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by Scholarships.com Staff

We're nearly a week into August, and for many students, that means that back-to-school preparations have begun. Whether you're picking out notebooks and extra-long twin sheets, or trying to squeeze one last trip or a few more hours of work into your calendar, now is a good time to start looking ahead to the fall term if you're in college. This includes thinking about financial aid. One of the least pleasant aspects of the start of the semester is finding yourself in the line for the college financial aid office as it grows to epic proportions the first week of class.

Luckily, at most colleges the fall rush has not yet started, so if you have some extra time now, you can take steps to make sure you won't find yourself standing in a packed office and trying not to panic on the first day of class. From a financial aid office veteran, here are three things to check into now to avoid waiting in line later.

First, if you are applying for federal student financial aid, by now you should have filled out a 2009-2010 FAFSA and received a financial aid award notice from your college's financial aid office. If you're still waiting to complete a FAFSA or hear back from your school, now would be a good time to take care of these things. You may want to call your college's financial aid office, or check your account online if you have the option, to make sure that everything is in order for timely disbursement of your fall financial aid. Ask if you have any other paperwork you need to complete (such as verification or a master promissory note), especially if it is your first time receiving financial aid. Double check disbursement dates, as well, so you know when you are due to receive the money.

Second, if you've won any scholarship awards (and we hope you have!), now would be a good time to make sure you know when you will be receiving the funds, whether the checks will go to the school or to you, and whether you will need to sign anything or wait for the school to do any additional paperwork before you receive the money (the financial aid office may need to recalculate your aid based on the scholarships you've received). Many scholarship providers notify you of disbursement arrangements or include this information in their official rules, so review correspondence with them, as well as information they've published. If you have questions, you can check with your college and the scholarship provider.

Finally, make sure you will have sufficient funds to cover your bill and make arrangements if necessary to take care of whatever costs grants, scholarships, or federal student loans do not cover. Your parents may want to take out a PLUS loan, or you may want to take out a private loan to cover whatever gap is left. You will want to do paperwork for these as soon as possible, as processing times may take up to a few weeks, especially once things get busy. Many colleges also offer payment plans if you'd like to pay the rest of your bill without borrowing, but you cannot afford to do so all at once.


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by Scholarships.com Staff

Many scholarship essay contests have broad and open-ended questions, designed to allow applicants a great deal of leeway in crafting their responses and allowing their writing to shine. But sometimes it's nice to have more structure to a writing scholarship, too, especially if you're skilled at literary analysis and argumentative writing. Luckily for the English and composition nerds out there, there are scholarship providers who are happy to oblige with contests asking applicants to read a novel and write an essay response. One of these is this week's Scholarship of the Week, the Atlas Shrugged Essay Contest, sponsored by the Ayn Rand Institute. Interested students just need to read the novel "Atlas Shrugged" by Ayn Rand and write an essay response to one of three prompts for a chance at up to $10,000 in scholarship money. There's one catch: The novel is nearly 1200 pages long, so you'd better really like reading.

Prize

  • 1 first prize: $10,000
  • 3 second prizes: $2,000
  • 5 third prizes: $1,000
  • 20 finalists: $100
  • 20 semifinalists: $50

Eligibility: High school seniors and current college students worldwide are eligible to apply. Applicants must be enrolled in high school or college at the time their applications are submitted.

Deadline: September 17, 2009

Required Material: Completed essay of 800 to 1,600 words written in response to one of the three prompts provided on the contest website. Essays will be judged on both style and content, with a particular emphasis on understanding of the philosophic themes of the novel. Essays may be submitted online or through the mail.

Further details about the application process can be found by conducting a free college scholarship search on Scholarships.com. Once the search is completed, students eligible for this scholarship award will find it in their search results.


