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Outside Scholarships: Should You Include Them In Your Plan to Pay For College?

Targeted-TutoringPaying for college requires a comprehensive plan.

After you review all of the financial strategies available to reduce your out-of-pocket costs, it’s important to prepare a comprehensive college budget plan to make sure sufficient funds will be available to educate all of your students in a comfortable manner without incurring too much debt or depleting your retirement funds.

The problem with making outside scholarships part of your plan.

One of the most problematic sources of college funding are outside scholarships. Though we continue to believe that it is quite reasonable to expect your student to win outside scholarships to help pay for college, we are reluctant to add them as a line item on our college budget reports unless we know that a solid plan is in place to pursue them.

While it is true that there are millions of dollars of these scholarships available through, Fast Web, as well as other local, state and national sources, most students—even those with the best intentions—fail to pursue them.

Why are so many students coming up empty handed?

Most students—even those with the best intentions—simply give up too early. They are also being told by their friends to not bother with them. Doing so requires a lot of effort, self discipline, and a well thought out plan.

Even though it may take a hundred hours of work over a one-year period to earn just $5000 in scholarships, if you do the math, that’s still $50.00 an hour–a much better pay-off than having your student work at the local ice-cream parlor to help pay for college.

Another reason that students are not making the required effort is because they know that even if they win a few scholarships, the college they attend may simply reduce other financial aid by an equal amount.

So why bother?

There are three ways to make sure you get value for the hours of effort your student makes in pursuing outside scholarships.

First, spend more time pursuing multiple $500 scholarships instead of going after the larger ones. It’s much easier to earn a dozen or so small scholarships versus the $10,000 one which has thousands of other students also pursuing it.

The second is to pursue colleges that you know will let you use the scholarships to fill your unmet need or, at the very least, to reduce your need for parent and/or student loans. If you are working with our academic team on college selection, they will help you with this if you ask them.

Third, if your college does not have a favorable scholarship policy, your other recourse is to work with your scholarship provider. Your provider is as interested as you are in seeing that you get value from your scholarship.

Ask them if they will contribute the money to your 529 or, perhaps, hold your money to help pay off your student loan after graduation.

Should you use an academic coach to help your student pursue  outside scholarships?

Until very recently, our academic team has not provided outside scholarship help simply because we felt it was something a student could do independently.

What we have discovered over time, however, is that some students need a coach to help them create their outside scholarship plan, motivate them, and monitor the execution of that plan.

We are excited that our academic and tutoring teams have added scholarship search assistance as an option for families who are serious about pursuing them. If you are interested in learning more, please contact us today.


Jim Slowik

Jim Slowik strategizes for families of all incomes to leave no stone unturned to reduce college costs. Jim has worked for over 30 years in marketing and management with 20 of those years in financially related industries. As a parent of college students, Jim understands the challenges of navigating the college process. He holds a Bachelors of Marketing from North Central College.

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