With the student debt crisis growing every year, we are very clear on where we stand when it comes to borrowing money for college: AVOID IT WHENEVER POSSIBLE. If your dream school costs more than you can possibly afford, though, can you plan on making up the difference in scholarship money? In short: we don’t recommend counting on athletic and academic scholarships. At the same time, by being smart about where you apply and the types of scholarships you pursue, you have a good chance of offsetting the high cost of college with scholarship money.
We’ve overheard parents joking about their preschoolers getting athletic scholarships for college because there’s no way to save enough money for tuition and all the other expenses. Grooming an athletic all-star might sound easier than saving money, but parents and students need to be realistic about the likelihood of a full athletic scholarship.
If your student really is a star athlete, here are a few things they can do to maximize chances of a scholarship:
What if Junior just isn’t athletically inclined? Students who excel academically should certainly pursue academic scholarships, but flexibility is key here as well. We often tell kids to “drop down” in order to get more money. For instance, if you live in Colorado, that might mean taking the full ride at CSU rather than paying your way at Colorado College. Remember that getting out of school debt free should always be the goal!
What if you don’t get a huge scholarship offer anywhere? Remember that there are many smaller or more targeted scholarships available. Check whether your chosen major has specific scholarships to offer. You can also check with parents’ businesses or with local alums who offer scholarships for students from their city or state. You may need to think outside the box a little to get the most scholarship money possible. Remember that the money isn’t going to just show up, either. You usually need to do some serious legwork in order to find scholarships that fit your specific circumstances, especially if your academic record isn’t extremely strong.
Yes, there is definitely scholarship money out there, but it’s a myth that there are billions of dollars in unused scholarships floating around. As Peterson’s reports, there’s not much evidence to support this. Even if there are unused scholarships out there, most of them are super small (like a few hundred dollars). You can use websites like Fastweb to search for small scholarships, but remember the principle of diminishing returns. If you’re spending 5-10 hours per week searching and applying for small scholarships, your time would probably be better spent studying for the ACTs or getting a job!
Need help sorting through scholarship options and weighing pros and cons of each offer? Our college planners are here to help. Contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org or 720-216-2222 to set up an appointment.