Need money for college? I think I know your answer. Even though the best way to earn money for college is through merit aid – earned with high grades and high test scores – some students won’t qualify. That’s okay!
Another way to earn money for college is with scholarships - a form of financial aid. There are scholarships for average students, vegetarians, tuba players, making duct tape prom accessories, drawing waterfoul, and thousands upon thousands of other options. Some have nothing to do with grades, and everything to do with you. People want to support your commitment to earn a college degree. So let’s start earning!
As a high school senior, Christopher realized that he could not afford to pay for college, even though he had excellent grades and test scores. On his own, he started searching for scholarships. As a result, he amassed $1.3 million dollars in aid including the Bill Gates scholarship. While attending Drexel University, he and two classmates created Scholly, a scholarship database to help other college-bound students find scholarships.
So since you need money for college, here are a few steps to start earning money searching for scholarships.
Search for and favorite 2 or 3 scholarship databases. Using multiple sites is important because some may have 2,000, 20,000, or 2 million scholarships, and not all of them will apply to you. Consider using bigfuture (College Board), Scholarships.com, MeritAid.com, FinAid, Supercollege, and other state and local websites.
Create your profile. A general profile would generate lots of leads but would be time consuming to search through. A specific profile allows the database to match scholarships with key words.
Hustle. Don’t wait for scholarships to come to you, because they won’t. Unless your dad is bringing you scholarship applications from the school office. But who uses paper anymore!
Organize your search results. Maintain a spreadsheet or journal of the scholarships to manage deadlines, expectations, offers, and more.
Leverage your time. Now that you have some favorite sites, are organized, and ready to hustle, divide your work into “chunks.” You won’t complete your search in one weekend, so leverage your time. As an example, spend 30 minutes every other day to search and apply for 10 scholarship offers. Now this is where you “get paid” to search for scholarships. If you spend 10 hours searching and win one $500 award, you just earned $50 per hour! So work in chunks to manage your time wisely. After each search session, reward yourself with a chunky chocolate cookie!
Apply for more. If you are hustling like Christopher, use the power of ten. Search for 100 scholarships. Apply for 10. Win 1. Now apply for more.
Remember, there are NO scholarship guarantees. Even if you pay $100 for scholarship results, you will be disappointed. If you’ve started late, you’ll become desperate and may not make good decisions. No one can guarantee anything for anybody at anytime. If you pay for access like Scholly, know that matches don’t equate to money. You have to apply, be competitive, and wait months to know if you won the $500 prize.
Following these steps will make you a scholarship SCHOLAR. (See what I did there?)
Next week, I’ll share how you can search for scholarships based on what you drink, what you eat, and what you wear.
Parents, once you and your college-bound student have agreed upon a starting list of colleges, it will be time plan a virtual college road trip without packing the potato chips. Before you spend the time and money of traveling, taking virtual tours are a great way to see the campus together and prepare for a fun experience.
Think about it another way. When you know what you are looking for in a new house in a new city several hours away, you won’t just drive down random streets looking for houses to buy. You’ll spend time reviewing the listings online to see floorplans, backyards, neighborhoods, and comments about the local area. This is a virtual tour in real estate. Let’s do the same for college.
A virtual campus tour allows prospective students to visit many colleges from home. Some may be photos, 360 panoramic views, short videos, or virtually-guided tours. This is one of the best ways for your student to “picture themselves” on campus. In some virtual tours, you’ll be able to interact with current students, alumni, or professors.
YouVisit and CampusTours offer quality, self-guided, 360 degree panoramic views of various spots on campus with a short description. These sites allow you to see the campus. Colleges without a virtual tour on the CampusTours site are redirected to a map on the college website.
eCampusTours, CollegeClickTV, and YOUniversityTV include interviews from students, alumni, and faculty to give you a first-hand account of their college experience. These sites allow you to hear the campus. eCampusTours has a library of 1300 colleges along with a general info page with information about the college, admissions, student body, programs, other, and cost. Just know that some videos may not play. CollegeClickTV focuses on short 1-2 minute videos of students, professors, or local merchants sharing their story. YOUniversityTV allows users to favorite or share the college tour. One or two female hosts will narrate your tour and conduct interviews. Admissions officers shared who they were looking for as a potential candidate. While many colleges produce virtual tours, some may also offer tours of the dining halls and dorm rooms like the University of Oklahoma.
If you don’t have time to look at multiple sites, I would recommend CampusTours as my go-to site for virtual campus tours and YOUniversityTV for personal insights. Just be aware that these “free” sites may have featured colleges scrolling on top along with paid ads on the side. YOUniversityTV has you watch a commercial for another college before watching your selected college.
Once you’ve completed your virtual college road trip of your preferred colleges, you can plan your actual road trip and ask well-informed, thought-out questions. Success!
Now you can grab those potato chips!
Most college visits include an orientation session, wherein you sit in a lecture room and a college official tells you impressive statistics about the college, including, almost always, how small the classes are. Class smallness is considered the ultimate measure of how good a college is. Harvard, for example, has zero students per class. The professors just sit alone in their classrooms, filing their nails.
I noticed, in these orientation sessions, that many of the kids seem semi-bored, whereas the parents not only take notes, but also ask most of the questions, sometimes indicating that they've mapped out their children's entire academic careers all the way through death. There will be some girl who looks like she's 11 years old, and her dad will raise his hand and say: ""If my daughter declares a quadruple major in Biology, Chemistry, Physics and Large Scary Equations, and she graduates with honors and then earns doctorates in Medicine, Engineering, Law, Architecture, Dentistry and Taxidermy, and then she qualifies for a Merwanger Fellowship for Interminable Postdoctoral Studies, does the Nobel organization pay her expenses to Sweden to pick up her prize?""
I was intimidated by these parents. I have frankly not given that much thought to my son's academic goals. I assumed he was going to college for the same reason I did, which is that at some point they stop letting you go to high school. I tried to think of questions to ask the college officials, but the only one I could think of was: ""How come these lecture-hall desks are never designed for us left-handed people?"" Although I didn't ask this, because it's probably considered insensitive on college campuses to say ""left-handed people."" You probably have to say something like ""persons of handedness.""
After the orientation session, you go on a campus tour conducted by a student who is required to tell you the name of every single building on the campus, no matter how many there are (""Over there is the Gwendolyn A. Heckenswacker Institute for the Study of Certain Asian Mollusks, which we call 'The Heck.' And over there is the Myron and Gladys B. Prunepocket Center for Musty Old Books That Nobody Ever Looks At. And right next to that is The Building Right Next to the Myron and Gladys ..."").
After the tour, the kids have interviews with college officials. My son revealed little about what goes on in these interviews. My theory is that the officials close the door and say: ""Relax. You'll spend the majority of college attending parties, playing hacky sack and watching 'Friends.' The tour is purely for the parents. The guides make up the building names as they go along.""
One of the colleges my son visited was my alma mater, Haverford College (proud motto: ""Among The First In The Nation To Drop Football""). I was a little nervous about going back; I expected that, at any moment, the dean would tap me on the shoulder and say: ""Mr. Barry, we need to talk to you about your share of the Class of 1969's bill for the cost of scraping an estimated 23,000 butter pats off the dining-hall ceiling.""
Fortunately, this did not happen. Our student guide gave an excellent tour, although he failed to point out some of the more historic sites at Haverford, including:
* The building where, in 1967, the rock band ""The Federal Duck"" made the historic discovery that if it was going to play ""Purple Haze"" correctly, it needed WAY bigger amplifiers;
* The dormitory room where my roommate Bob Stern and I accumulated what historians believe was the world's largest man-made pile of unlaundered briefs. Those are my most vivid memories.
