As everyone is aware, college is getting more and more expensive every year. That said, scholarships are amazing and can be a huge help. If you or your child applies for scholarships and ends up winning a scholarship, you get free money to help pay for college.Here’s how to apply for scholarships, why you should treat scholarship applications like a job and how to find the scholarships you or your child have the best shot of winning.
How To Apply For Scholarships
Applying for scholarships is fairly easy, but they do require some time and effort. First, find scholarships you qualify for. Next, read the application criteria to see what you need to do to apply.
After that, fill out the application and complete any other requirements such as essays or videos. Once you’ve completed the application, let it sit for a few days. Then, reread or rewatch your submission to make sure there are no errors and it is your best effort.
Finally, send off the application before the deadline. Applying for scholarships isn’t difficult. It just takes more time than most people are willing to invest in something they may not win.
Related Podcast Episode: Demystify College Scholarships With Brian Eufinger
Why Scholarships Are So Important To The FI Journey
Scholarships are extremely important to anyone’s FI journey, whether they’re the student or the parent.
For students, earning scholarships means you’ll be able to either take out less student loan debt or keep some of your hard earned money for other uses rather than paying for college. This puts you at a huge advantage over those that start out life with student loans or no savings after college.
For parents, getting your children to apply for and win scholarships can help you keep your FI momentum going. If you’re paying your child’s way through college, each dollar of scholarship earnings is one dollar you don't have to remove from your investments, which ends the compounding effect on those dollars.
If you’ve already reached FI by the time your child reaches college and still have enough to cover their college expenses, you can use the money to help your kids get a jumpstart on FI.
For each dollar of scholarships they win, set the money aside as a graduation gift. They can use the gift to defer the cost of getting their first post-college apartment or invest it in a Roth IRA once they have earned income.
Why You Should Treat Scholarship Applications Like A Job
Most people apply for a couple of scholarships, hope they win, and move on with life. While applying for a couple of scholarships is better than applying for none, you could do much better.
Applying for scholarships can take hours and a lot of hard work. It can be frustrating to spend hours applying for a scholarship and losing. That said, when you look at the big picture, it’s worth it.
Scholarships come in various forms and dollar amounts, but most scholarships are at least $500. Some scholarships are worth $1,000 and there are even quite a few worth multiple thousands of dollars per year.Let’s say you spend 2 hours on a scholarship application and apply for 100 scholarships. You only win 3% of the scholarships you apply for and the average value is $1,500. That would mean you win $4,500 worth of scholarships for 200 hours of work. That results in an hourly rate of $22.50 an hour, a much higher rate than most part-time high school or college jobs.
As long as you use the money for tuition, it should be tax-free which makes scholarship money even more valuable.
Related: Hacking College With Zero Debt
Find The Scholarships You Have The Best Shot Of Winning
When you’re applying for scholarships, applying for every scholarship you find would be a waste of time.
Some scholarships only allow certain applicants or judge based on specific criteria. If you don’t meet those requirements or you don’t excel in the criteria the scholarship is based on, you probably won’t win.
Rather than get down about all of the scholarships you don’t qualify for, spend time finding ones you do. Finding scholarships is an art. With a bit of research and a bunch of effort, you can find ones that give you good odds of winning.
When I was in college I won my fair share of scholarships. I did have an extremely strong academic background, but some of the scholarships I won had little to do with academics other than having a minimum GPA. Where I excelled was finding scholarships that very few people qualified for or would apply for. That meant these scholarships weren’t well advertised, but I had a great chance of winning.
Related Podcast: Root Of Good | 2nd Generation FIRE And College
Examples Of Being Smart When Applying For Scholarships To Increase Your Odds
For instance, my dad served on aircraft carriers while he was in the Navy, so I qualified to apply for a Tailhook Scholarship. I ended up getting one of the many scholarships that were offered for all four years I attended college.
If memory serves me correctly, that was at least $8,000 if not more in scholarship money from one scholarship.
Another scholarship I won for multiple years was a scholarship from military commissaries (grocery stores). The grocery stores had at least one winner per location. With this knowledge, I did the best I could to maximize my chances of winning.
Rather than apply at the closest commissary to my home which had a huge customer base, we drove out of the way to the commissary on the base my dad worked at.
This commissary was tiny and had a much smaller customer base, which also likely meant fewer scholarship applications. This increased my odds of winning and worked out in my favor.
Please Apply For Scholarships
If you or your kids are attending college, please apply for scholarships. The scholarship foundations want to give the money away and it can greatly accelerate a young person’s path to financial independence. It can even help parents cross the FI threshold a bit earlier, too.
- Podcast Episode: Fine Tuning The College Equation: PSAT And National Merit Scholarship
- Podcast Episode: Retail Path To FI With College Investor
- Podcast Episode: How To Get Paid To Go To College