College is expensive, so take advantage of any assistance you can get, and it’s never too early to start thinking about applying for scholarships.
Scholarships can help pay for not only tuition, but also textbooks and even room and board.
While the extra money can aid families and students, Forbes reports that millions of dollars in scholarship money goes unclaimed each year.
However, for students that go through the application procedure, such as Courtney Toran from Suffolk, the payoff can be substantial. She was accepted to hundreds of institutions and was awarded a $800,000 scholarship.
“College is paid for, completely paid for, because of the scholarships,” she said. “I can’t count on my hands [how many I applied for], but it was a lot.”
Toran will begin her junior year at Regent University this month after earning her associate degree while attending Nansemond River High School.
While her academic experience is still in its early stages, she claims she has been prepared for years.
“I received my first scholarship [for $250] when I was in sixth grade,” she said.
Other middle schoolers can also benefit from scholarships.
“You want to start to put together that resume as early as middle school,” said Dr. Audra Jeffries, the Supervisor of School Counseling for Chesapeake City Public Schools. “There are opportunities where you can receive monies that can be held for you until you are of age to use it.”
When you are ready to apply, Dr. Jeffries says to stay organized.
“Go and look up sites, find the name of the scholarship, write down the name, [and] the address where you need to go or download the application and the due date. [Then once you have that information, organize the applications by months],” she said.
Dr. Jeffries also says to prioritize a strong essay that can make you stand out from other applicants.
“If you can incorporate one essay that can knock out 20 scholarships, guess what? You’re working way smarter, and you’re going to be able to apply to many more scholarships,” she said.
That’s exactly what Toran did. She says, “I had an essay that pretty much fit all of the prompt categories. If [it didn’t fit], I changed a couple words or two.”
It’s also important to note that not all scholarships need an essay. Toran says the process can be tedious, but the outcome will set you up for success in your next phase of life.
“I would just say to stay focused and make sure you get it done because if you don’t get it done, then you’ll be in a struggle later in life,” she said.
The “hot” time of the year for scholarships is typically October through February.
Dr. Jeffries says start by connecting with your district or school counselor and then check out these sites: