Making Cents Blog

8 Timely Tips on Getting a Scholarship

Getting a Scholarship is a Process.

You don’t have to be a National Merit Scholar or an All-State tight end to be in the running for a college scholarship. Getting a scholarship is a process. You test for it, search for it, apply for it, and providing you make the proper preparations, you’ll get the right scholarship to the right school.

What should I major in?

Before you do anything else, take time to consider possible majors based on career goals, personal interests, and passionate pursuits that you feel deeply committed to. Seek advice and brainstorm with parents, guidance counselors, older friends who have already graduated, and other qualified mentors. Make this more than a casual conversation.

Where Am I Going to School?

Ideally, start the scholarship process in your junior year by setting your sights on a location. Put together an A-list that would be perfect and a B-list that would be more than acceptable. Both lists should be realistic and reflect the feelings of yourself and your parents and mentors. As the old saying goes, if you don’t know where you’re going, any road will take you there. So get specific and choose some schools even though you may change your mind down the road. Do you think you would like big, small, rural, coastal or urban? Would you prefer a campus within commuting distance to home or someplace a plane ride away?

Do I Take the SAT or ACT?

Regardless of what scholarships you end up applying for, you have to take that test that has been on your mind since “college” became a key word in the family vocabulary—that would of course be the SAT or ACT standardized test required by most schools. Here it’s important to remember that most libraries and bookstores carry instructional manuals with practice exams and test-taking tactics designed to improve scores. Which test you take often depends on geographical location. East and West Coast schools tend to prefer the SAT while Midwest and Southern schools favor the ACT, but most schools will accept scores from either test. Already you see the advantage of having a reasonably good idea as to where you’re going.

Where Do I Look for Scholarships? 

Where to find scholarships should not be your concern since there are literally thousands of scholarships available today. Merit Awards range from $11,000 up to full tuition. Scholarships are sponsored by numerous businesses with household names such as Disney, Alaska Airlines, Bridgestone, KFC, Nordstrom, Carl Schwab, McDonald’s, Coca Cola, Ford, Dell, and hundreds of others. The amount of award varies from $500.00 to $20,000.00. Start online and check out and and (the latter addresses almost everything you would ever want to know about scholarships). If you come across a site that has anything to do with scholarships and it asks for money, just keep moving.

What is a Good Scholarship—or Scholarships?

You will, of course, measure most scholarships by dollar amount, but don’t stop with one scholarship. You can win seven or eight scholarships that range from $1,000 to $5,000 and pay for the better part of your freshman year. Every dollar you’re awarded is a dollar saved when compared to student loans that have to be repaid with interest when you graduate. You may not be able to pay for all of your school tuition and expenses with scholarships, but even $3,000 to $5000 per year will serve to give you a clearer focus on your studies and the job at hand. Make it a regular part of your annual college regimen to apply to two or three dozen scholarships per year and the odds are good that you’ll win at least one or two.

What is the Rose M. Ratka Memorial Scholarship Program?

Alliance Credit Union’s Rose M. Ratka Memorial Scholarship is an example of a scholarship program that makes especially good sense because it includes a lifetime credit union membership ($10.00 fee waived at time of application) for high school seniors who intend to further their education through a trade school, apprenticeship program, community college, state, or private university. The scholarship program was developed to honor the late Rose M. Ratka who was President/CEO of the credit union from 1978 to 1996. With a scholarship such as this, you have a ready resource for growing savings and supplemental funds starting with day one of your academic career and continuing on past commencement exercises. Deadline for submitting applications and transcripts is March 31st.

How Important Are the Scholarship Sponsor’s requirements?

One more tip. Don’t underestimate the requirements of a scholarship sponsor. Take your time and carefully read through their information for details that might upon first reading seem unimportant. Do more than meet the sponsor’s bare requirements. Understand the sponsor’s formal and informal requirements. By completely satisfying the sponsor’s goals you will achieve yours.

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