Tag Archives: scholarships

Seeking Out Local Scholarships

Faced with the rising price of a college education, students and parents often look for ways to lower costs. As a result, scholarships for need, merit, athletics, community service, hobbies, and other interests are often highly sought after—especially large scholarships offered on a national level.

However, students should also consider scholarship sources closer to home. Local businesses, religious or ethnic organizations, and other venues often acknowledge hometown students by helping with college costs through scholarships that are awarded on a yearly basis. And while a $1,000 local scholarship may seem small in comparison to the large sticker price of college, winning several of these scholarships could help to offset the cost of room and board, books, and some tuition.

According to the CollegeBoard, local scholarships have an advantage over national scholarships: they are only available to a smaller pool of applicants from a specific geographic region. Because there is less competition, the chances of winning are higher. Students should still apply to national scholarships that are meaningful to them, but it is also important to research the scholarships offered to your specific high school, town, county, and state.

Now, local scholarships may seem like a great idea, but how to begin? We hope to guide you on a path to finding your best-fit local scholarships in this blog.


When should I start looking for local scholarships?

It is best to start researching scholarships by the spring and summer of junior year, as most deadlines for these awards are in the fall of senior year.


How do I find local scholarships?

High school
The way to begin is to ask the guidance office at your high school for a list of local scholarships. For example, Schreiber High School in Port Washington, NY, has an extensive list of local scholarships available to its high school students. Another group to ask within your high school is the PTA. Scarsdale High School in New York offers a PTA scholarship that awards college-bound seniors a one-time grant ranging from $1,000 to $7,500.

Local businesses
Next, look into scholarships from the companies or organizations where your parents are employed. Many companies offer scholarships to the children of employees, and the Human Resources department or your supervisor will most likely have this information. Many employee scholarships are also merit-based, rather than solely need-based.

Religious and ethnic organizations
Additionally, explore the groups that you and your family belong to. Religious and ethnic organizations often have scholarships that are awarded to the children of members. For example, the Ancient Order of Hibernians, Knights of Columbus, Elks, and Lions Club all offer national as well as local scholarship opportunities. If applicable, your place of worship may be aware of local scholarship opportunities that hope to assist members of your faith.

Additional sources
Other places to check include your town or community website and local media websites (TV, newspapers, and radio stations). Additionally, your library’s reference section may have a list of scholarships offered by town businesses or civic groups, and in casting a wider net, you can research the offerings of your state grant agency.

 

What are the requirements?

Local scholarship competitions often ask for a completed FAFSA form, and may ask for tax returns/W2 forms (from student and parents), a copy of your transcript, letters of recommendation, and student-written essays. Many local scholarships also require you to take the PSAT/NMSQT by the fall of your junior year.

Finally, it is important to meet all scholarship deadlines, follow scholarship application directions, and gather your application materials early.

Here at Collegiate Gateway, we are happy to help you throughout your college search. Feel free to contact us!

National Essay Contests

If you’re a high school student who enjoys writing, there are plenty of national essay contests you can participate in – many of which include large rewards for the winners and finalists!

Awards range from monetary scholarships, cash amounts, all-expenses paid trips, and even donations to school libraries. For example, the JFK Profile in Courage Essay Contest combines scholarships, cash awards and travel: the winner receives a $5,000 cash award, $5,000 to invest in a college savings plan, and travel and lodging expenses to attend the ceremony in Boston.

Each contest has its own requirements, and they fall into a variety of categories: Literary Analysis, Politics & History, Personal Reflection, those geared to specific career fields such as science or journalism, as well as scholarships from religious and ethnic organizations.  Check the application deadlines; if the deadline has passed for 2017, mark your calendar for next year!

Literary Analysis

Literary analysis contests are based on a specific piece of literature, and they are judged on both writing style and content. Judges look for writing that is clear, articulate and logically organized. Students should demonstrate a solid grasp of the themes and messages in the work about which they’re writing. For example, the Ayn Rand Institute hosts yearly essay contests for students from 8th grade through graduate school. Currently, topics center on three of Rand’s popular novels, Anthem (8th, 9th, 10th), Atlas Shrugged (12th grade, college and graduate), and The Fountainhead (11th, 12th).

Penguin’s national essay contest, The 19th Annual Signet Classics Student Scholarship Essay Contest is offered to students in 11th or 12th grade. This contest focuses on a different work each year — The Tempest in 2017 — and requires students to choose one of five topics. The topics include questions about character traits, themes, settings, and values.

Politics & History

Common themes of national essay contests include modern-day politics, past figures, and historical ideals or philosophies. These essays are analytical in nature and tend to be an opportunity for students to develop and enhance research, writing, and critical thinking skills.

