“But those who trust in the Lord will find new strength. They will soar high on the wings like eagles. They will run and not grow weary. They will walk and not faint.” Isaiah 40:31
The following is a list of things that helped us while looking at colleges with our son and wading through scholarships and financial aid. They aren’t laws or rules by any means. Just steps that made the journey a little easier.
Pray for God to meet your needs and beyond. Pray continuously. Ask God to show you and your child the most effective ways to make it through the system. He will guide you. Pick a verse for the process if it helps to keep your perspective. God is ultimately in charge and you deeply desire the best for your child, as does God.
Start looking for colleges early – as in junior year. No, you may not get school days off for it, but it is the best way. It is too much to do everything senior year. Plus, all the colleges we visited said junior year was the time to visit. Senior year is the time to make the final decisions and apply.
- Ask your child a few questions when selecting a college: What’s most important to them in a college? What they study? Close to home? Size of college? Visit different sized colleges. Your student may fit in to a different setting than you might realize. Only visiting the campuses can you really get a feel for that.
- Tour campuses, look at housing options, and ask questions on financial aid.
Apply to college early in senior year (August – October). Many scholarships by spring are no longer available.
Apply to more than one school. See what scholarships and financial aid are available. Private schools are usually more expensive – but don’t count them out. In our experience, they have more scholarships than state schools in larger amounts, often along with work programs to aid with finances.
Keep a folder (or group of folders) for collecting college information. Include a copy of a transcript and Doctor’s physical (dorms and student housing). Make sure shots are up to date.
Keep a list of all service and volunteer hours. Church volunteer hours count.
Keep a list of all leadership opportunities served during the last four years.
Make a list of academic and reputable people who know your child that your child could ask for references. Ask them to save a copy of their reference letter on their computer, so it can be used a couple of times for different scholarships. Suggestions might be pastors, mentors, bosses, neighbors, people served with on mission trips…
Give teachers time to write references. Especially in the spring when they are writing hundreds of them. Have your child be very gracious and say thank you.
Find the scholarship lists on line. There is an app called Scholly that keeps an ongoing list, plus there are others (scholarship.com; unigo.com are both good sites).
Have your student take the ACT and SAT. Start getting them used to it by taking it first even as early as sophomore or freshman year. Use a study aid or take a prep class, if possible We used guides we bought off Amazon. Boys tend to do better on the SAT. It’s crazy how much financial aid from Universities are based on these scores.
There are scholarships out there. Most are about $500 – $1000 apiece. Pick and choose based on your child’s skill. My son was good at writing and music. Those are what we went for. Get in the habit of your student completing a few a month. With senior schedules it can be difficult to do more. Some can even be completed before senior year. Filling out forms and writing essays will help your student get used to the process. Plus, it keeps them from procrastinating.
Start with the Coca – Cola scholarship. It is a need and leadership based scholarship. It is the most thorough and comprehensive one EVER. When you have completed it – send in and PRINT off for your files. Most of the information you need for any other scholarships will be in that form.
Make a point to learn how your high school counselors operate. Have your child get used to going in and asking questions. If a scholarship needs a counselor’s verification and you attend a large high school, give them at least two weeks to sign their name to verify your student attends. If they need something more- make sure your student speaks to your counselor directly so forms don’t get lost in the process and the counselor can put a face to the form. Prepare ahead of time to ask for transcripts. Like when you start to work on a scholarship that requires one.
FAFSA – FAFSA laws have changed. The FAFSA can now be filled out starting October 1st instead of having to wait until January. This year you can use last years (2015) tax return. Do your research now. FAFSA is very important.
Senior year is a crazy fast year. Spend time with your child. Help them get organized. With all that is going on, it is so overwhelming for them to do it by themselves. Set up monthly meetings on all this stuff over coffee or ice cream. Do what you can to make this as fun as possible, treating them with respect and love.
Hope this helps!