Friday, June 24, 2016

How to Find & Apply for College Scholarships


by Joan Stewart Smith, Guest Blogger
Stewart Communications

Four Tips for Parents to Dive Into the Scholarship Hunt

A university education has never been more desirable or expensive to attain than today. In a perfect world, our college-bound kids would start applying for college scholarships as soon as students start high school. 

Photo by George Hoden

But in reality, most youth don’t even start thinking seriously about higher education until the summer before senior year. If you think your son or daughter is too late to the party, not to worry. The important thing is to get started now, finding and securing money to help with your child's educational expenses, because it’s never too early or too late to plan and prepare for a smart investment in your child's future success in life. 

Get Your Kid On Board
We parents are the ones who think about money, so scholarships are rarely a top concern for a young person on the way to adulthood. Have a realistic talk with him or her about family finances and the importance of partnering with you to seek financial aid. As long as you don’t come on too strong it will be worth your while to help kick-start the scholarship quest. 

Start With a Plan and Target List
Try to make it fun and work with your teenager to put together a “wish list” of scholarship opportunities that fit. Don’t start with that highly-competitive national level big brand scholarship. Instead, first look at local opportunities with a smaller applicant pool with less competition for funds. Get advice and a local list from your child's high school counselor, school website, area businesses, community organizations, your employer, local government, clubs and/or religious organizations. 

Then, throw a wide net beyond your backyard to take advantage of all the information at your fingertips. Among the free online sources out there to look for are,,, and many others. Find the latest print edition of the bestselling reference book, The Ultimate Scholarship Book. Also, don't overlook professional organizations or corporations in your child’s chosen field of study. 

Now Prioritize the To-Do List
Once the initial list is done, it’s time to prioritize each award. Encourage your teenager to pace himself or herself and apply for realistic opportunities that he or she has a good chance of winning, but don’t let them sell themselves short, either. Figure out the “why” of the scholarship, which is not as difficult as it sounds.  We usually can tell from the name of the award and who is giving it away. Is it asking for expertise at something? Community service? Leadership? A specific skill or hobby? If necessary, move it up or down the list, or take it off. 

Make Sure Each Application Sells Your Student
You now have a realistic target list. Once kids get started on the application, help them choose the right strategy and content for each section to persuade their audience. The good news is that students also can often repurpose answers and essays to tailor them to any scholarship question -- so don't reinvent the wheel if you don't have to. If a student gets stuck, there is a lot of advice online on how to prepare each phase of the application.

Your young adult -- Yes, it's time to start thinking about your child as a grownup -- may just land the right scholarship(s) to help with college costs. Remember that colleges and universities themselves also award a lot of money to students. So, whether you are seeking scholarships based on merit and/or financial need, don’t forget to also apply for financial aid during the college application process, submitting the proper FAFSA (Free Application for Federal Student Aid) and CSS (College Scholarship Service) forms.  

About the Author
Joan Stewart Smith is a married mom of a son who will soon be starting the college application process. As a highly creative talent, she heads Stewart Communications, an independent consultancy specializing in PR, marketing communications, social media, and writing. During her career, she has promoted products and services for clients ranging from fast-growing startups to established Fortune 100 companies, as well as PR and advertising agencies. Previously, she was a vice president at a leading high tech PR agency in Los Angeles.  Joan holds a B.A. in English and Journalism from San Jose State University and studied in the UCLA Department of Information Studies. Follow Joan on Twitter.

FTC Disclosure: The content for this story is provided by Joan Stewart Smith and opinions here are the author's. However, readers should keep in mind that no MBE blogpost is a substitute for advice by a qualified college counseling professional of your choice. No payment or other compensation was exchanged in connection with this post. See complete FTC Disclosure information that appears at the bottom of MommyBlogExpert's home page and at the bottom of every individual page including this one.


  1. There are so many great scholarships and bursary's out there. I will have to share this with my kids. They are entering year two of college.

  2. My kiddo has a few years on this one yet, but the sooner I learn about scholarships the better! I want to make sure he can get everything he needs for a great education.

  3. It's hard work applying for those scholarships, and it's so competitive. This is great advice.

  4. I know I found applying to colleges and universities so overwhelming. I had no support because I was a first generation college grad and my parents had no idea how to help.

  5. Applying for college was definitely a task. I remember having to do it on my own and it was a bit tedious, but in the end I found the right place for me. Unfortunately, I didn't apply for any scholarships and now I'm paying the price in the form of debt.

  6. Great tips! My kids are young but I'm already dreading the college tuition. I hope they get lots of scholarships to pay for everything :)

  7. It sounds so overwhelming mentally and financially preparing for college. I'm happy I have a road map to applying for scholarships. We are almost there!

  8. FAFSAs really helped me get through school! I think this is vital research and information for any parent looking at their child's future education.

  9. My daughter did ALL the college scholarship applications and very happy to say she received almost One Million Dollars in scholarship money. It is a very tedious process, but necesssary.