The John F. Kennedy Library Foundation invites high school students to “consider the concept of political courage by writing an essay on a U.S. elected official who has chosen to do what is right, rather than what is expedient” through  The Profile in Courage Essay Contest. Students are required to write an essay of 700 to 1,000 words, and to use at least five varied sources.

Open to all high school students, the Sons of the American Revolution offers the George S. & Stella M. Knight Essay Contest. The topic should deal with an event, person, philosophy, or ideal associated with the American Revolution, the Declaration of Independence, or the framing of the United States Constitution. Sources must include published book sources, and the essays are judged on historical accuracy, clarity of thought, organization, grammar, and documentation.

Personal Reflection

A plethora of essay contests allow students to submit reflections of a more personal – rather than historical or literary – nature. Many offer opportunities to write a letter, such as the essay required for the National World War II Museum’s Annual Essay Contest. This competition, “Dear Mr. Thompson,” focuses on the historical letter of James G. Thompson, who brought awareness to the effects of World War II on African Americans. The contest requires students to respond to Thompson’s concerns about the availability of liberty and justice for all Americans, regardless of their race, identity, or background. Though based in a historical context, essays should be written using examples from students’ own lives and experiences.

Some contests allow students to be highly creative and themes are open-ended. The Fleet Reserve Association (FRA) hosts an essay contest for students in 7th through 12th grade to promote the spirit of Americanism and patriotism. The essay is only 350 words, and has the theme “What the United States Flag Stands For.” Similarly, the Joe Foss Institute’s Hayes C Kirby Essay Scholarship Contest asks students to respond to “If not for them…where would we be?” with a minimum of 1500 words. It encourages entrants to be creative, while developing a clearly defined theme.

Specific Career Fields

Many essay contests focus on a specific field of study or career path. We are sad to report that after 30 years, The DuPont Challenge, the premier science essay contest for middle school and high school students, has been discontinued. 250,000 students in the United States and Canada reaped the satisfaction of participating. For students who love research and science writing, the National High School Journal of Science offers the opportunity to publish your research findings, in the areas of biology, chemistry, physics, environment, STEM, and policy.

For those interested in writing and journalism, the Society of Professional Journalists offers a high school essay contest in order to “increase high school students’ knowledge and understanding of the importance of independent media.” In a 300-500 word essay, students respond to a different topic each year. The topic for 2017 was, “Why is it important for a democratic society to have women involved in professional media and legal roles?”

Religious and Ethnic Scholarships

Some contents are sponsored by religious or ethnic groups, which typically require candidates to be affiliated with that particular group.

For example, the National Italian American Foundation has a list of scholarships that it sponsors, but to be eligible, a contestant must have at least one ancestor who emigrated from Italy, a 3.5 to 4.0 GPA, and be an NIAF member or have a parent or guardian who is a member. The Ancient Order of Hibernians, an Irish Catholic organization, has several scholarships available to the children and grandchildren of its members. The Young Christian Leaders Scholarship requires contestants to be active members of their church and submit two letters of recommendation.

The Morris J. & Betty Kaplun Foundation Essay Contests are for students in 7th through 12th grade. These essays focus on questions about maintaining your Jewish identity in a secular world and combating anti-Semitism on college campuses. The B’nai B’rith International Diverse Minds Writing Challenge is open to all high school students in 9th through 12th grade in each city/region where the contest takes place. This contest asks students to write and illustrate a children’s book that tells a story of tolerance, diversity or inclusion. The winner in each city/region receives a $5,000 college scholarship and becomes a published author.

Local Scholarships

Sometimes, the scholarships that you have the greatest chance of winning are those sponsored by your high school or city/town because the pool of applicants is smaller, and you likely have a stronger connection to the sponsoring organizations. Many high school guidance offices or parents’ associations have a list of scholarships that you can apply to. Some even post scholarships on the school website. For example, Paul D. Schreiber High School, Scarsdale High School, and Locust Valley Central School District, all list scholarships that vary in whether they are awarded based on merit or financial need.

In Conclusion

Students with an interest and talent in writing should explore the many opportunities that lie within national essay contests. With such a wide range of topics, there’s something for everyone, and you may even start to build up some funds for college!

Of course, there are many more essay competitions and scholarship opportunities than are mention here. If you’d like to learn more, contact Collegiate Gateway – we’re always happy to help.

 

Merit Scholarships: A Beginner’s Guide

There are many need-based financial aid opportunities out there for college students. But for those who don’t qualify – or who don’t qualify for enough – there are a large number of merit-based scholarship options as well.  With perseverance and dedication, some students have been able to finance nearly their entire college education through merit aid!  The question is: how do you find these opportunities?

As always, Collegiate Gateway is here to help!

