Cashing in for College
Many parents dream about college for the kids. But too often, most people are not out of debt and think the only way to make it happen is with student loans. Not true! Your child can go after some of the many scholarships out there and get some or all of college paid for! We talked with Jill and Mike Howell of N2College, a college planning and admissions assistance program, to find out how to make it happen.
Are there really a bunch of scholarships available that are not athletic or just for valedictorians?
Jill and Mike Howell: Absolutely! There are literally thousands of scholarships that target students because of their specific aptitudes and talents. Also, the rise in community service-based scholarship programs over the last five to ten years offers all students a chance for scholarship money.
Are scholarships something for just seniors to look into? Why is it important for someone who is not a senior to start thinking about applying for scholarships?
J&MH: We often tell the thousands of students and families we have worked with that starting early gives you the time you need to fully research and prepare for their senior year. And time is the one thing in this process that you can’t get back.
How easy or difficult is it to apply for a scholarship?
J&MH: That largely depends upon the family's environment and the student's schedule. We always tell our families that we want to assist them in balancing the amount of time needed to submit an application with the actual number of scholarships and dollars given. Obviously, the scholarship programs that award more money typically require more from the applicant in terms of the application and related accomplishments. That’s probably the greatest incentive for applying early.
Should people just go for a few, or as many as they can qualify for?
J&MH: Again, time is a critical factor. We assess where a student is in their overall scholarship eligibility process when they get to us. It is never too late to begin. We always apply for the maximum number. What we want to avoid is overloading a student or having them use time on programs that don't have a reasonable rate of return. They should focus on the group of scholarships that will offer the greatest chance to showcase their God-given talents and abilities to the decision-makers.
How involved should parents be in the scholarship process? Should they help the kids apply, or let them do it themselves?
J&MH: Parents should exercise their normal oversight role. Their part is vital for success in this process. However, the college admissions and funding procedure is one of the most crucial times for parents to begin allowing their child to become vested in his or her own future planning.
As far as college itself goes, many kids don’t know what interests they want to pursue even in college, much less life. Do you have some tips for getting them started?
J&MH: A student's lack of having a definite plan can actually speed up the start of this process, since a student who is still unsure will probably need even more guidance. Many people do things backwards. They ask where they want to go to college, what they want to major in, and what job they can get with their degree. It should be just the reverse. Find your talents and what interests you, determine a specific list of careers, and use that to find your chosen major and college.
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