College and university are incredibly expensive these days, with tuition costs reaching upwards of $60,000 per year at some of the most prestigious schools in the country. Luckily, there are plenty of scholarships available to help pay for this cost, and qualifying can be easier than you think. In fact, a lot of scholarships are given to applicants that meet certain criteria that you probably already have! If you’re interested in learning more about how to qualify for education scholarships, here are 10 tips to get you started
1) Stay on top of your grades
When it comes to scholarships, one of your most important qualifications is your GPA. According to a survey by Noodle, a popular resource for higher education information, college students with high GPAs (3.8 and above) were almost twice as likely to win scholarships as those with lower grades (2.7 and below). But what if you’re already in college and can’t improve your grades? Not to worry—you still have time before you apply for scholarships. If all else fails, start keeping track of everything from class size and professors’ teaching styles to how often exams are offered; these factors could give you an edge over competitors who rely solely on grades when applying for scholarships.
2) Build your resume
You don’t have to be applying for a traditional job to build your resume. Volunteering is an excellent way to get experience and can look great on your resume. A lot of organizations need volunteers for special events, so take a stab at finding one that interests you. You’ll meet people and gain valuable skills in exchange for your time. Not only will you look good on paper, but volunteering has real-world value too. In addition, depending on where you volunteer and what kind of work you do, it might actually help pay off some college costs. And remember: every little bit helps!
3) Show leadership skills
Study abroad programs are one of the best ways to earn college credit, immerse yourself in a new culture and network with peers from around the world. There is also growing evidence that study abroad increases students’ long-term career prospects. And it could even improve your love life: A study from Iowa State University found that students who studied overseas were more likely to marry another international student than those who did not. If you want to study abroad but need help with funding, consider applying for education scholarships for international students. They can range anywhere from $500 to several thousand dollars and may be available through a school or specific program, or provided by a private donor or foundation.
4) Get involved in student organizations
One of my biggest problems when I was starting college was that I didn’t know how to get involved. Thankfully, I learned from other students that joining organizations like campus radio and a political party helped me get involved in college. If you’re not sure where to start, then try hanging out at student union events and taking part in on-campus activities like intramural sports, free concerts, or volunteer opportunities. Just make sure you don’t become a hermit! The more you interact with your peers and attend events on campus, the more likely it is that colleges will notice you. They also just may be your future mentors or employers!
5) Try to get internships
Having at least one internship under your belt is a big plus when you’re looking for jobs post-graduation. It also shows that you’re willing to work hard and are actively taking steps toward achieving professional success, both of which could get you an edge over other applicants. Plus, internships can be great resume builders and help you build a valuable network of colleagues and contacts. If your school doesn’t have much in terms of internship opportunities (or none at all), try searching for local organizations that are hiring—many companies offer summer internships to college students. A quick search online will likely turn up some options close to home, so it doesn’t hurt to look around!
6) Join groups that align with your major
Get to know fellow students in your major. One of them could be your ticket to a scholarship. Join an organization that focuses on your field, like Technology Student Association (for STEM majors) or Alpha Delta Mu: Business Management Society (for business majors). You’ll have access to training and a strong support network of people who are in similar situations as you.
7) Stand out in the application essay
When writing an essay for scholarships, there are a couple of things to keep in mind. Be yourself and don’t just ghost write a generic essay. Pick an essay topic that is meaningful to you. Think about why you’re applying for particular scholarship and be sure to make that come across in your story. This can be as simple as saying, As someone who wanted to go into x-career, I was drawn to [name of scholarship]. You can go more in depth about your future goals by explaining how achieving those goals would benefit others or society. It’s helpful if you think about questions such as: Where do I see myself going with my career?
8) Don’t let grades slip after freshman year
Since your grades are no longer being tallied by your high school, make sure you hit it out of the park as a freshman in college. Some students assume that once they’re out of high school, they don’t have to study as hard or be on top of their game. But if you want to continue getting awards and help with paying for college, you must maintain excellent grades. It sounds tough, but trust us; education scholarships aren’t easy to come by and require hard work both in and outside of class.
9) Get to know your financial aid office (and stay on their good side!)
The first thing you should do if you’re going to apply for any type of education scholarship is visit your school’s financial aid office. Get to know your financial aid advisor, because she’s likely to be one of your best sources for information about new scholarships that are offered each year. Each school may have its own unique requirements, but you can bet that most will include a combination of merit-based and need-based awards. Even better—don’t stop by once and then never go back! These relationships take time, but they’ll pay off down the road when you’re on campus.
10) Can I use my study abroad experience as an education scholarship?
If you study abroad, your college may award you with an education scholarship upon your return. Check to see if there are any scholarships available from your school.