Scholarship leads are found in the high school counseling office, newspaper, popular scholarship websites and on college websites. I call them "leads" because that is what they are. They are opportunities or leads to apply for college money. Students don't always know how scholarships work. Recently a student asked me after completing a scholarship application when he'd get the money. I had to explain to him that his application was an entry into a competition or drawing for scholarship money and that applying did not mean a guarantee of getting the money.
The largest scholarship awards that students usually receive are merit scholarships offered by colleges as part of the admission process. These scholarships are offered to outstanding students to make attending a college more affordable. Additional merit and need-based scholarship awards are available from departments within a college and the scholarship and financial aid office.
"Free Rides" or scholarships that cover all college costs are rare but they do exist. Because they are so rare, families should not expect them as a rule.
The smallest scholarships students receive are local scholarships that come from civic groups, businesses and individuals. Students should apply for these because they are often scholarships with less competition than national scholarships. A student who wins several of these can significantly reduce their costs.
Scholarships are a great way to reduce college costs. Families should start looking for scholarships early (sophomore year) and understand the work that will be required. In addition to essays, some scholarships are based on academic achievement and projects, community volunteer work or membership in specific organizations.
Scholarships should be a family project and not left to students. Students are less motivated than parents regarding costs because they are too young to fully understand college finance and are used to parents carrying the full burden of costs related to their education. Families can approach scholarships as a family project to be pursued as a group on a schedule over a long period of time.