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In search of COLLEGE SCHOLARSHIPS--Journey or Nightmare?

Updated on June 2, 2012

If you are the parent of a high school student, there is little doubt you are about to enter unfamiliar territory as you travel the proverbial, yet mystical highway in search of the ever elusive college scholarship. Buckle your seat belt and hang on tight; this is going to be one bumpy ride!

The college scholarship road is paved with pot holes and lined with detours.This trek will involve countless hours of research, essays and, yes, disappointment. For some unknown reason, although this process is recognized as difficult; the underlying assumption or belief is that, “my student” will be the recipient of numerous scholarship awards.

One of the biggest misconceptions is to assume that because your child has excellent grades, is active in sports or music and performs community service as a volunteer; your child is a “shoe in” to receive scholarship awards.This perception is partially based upon the extensive publicity surrounding students who receive thousands of dollars in scholarship offers.These offers may appear abundant on the surface, yet are typically university specific and the total award amount does not translate to overall tuition.

The following information is shared from the perspective of a parent who has been where you are, NOT from the expertise of a scholarship mastermind.


  • Begin searching early. Junior year is cutting it way too close and the result can be missed deadlines.
  • Begin researching the various colleges and universities your student may be interested in attending.Then identify the scholarship opportunities within that arena and carefully review the eligibility requirements.
  • Most high schools post available scholarships on their websites. Check these sites regularly for additions and updates.(Note: High schools within the same corporation do not necessarily list the same scholarship opportunities, check them all).
  • Do not rely upon high school counselors to help your student identify scholarships.
  • Even if your student excels in sports, do not assume they will get a full-ride to a school. That said, participation in a sport does seem to offer a few more scholarship advantages than other activities.
  • Do not place an excessive amount of emphasis on the “well rounded” tag line that seems to be prevalent today. It is far better to enroll your student in an ACT/SAT tutoring course early instead of being involved in every activity offered at the school. Most colleges will tell you they evaluate all things when considering acceptance, which is true; but the ACT/SAT score can make or break the scholarship opportunity.
  • The P-SAT must be taken during the junior year of high school for Merit Scholarship consideration. Merit Scholarships are often full tuition scholarships and scores must be high.
  • Do not assume that a 4.0 G.P.A. or holding the title of class Valedictorian or Salutatorian will guarantee your student a scholarship, it WILL NOT!
  • Check with your student’s high school to verify whether or not they participate in class ranking. In general, the high school ranking system is outdated. (Example: A student who is enrolled in general education studies, has no intention of pursuing a college education and maintains a 4.0 G.P.A. can potentially reduce the class ranking of a student enrolled in an academic honors program, taking college credit courses and a G.P.A. of 3.97, ultimately affecting scholarship eligibility).
  • Website scholarship sites may be somewhat useful but not something to rely on.
  • Consider applying at a number of colleges. Each application asks the student to name the colleges they are looking at. If only one or two schools are listed, incentive to offer a more attractive offer is lost.


Most college applications require one or more essay's. Here are a few tips to help save time.

  • Always save essays on a flash drive, as the same questions may be repeated on a variety of scholarship applications.
  • Check for spelling and grammatical errors.
  • An essay is not a novel, get to the point, answer the question and use the name of the school in the body of the essay. CAUTION: Never just copy and paste an essay, always fine tune it and direct it to the school and/or course of study.
  • Gather letter's of recommendation early. Student's should request a letter of recommendation from teacher's, employers, Pastors/Clergy and leader's of volunteer organizations from where they have participated.

Government awards are based on financial need and it is imperative, for parents of prospective college students, to file the FAFSA (Free Application for Federal Student Aid) on time, as this deadline is non-negotiable. Also, most colleges require this to be completed regardless of qualifying status. FAFSA FILING DEADLINE INDIANA IS MARCH. This means that tax returns must be completed ASAP. Apply for PIN numbers early at

Many colleges begin accepting early enrollment applications as soon as September or October of the student’s senior year of high school, which makes the ending junior year G.P.A. a critical component. Last but not least, do not place so much emphasis on finding and obtaining scholarships that you and your student fail to enjoy the high school years.

From one parent to another….focus on what you can do to help your student apply for and possibly have a chance at receiving a scholarship, while recognizing that more often than not, the road to financing a college education is most likely paved by early saving practices, student loans and of course Parent loans.


Below are JUST a few valuable scholarship opportunities that may benefit your student. The search can require a tremendous amount of time.

21st Century Scholarship - Must qualify by 7th or 8th grade. Minimum GPA requirements apply if awarded. For more information visit:

The Discover Scholarship Program awards up to $250,000 in scholarships annually to high school juniors nationwide to support continued education and training beyond high school. Since 1991, Discover has awarded more than $16 million in scholarships to nearly 6,500 students.Note:This must be applied for at the end of the high school sophomore year/early junior year.

The Coca−Cola Scholars Foundation supports over 1,400 college students each year, with annual scholarships of $3.4 million through two nationally recognized programs on behalf of the Coca−Cola System.

Community Foundation Scholarships – Indiana

Vanderburgh Community Foundation (A partner of the Vanderburgh County Alliance); For other states check your County Specific Community Foundation for Opportunities.

Lilly Endowment Scholarship Program

Kohl’s Kid’s Care Scholarships

Junior Achievement – Participation in JA is required to apply

Peyback Foundation Scholarship – Peyton Manning Foundation

Wishing all of you much success in your quest to seek the best education for your child.


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    • wannabwestern profile image

      Carolyn Augustine 6 years ago from The Land of Tractors

      When I was applying for college scholarships 20 years ago it seemed that organizations had difficulty getting the word out and not enough students applied for them. Competition was fierce, sure enough, but the application process was involved too, and some folks didn't go to the trouble. I think with the ease of searching for scholarships using the internet the competition must be rather fiercer now. Thanks for this primer. Our 8th grader will be looking for scholarships sooner than later and this is need-to-know information.