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by Scholarships.com Staff

Students who have faced and overcome obstacles and remain committed to the goal of receiving a four-year degree can receive a substantial amount of help towards their goal with this week's Scholarship of the Week. The Horatio Alger National Scholarship Program will award 104 scholarships in the amount of $20,000 to high school seniors from low-income backgrounds who are planning to pursue bachelor's degrees. Ideal candidates will demonstrate a commitment to use their college degrees in service to others.

Prize: $20,000 national scholarships, plus additional state and local scholarships.

Eligibility: Applicants must be U.S. citizens and current high school seniors planning to enter college no later than the fall following graduation with the ultimate goal of pursuing a bachelor's degree. Other criteria include critical financial need, involvement in co-curricular and community activities, and demonstrated academic achievement.

Deadline: October 30, 2009

Required Material: Completed online application, a letter of support, an official high school transcript, a copy of the applicant's parent or guardian's 2008 tax return, and a completed certification form from the Horatio Alger Scholarship website.

Further details about the application process can be found by conducting a free college scholarship search on Scholarships.com. Once the search is completed, students eligible for this scholarship award will find it in their search results.


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by Scholarships.com Staff

This week's Scholarship of the Week is one of many scholarship opportunities available to students engaged in community service activities that help make the world a better place.  Hunger remains a serious issue in America, especially in times of economic trouble, and the Sodexo Foundation is interested in rewarding students who are engaged in continuing efforts to make difference in this area.  Through the Sodexo Foundation STOP Hunger Scholarship, students have the opportunity to not only win $5,000 in scholarship money, but to also earn a $5,000 grant for the anti-hunger charity to which they've dedicated their time.

Prize: Up to five national scholarship winners will receive a $5,000 college scholarship and a $5,000 grant given in their name to a local charity of their choice.  Regional winners will receive a $1,000 grant for a local charity of their choice.

Eligibility: Students of any level, kindergarteners through graduate students, currently enrolled in accredited educational institution in the United States are encouraged to apply.  To qualify, applicants must have engaged in a volunteer program combating hunger in the United States in the last 12 months.

Deadline: February 27, 2009

Required Material: Complete an online scholarship application, found on the STOP Hunger scholarship website, by February 27 and obtain a Community Service Recommendation, which must be submitted online by March 6.

Further details about the application process can be found by conducting a free college scholarship search on Scholarships.com. Once the search is completed, students eligible for this scholarship award will find it in their search results.


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by Scholarships.com Staff

Scholarships.com has become the first free scholarship search website to adopt the Scholarship Data Standard, a time-saving open data standard that allows college and college-bound students to apply for multiple scholarships by completing one form.

While many colleges and universities share a common application for admissions, currently students must apply separately for each scholarship offered by a different provider. This repetition can deter families from seeking out scholarships as an alternative to depleted college savings plans and expensive student loans. To make the scholarship application process more streamlined and accessible, the Scholarship Data Standard was developed by the Michael and Susan Dell Foundation and the National Scholarship Providers Association. Using the Scholarship Data Standard, a student can visit the Dell Scholars Program website, create an application file containing commonly requested information, save it to their computer and use it to quickly complete a later scholarship search on Scholarships.com.

The Scholarship Data Standard will allow students to find, review and apply for multiple scholarships with just a few clicks. Emily Hilleren, the Director of Content at Scholarships.com, stressed the convenience of the Scholarship Data Standard, saying, “When you have to fill in the same basic info again and again, it takes time away from doing the parts of the application that matter most. Students have lives and jobs and coursework, too, and we're hopeful the data standard will help them win scholarships without giving up all of that.”

Scholarships.com is currently the only scholarship search website to allow students to upload Scholarship Data Standard files. A student can visit Scholarships.com and use saved data to create a user account and search a database of 2.7 million scholarship and grant opportunities worth over $19 billion. As more scholarship providers adopt the Scholarship Data Standard, Scholarships.com users will be able to use their Scholarship Data Standard file to complete scholarship applications across the Web.


