try to make it seem like the financial aid office is doing you the biggest favor in the world. Everyone in the world loves it when they can help someone else!) But do not be surprised if they cannot change the decision to reduce your institutional funds.
 
Good luck!

For more articles from Laura, see Strategies for Nontraditional Students, Scholarship Tips, and the Scholarship Juding Process.

Laura DiFiore, founder of FreSch! The Free Scholarship Search Service, lives in Calhan, Colorado. Article reprinted by author permission.

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