Scholarships from Colleges

Often, students receive merit aid directly from colleges themselves. These usually come in the form of “merit awards,” determined by a variety of factors including your academic performance of grade point average, standardized test scores, and the strength of your high school curriculum. Generally, the better you do in high school, the better your chances of being offered merit aid by colleges. For many students, this is can be the largest source of scholarship funding. In fact, some colleges, including Boston College and Duke award full-tuition merit scholarships to small groups of exceptionally qualified students.

But keep in mind that additional factors related to your character play a role as well, as demonstrated by the extracurricular activities, community service and leadership roles you have chosen to participate in.  Furthermore, the unique institutional priorities of each college influence the nature of their merit scholarships; colleges often offer special scholarships for students of diverse backgrounds, or with particular academic, service or career interests.

Some colleges, such as Tulane, Oberlin, and NYU automatically consider all applicants for merit scholarships.  Other colleges require that prospective students take the initiative to apply for merit aid, and require the submission of additional essays.  For example, the University of Richmond encourages students who have demonstrated strong involvement in community service to apply for the Bonner Scholars Program.  Emory provides the opportunity for entering freshmen to become Emory Scholars. Likewise, Washington University in St. Louis and Vanderbilt University have numerous merit scholarships that students need to actively apply for.

The colleges with the highest percentage of students receiving non-need-based aid range from specialized colleges, such as Olin College of Engineering, School of the Art Institute of Chicago and New England Conservatory of Music, to small liberal arts colleges such as Rhodes College, to medium-sized national research university such as Tulane. Additionally, according to recent data from the New York Times, the colleges with the highest average merit award included Trinity College, with $41,980 average merit aid (95% of the tuition/fees of $44,070) and University of Richmond, with $36,860 average merit aid (85% of $43,170 tuition/fees).

When evaluating different options, however, keep in mind that merit scholarships can offer more than just monetary rewards. Many, such as UVA’s Jefferson Scholars offer significant enrichment opportunities – in this case, access to leadership programs, study abroad, and internships with program alumni. As with any of the college-granted scholarships, the best sources of information on these programs can be found on the college websites themselves.

State-based scholarships

State scholarships are awarded either directly by your college through state-based programs or via local scholarships, and are another very common way to earn merit aid. Resources such as Cappex and Fastweb can help you search for opportunities particular to your state.  For example, let’s focus on New York State.

New York Scholarships: New Yorkers are known for being street-smart, practical and resourceful. But even New Yorkers need a little help when it comes to paying for college. Luckily, you can get scholarships just by being a resident of the Empire State… and by being a good student. The Scholarship For Academic Excellence, for example, is intended for students who will attend a New York college, and is based on the results of the Regents exam.

Additionally, many scholarships – in New York and elsewhere – pay particular attention to applicants pursuing certain high demand fields. The NYS STEM Incentive Program, for example, provides a full SUNY or CUNY tuition scholarship for the top 10 percent of students in each New York State high school. Note though, that this scholarship (like many others of its kind) comes with conditions: awarded students must often either remain in the state or work in their particular field, for a certain period of time. In the above example, students must pursue a STEM major and agree to work in a STEM field in New York State for five years after graduation.

Corporate Scholarships

Who says corporate America is greedy? Many of America’s largest and most profitable corporations sponsor high-paying scholarships for high-achieving students. Every year, for example, the Coca-Cola Scholars Foundation awards 250 achievement-based scholarships for students with a minimum GPA of 3.0. The top 50 are designated as National Scholars and receive $20,000 while the remaining 200 are designated as Regional Scholars and receive awards of $10,000.  Likewise, the Discover Scholarship Program offers an average award of $30,000 to 10 students who demonstrate leadership and community service in the face of adversity, and who have a GPA of at least 2.75. Others have more subjective standards, such as the Dr. Pepper Tuition Giveaway, which is based on video submissions, and awards $100,000 dollars to students with creativity and unique personal stories.

In additional, there are a large number of merit scholarship opportunities from private non-profits. For example, you’re probably already familiar with the National Merit Scholarship Program, which awards three types of scholarships based on PSAT/NMSQT scores: National Merit, corporate-sponsored, and college-sponsored. Additionally, the  Ayn Rand Institute is a very well-known foundation that sponsors annual essay contests based on a variety of Rand’s books, awarding generous scholarships to those with the strongest essays.

Online resources such as Cappex and Fastweb are a great way to find all these opportunities, whether they’re offered by states, colleges, corporations, or foundations. They boast impressive and up-to-date databases of well-established scholarships in every subject – from engineering to art – as well as listings of some of the more obscure (see, for example, the Victor Bailliet Scholarship in Sugar Technology).  No matter how esoteric or unique your interests, abilities and background may be, these sites are a terrific way to search for and find scholarship sources.

Of course, there are thousands of potential merit scholarships for you – beyond what we’ve mentioned here… For more guidance and information, contact Collegiate Gateway – we’re always happy to help.