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by Scholarships.com Staff

This week's Scholarship of the Week is one of those rare scholarship opportunities that reward students for doing something they quite possibly already wanted to do.  The Zinch Ammunition for Tuition $25,000 Scholarship is a scholarship award for high school students who complete a profile on Zinch.com.  Applicants are judged based on both merit and need, as determined by the information they include in their Zinch student profiles.

So why is this something you might already want to do?  A profile on Zinch not only allows you to compete for a sizable amount of scholarship money, but also allows you to find colleges that cater to your interests and get in touch with recruiters from colleges you want to attend.  It's not often you find a scholarship competition that not only helps you pay for college, but helps you find a college, as well.

Prize:

$25,000

Eligibility: 

High school students graduating between 2009 and 2012 with a minimum GPA of 2.0.  Both US citizens and international students are eligible to enter.

Deadline:

April 10, 2009

Required Material:

A student profile completed to the best of your ability on Zinch.com

Further details about the application process can be found by conducting a free college scholarship search on Scholarships.com. Once the search is completed, students eligible for this scholarship award will find it in their search results.


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by Scholarships.com Staff

February is a short month, but it's jam-packed with celebrations.  I'm not just talking about Valentine's Day and Mardi Gras.  February is Black History Month, a reminder that long before President Obama took office, African Americans were doing some pretty amazing things.  Black History Month is a great opportunity to learn about and commemorate important people and events that often go overlooked in American history.  It's also a great time to seek out new scholarship opportunities.

Several local scholarships have Black History Month themes, and we've featured a small sampling of them on our Black History Month Scholarships resource page.

If you're an African American student looking to make your own contribution to Black history, and history in general, a great place to start is with our list of African American scholarships.  After all, there's nothing like a college education to help you achieve your goals and change the world.

In addition to raising awareness of the important roles African Americans have played throughout American history, two of the major goals of Black History Month are combating injustice and promoting equality--after all, its original dates were chosen to celebrate two key players in the early civil rights movement, Abraham Lincoln and Frederick Douglass.  Students who have taken part in efforts with similar goals may want to take some time this month to commemorate their own achievements by applying for community service scholarships.

To apply for the scholarship awards mentioned above or to learn about other sources of money for college, conduct a free college scholarship search.


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by Scholarships.com Staff

A career in technology can be exciting and rewarding, not to mention financially lucrative.  However, the path to this career typically includes a college education, which isn't exactly cheap.  Technical fields have demanding coursework and in some cases, astronomical course fees.  These and other factors can make paying for school even more challenging for technology students.  To ensure that these challenges do not become roadblocks, Scholarships.com offers a $1,000 college scholarship for students who plan to pursue a career in technology.  And since all you need to apply is a short essay explaining your interest in this area of study, this week's Scholarship of the Week could be one of the easiest steps in your education.

Prize:

$1,000

Eligibility:

Applicants for the Scholarships.com College Technology Scholarship must be U.S. citizens and either undergraduate students or high school seniors who plan to enroll in an accredited college or university in the coming fall.

Applicants must have indicated an interest in one of the following majors: 

     
  • Aerospace Technologies
  •  
  • Air Conditioning
  •  
  • Automotive Technologies
  •  
  • Aviation
  •  
  • Aviation/Aircraft Technology
  •  
  • Communications
  •  
  • Computer Science
  •  
  • Computer Technology
  •  
  • Drafting/Computer Aided Design
  •  
  • Electronics
  •  
  • Information Technology
  •  
  • Information Systems Engineering
  •  
  • Lighting Technologies
  •  
  • Mechanical/ Electrical Technologies
  •  
  • New Media
  •  
  • Natural Resources Technologies
  •  
  • Packaging Technologies
  •  
  • Polymer Technology
  •  
  • Television
  •  
  • Transportation Technologies
  •  
  • Telecommunications
  •  
 

Deadline:

March 31, 2009

Required Material:

A completed Scholarships.com profile and a 250 to 350-word scholarship essay written in response to the question, "What has influenced your decision to pursue a career in technology?"

