3 Tips for Scholarship Prep

November 11, 2021

So, you want to go to college. You may have a fancy degree path all mapped out or maybe you haven’t quite figured out your post-secondary plan all the way. Either way, it’s going to take money. Depending on where you decide to go to school, it could cost you big bucks. Now, it’s time to figure out how to pay for it. Before you start what feels like an insurmountable task of locating the best fit scholarships, take a moment to prepare.

Calculate the True Cost

When calculating the true cost of your college education, it is important to consider more than just tuition. Additional costs include student fees, books, lab fees, and even meal plans. Hey, you gotta eat. Depending on where you decide to study, you may need alternative forms of transportation or even a parking permit. Even the cost of traveling back home for holidays and summer breaks needs to be considered.

Then there are bonus educational opportunities like studying abroad that can add significant additional fees to your tuition bill. Most importantly, you’ll need a place to sleep at night. Housing costs can vary depending on your needs, the campus, and how many roommates you plan to bunk with. Now that you’ve added up all of the costs for the school you chose, multiply that number by at least 4. If you plan to pursue a graduate degree, you’ll need to add on even more money.

If this sounds like a lot, it is. It’s also one of the most significant investments you will make in your lifetime. So, add it all up and get to planning.

Create S.M.A.R.T. Goals

Now that you have an idea of what your degree(s) will cost you, take some time to create a plan. Depending on what grade you are in will determine how long you have to earn your scholarship goal. Calculate the SPECIFIC dollar amount you need and how the funds will be used. Determine the best way to MEASURE your progress. Many teens will establish a monthly scholarship application goal, either by dollar amount or number of scholarships.

Be sure your goal is ACHIEVABLE. Creating smaller, more attainable goals at the beginning will help build you confidence in achieving larger goals. Be REALISTIC when creating your scholarship goal. Set yourself up for success.

Be sure to give yourself a TIMELY deadline to meet your goal. If you are just starting out, consider a S.M.A.R.T. goal to cover your first year of college. Once you’ve completed that goal, you will be ready to take on subsequent years. Before long, you’ll have the funds you need to succeed.

Invest in You!

Scholarship applications can be extremely competitive. Depending on whether it is offered locally or nationally, you may be competing with students from around the country. In order to really stand out on the application, you’ll want to showcase your best assets. Whether it is a written essay, an art portfolio, or a video submission the judges want to see your authenticity and your level of competency. Continue to invest in your spark or talent. Find ways to be of service to others and develop your leadership skills. When applying for those scholarships, you will have the experience necessary to submit an unforgettable application.

Funding college is possible. It’s not a one size fits all process. Take advantage of resources available to you and get started today. For more information on scholarship preparedness, join Usher’s New Look for First Friday Scholarship Check-ins via Zoom. Follow @ushersnewlook for more information.

About the Author

Jessica Washington
Jessica Washington believes in crushing the wealth gap by empowering youth to take control of their financial futures. She has supported more than 27,000 youth over the course of her career, educating on personal financial management, creating workshops, writing curriculum, and consulting youth start-ups. Mrs. Washington is certified as a Financial Education Instructor (NFEC), Entrepreneur Center Management (InBIA) and Business Model Canvas instruction (Strategyzer) and currently serves as the Director of Financial Literacy with Usher’s New Look foundation. Follow on LinkedIn.

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