Excerpt from Dave Barry
Searching for the right college to attend is an exciting process! The goal is to find a college that is a good academic, social, emotional, and financial fit. Too often, our search begins with looking at the sticker price, not the discounted price. Doing so may eliminate good options. For example, some students could attend Harvard for free if their household income is below $65,000.
How can guidance counselors, college consultants, and parents conduct an effective college search using the Internet? Let’s start looking at some college search solutions for your student.
Some college search engines are available for a fee to the consumer like Naviance, Bridges (Xap), CollegePlannerPro, and others. Students can access these through a high school, state education site, or local independent consultant. Other service based companies may have a proprietary college planning software built specifically for their student client base. Fee-based search engines would be free from outside bias and offer general accountability resources for students.
Some college search engines are available for free to the consumer like Big Future, CollegeView, Princeton Review, and others. While free to use, some features may only be accessed by creating a profile. These free sites are generally marketing tools for colleges and college-data providers so they will have featured college sponsors and/or click-thru ads to generate revenue.
No matter what type of college search engine is used, students who visit the campus and discuss their options with a professional counselor or consultant will make better decisions about where to attend college.
The results of a college search matter! College search engines should allow the student to select multiple options for each search criteria. Limited searches may be leading students to view featured colleges (paid advertisers). While it’s perfectly okay for a college to market themselves, the featured ads may exclude colleges that are better academic or emotional fits. It’s more important for students to search with “or” and “and” rather than “only.” For example, a student may want to search for Southwest Region AND New York, urban OR suburban, physics AND dance, etc. versus only picking three states, one city size, and one major.
Here are some requirements for what I would believe is a good college search engine:
After your research, then you can have fun helping your students make informed, wise decisions. Success!
The Internet will be 26 years old on March 12. The smartphone is 23. Facebook turned 11 on February 4. The iPhone is 8. While still young, social media becoming a preferred way to communicate, even in college planning.
A 2014 PewResearchCenter survey reports that Americans have increased their engagement of social media. Social networking sites like Facebook are used 2.5 times more than microblogs like Twitter and Instagram. Among the five platforms studied, 71% of users check Facebook every day. Another study showed that students are using social media several hours a week. We are becoming more comfortable interacting with people in virtual settings – from completing group projects to gaming to researching colleges.
Many college admissions officers are engaging potential students on social media. In the recent application season, six of the Ivy League colleges used social media to boost their applications. When I posted a photo along with a caption saying I visiting the University of Oklahoma campus, I received 6 retweets and 19 favorites before my tour ended. A few reached out to say hello.
Colleges are posting more pictures and videos so students can imagine themselves on campus. They are answering questions relating to the social and emotional life on campus allowing students to make better decisions.
But don’t just focus on the strengths of the college, especially if you are one of the first people in your family to attend college. Just like you are doing in your applications, each college is going to present itself at its best. Respond to their posts by asking about their struggles or setbacks. Savvy students need to discover the truth before committing 4-6 years of their life to a university. And if you are not able to connect and engage with people on the college you’re interested in, it may not be the right college for you.
With the increase in social media usage and potential employers and colleges reviewing feeds, you should be aware of a few things regarding your social footprint. Being comfortable on social media gives some a tendency to say and share things publically that may have kept private otherwise. Admissions officers are measuring your application against your public thoughts. The University of Oklahoma will view your social media if you are being considered for a scholarship.
Admissions officers may question the judgment of potential students who takes the time to post disparaging remarks. The article, They Loved Your GPA Then They Saw Your Tweets, reported that “30% of the admissions officers said they had discovered information online that had negatively affected an applicant’s prospects.” In 2012, the survey showed that 15% reviewed social media. While the majority of college admissions officers don’t have the time or resources to review social media posts, it could very well become the norm.
Finally, here are some steps you can take to improve your social media footprint:
So what impression is your social media footprint leaving when it comes to college admissions?
Combining my youth ministry and educational consulting experience, I guide students to connect higher education with God's calling.