How to Secure Scholarships Before Starting School
There may be no better way for a single mother to get ahead in today’s world than by furthering her education. But the cost of education is always on the rise and since a single mom has enough bills to worry about, paying for college out of pocket is just out of the question. Student loans are always an option since you don’t have to have good credit to qualify for them, but then you have a pile of debt before you land your first job. Your best options are to make use of as many Pell grants and scholarships as you possibly can.
Apply through Your School
The first place you should go is to your school’s financial aid site to learn about scholarships and grants. Generally speaking, you will see the state and federal grants listed there, but you will also see scholarships offered by the school. A lot of the time these are offered through parents of students, alumni, local business, and other places. Some may require that you be enrolled in a specific program. Some may be based on need. Others are based on demographics. Apply for them all, with the exception of the ones that only apply to certain programs. If you aren’t in those programs, applying is a waste of your time.
At some point you are bound to see scholarships for single moms. You might even think “But there are so many single moms that I’m sure it’s already taken” and end up talking yourself out of a great opportunity. During my sophomore year in college I attended a very large and well-known school. I was discussing scholarships with the dean of my school. When it came to the scholarship for single moms, I asked about the competition because I was considering passing that one by. I assumed that someone else would need it more or be better qualified for it. As it turns out, in the previous year that scholarship had been given to a woman who wasn’t even a mom—single or otherwise. Why? Because no one else bothered to apply. This told me two things: The first thing was that I needed to apply as a single mom and the second thing was that I needed to apply for scholarships even if I didn’t meet the demographics.
Understand that in most cases finds for scholarships and grants are carefully monitored. If the funds are not used, they are taken away. Schools would rather give you the funds even if you don’t meet the demographics because they don’t want to lose those funds. While the school is going to get paid either way, it always looks better when a college has plenty of their own scholarships to offer.
There are plenty of sites that offer information about scholarships. FastWeb.com is one of them. Once you fill out the demographic information, you will receive lists of scholarships that fit you personally. Just be sure to keep it updated with any changes you make, like switching majors.
If you belong to a club or organization it does not hurt to ask about scholarships that are available. Once you contact clubs and organizations that you are affiliated with, move on to potential scholarships in areas that you aren’t personally affiliated with. Look through your cabinets. Contact companies based on the brands that you use. Keep in mind you are more likely to get a scholarship if your major has something to do with their brand. On the other hand, some scholarships have nothing to do with the brand. You need to be open to applying even if you think it might be a long shot.
The Process of Applying
When it comes to scholarships, the competition can be fierce. Make sure you have all the correct information and that you turn the application in in a timely manner. Double check everything and then check it again.
Timing is Everything
Some scholarships open for applications a year before the semester even starts. Pay close attention to the deadlines. Mark your calendar, set alerts, or whatever you have to do to make sure you get your application in on time. Late scholarship applications are very rarely ever accepted and you need to get used to meeting strict deadlines for college anyhow.
Some scholarships require an essay as well as other information. When you write your essay, be sure to have it edited afterwards. Ask a friend who is well versed in grammar, punctuation, and college level writing. While you are not getting a grade for it, no entity wants to give you money to go to school if it does not look like you can survive a first year English class. Since this essay could mean you are debt free after college, it’s worth it to take a bit of time to make sure it is perfect. Leave yourself plenty of time to get this done so you don’t do a rush job and blow it because of that.
Other than the scholarship itself, you need to make sure everything surrounding the scholarship is taken care of. For example, if you do not have all of your paper work up to date at the school you plan to attend, you will not show up as registered. If you are not in school, you won’t even be considered for a scholarship. Take care of all of your paper work before you even apply for a scholarship. Again, don’t wait until the last minute.
Scholarships are given based on merit, demographics, grades, and need, yet most scholarships are not based on all of those things combined. So you may meet the guidelines by being a single mother, and it may not matter that you don’t have a 4.0 GPA. On the other hand, you might have a 4.0 GPA and it may not matter that you are a single mother. The important thing is to do your research and apply for as many scholarships as possible.