Further details about the application process can be found by conducting a free college scholarship search on Scholarships.com. Once the search is completed, students eligible for this scholarship award will find it in their search results.


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by Scholarships.com Staff

Often, scholarship opportunities also serve as opportunities for students to think about and respond to pressing issues of the day, and one of the problems weighing most heavily on society in the last year has been the global economic crisis.  While the recession has begun showing signs of abating, it is still creating serious problems in several areas of life, ranging from paying for school to owning a home.

Homeowners have been facing threats of foreclosure due to a combination of factors related to the recession, and this problem could still get worse before it gets better. The real estate website Foreclosure.com is sponsoring a scholarship essay contest that invites college students to propose solutions to the ongoing spike in foreclosures. With a $5,000 top prize for the scholarship essay that best explains "how to solve the foreclosure crisis," the Foreclosure.com Scholarship Program is this week's Scholarship of the Week.

Prize: Top prize is $5,000 and four runners-up will receive $1,000

Eligibility: Students who are currently enrolled in or have been accepted to an accredited college, university, law school or trade school in the United States.  U.S. citizenship is required.

Deadline: December 31, 2009

Required Material: A completed online scholarship application, along with an essay of 1,000 to 2,500 words addressing the essay topic. Scholarship applications will be judged on writing ability, creativity, originality, and overall excellence.

Further details about the application process can be found by conducting a free college scholarship search on Scholarships.com. Once the search is completed, students eligible for this scholarship award will find it in their search results.


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by Scholarships.com Staff

Unless you're lucky enough to happen across an extremely obscure and unusual scholarship with only one or two qualified applicants, you are going to have to face some competition to receive a scholarship award. In the case of essay scholarships that are easy to enter or that come with a substantial award, you may be facing quite a lot of competition. In fact, with many scholarship competitions, you may be up against so much competition that there's no guarantee a reviewer will even have time to completely read and digest each scholarship essay submitted. This makes your essay's introduction vitally important.

The first sentence of your scholarship application is your first, best and possibly only chance to capture your reader's attention. To have the best chance at winning scholarships, you need to know how to start your essay off right. The following are some tips to help you craft an eye-catching introduction that gets your foot in the door and gets your application the attention it deserves.

Put it in your own words. While starting with a quote is a common technique in speaking and some writing, it may not work best in a scholarship application essay. Leading with a quote shows the reviewer that you know how to read, but it doesn't tell much else about you or your ideas. Use your own words to begin, and if a quote supports or enhances your argument, consider bringing it in later in the essay.

Avoid clichés and tired phrases. One of your essay's goals should be to distinguish you from the competition, and it won't do this if it rehashes the same overused expressions that everyone else employs. Keep in mind that the scholarship reviewer will be reading hundreds or even thousands of applications. What seems clever or cute the first time doesn't seem that way after the 50th or 100th iteration. A good rule to follow is that if a phrase belongs on a bumper sticker or in an e-mail from your mom, it likely does not belong in your scholarship essay.

Establish a personal connection. If your experience gives you a unique perspective on the essay's topic, show your reader this. Most people are suckers for personal anecdotes, provided the stories are interesting and well-told. Make sure the story you tell fits these criteria and actually enriches your essay and contributes to your overall message. Don't get melodramatic and don't bog down your introduction in an overly long, detailed or irrelevant narrative, but if you've got a good story to tell to frame your essay, use it.

Say something new. Are you arguing something that falls well outside the typical series of canned responses? Consider leading with your thesis, or at least some of the information or realizations that guided your essay towards its thesis. There's no better way to stand out from a pile of fairly standard responses than to have something fresh and thought-provoking to contribute with your scholarship application.

With a solid introduction and a thoughtful and well-written response, you'll be well on your way to writing a scholarship-worthy essay.


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