Explore Scholarships and Grants

It’s so worth the effort. You don’t have to be an academic or athletic superstar to qualify for grants and scholarships. There are scholarships that go un-awarded each year simply because nobody applied for them.

While most grants and scholarships will come from the school you end up attending, it’s still worth investing some time exploring additional options. This is all money you won’t have to repay after college!

Some grants are very small—but still worth investing an hour of your time. Even if the grant is only $100, that's a pretty good hourly rate! 

Do a little research into grant opportunities on your own before paying an advisor to pitch in. There's a lot you can find on your own!

Start early and stick with it. You don’t need to wait until you’ve chosen a college to start applying. In fact, there are some scholarships available to applicants as young as 4 years old. There are also tons of scholarships for students who have already started college. You should keep applying year after year to maximize the number of scholarships you win throughout your college journey.

Check out search and application tools. Start applying for scholarships and grants online at:

Scholarships.com
Fastweb.com
Big Future by the College Board

Thrivent Student Resources scholarship search tool

One scholarship you won't have to search for is the Thrivent Student Resources scholarship.  Simply click here for details. 
 

Networking can help. You’ll naturally talk to your friends and parents — and probably your teachers and guidance counselors, who are excellent resources for local scholarships. But what about reaching out to your friend’s parents and your parent’s friends? They may have scholarship or grant opportunities through their employers, churches and service clubs that you won’t learn about unless you ask.

Apply for scholarships like it’s your job - especially the local ones. It’s typical for local civic organizations to offer scholarships to high school juniors and seniors. These awards are usually $500-1000, come to you in the form of a check, and have a fairly simple application process (like a 300-word essay. Easy!). Also, it is not uncommon for these organizations to only get a handful of applicants because students think they won’t win anyway, the amount is too small, or they don’t like to write. Applying for these scholarships is the single highest paying part-time job you’ll ever have. Just google “your hometown scholarships” and see what comes up. Check Kiwanis, Rotary, Lions Club, Optimist, Soroptimist, Knights of Columbus, Casinos, and local banks and credit unions.

By completing the FAFSA and applying for financial aid at the schools you’re interested in attending, you’ll be applying for any private scholarships or grants that the school has available. Your FAFSA information may also come in handy when you’re applying for scholarships and grants from elsewhere.

Ask your colleges of choice about their scholarship and grant opportunities. Most schools have a variety of scholarships offered through the various colleges (College of Humanities, College of Business, College of Education, etc.). Knowing where to find these could help you graduate with significantly fewer loans.

Seek out leadership and volunteer service opportunities. If you still have time to build out your resume, seek out activities that 1) can help you qualify for volunteer or leadership scholarships, or 2) give you something to write about in your scholarship essays. A Thrivent Action Team is a great way to lead a service activity in your community.

Ask for help. Parents, guidance counselors, and trusted teachers are valuable assets in the search for scholarships. In addition to networking with them to discover scholarship opportunities, they can act as sounding boards and proofreaders of your essays. It won’t take much time on their part and having a second set of eyes on your essays can help you discover statements that need to be clarified or gaps in content. (In addition to catching any spelling or grammar errors your spell-checker missed!)

Pay attention to details. Many applications are declined every year because applicants didn’t pay attention to the details of the scholarship. Deadlines are extremely important. Your application won’t be considered if you turn it in late! You should also double check that your application includes all the required elements before submitting.

Scholarships can affect financial aid. Keep in mind that you have to report any private scholarship winnings (scholarships that are awarded by anyone other than your school) to your college’s financial aid office. Some schools adjust the amount of scholarships and grants they give you based on your private scholarship winnings. Others will reduce the amount of student loans you are offered. Private scholarship policies vary by school, so be sure to check with your college to learn more about their policy.

MONEY magazine also offers some excellent tips for winning college scholarships: http://time.com/money/collection-post/4270593/tips-winning-college-scholarships/ and understanding the impact of scholarships on financial aid: http://time.com/money/collection-post/4248174/scholarship-award-displacement-college-financial-aid/