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How Many Scholarships Should You Apply For?

How many scholarships should you apply for?

This article is slated to be updated with the latest FAFSA, Scholarship, and Financial Information. For more updated information, please refer to our 2023 and 2024 articles.

College finances are all over the news and it’s not a secret that many people are saddled with the burden of student loans. Scholarships, although desirable, seem to have their own secret mystery about them…

  • How do you find them?
  • How do you win them?
  • How many should your child apply for?

There’s no perfect number of scholarship applications. The answer is a very unsatisfying “it depends”. As a college counselor for many years, I’ve seen students apply to over 50 scholarships and basically build their own full ride. I’ve also seen students who refuse to engage in the scholarship process because they don’t want to write an essay.

Here are a few questions to ask yourself about the scholarship process to find that magic number for your family.

How Many Scholarships Should You Apply For? It Depends…

How much of a gap will your student have?

When approaching the idea of how much scholarship money your child could need, parents can start evaluating their college funding plans early on. Filling out a federal student aid estimator can provide an early gauge on how much your family might be expected to pay for each year of college.

Once you have that information, you can try net price calculators at schools of your student’s interest to see what will be left for your family to cover after estimated federal, state, and institutional aid. Your magic scholarship amount should be enough to cover your out-of-pocket costs as well as to wipe out any offered loans.

How organized are you and your child?

Does your child have a bookbag full of months-old papers and missing assignments, or do they have a planner with meticulous notes on each item in their syllabi? Organization in the scholarship process is key to simplifying and streamlining your family’s access to FREE money.

Admittedly, many parents are more organized than their teenagers and more driven to reduce their college bill, in my experience. If your kiddo, however, is the Marie Kondo of high school, they may already have an organization format they prefer. 

If you and your child are more right-brained sort of people and don’t enjoy organizing, you have a few options:

  • hire a scholarship consultant and outsource the research and organization format to someone else, or…
  • download a free organization template online!

There are many consulting organizations as well as scholarship websites that give you a taste of their services with a free excel, google doc, or word documents that will give you space to note all details of your scholarships, including names, providers, deadlines, which items are required and what essay is needed.

How much time and energy do you have?

Once you found your organizational groove, you’ll have saved a bit on the front end of the time and energy piece. Assess with your child how much time they have weekly to apply to scholarships.

Picking a particular day and time span to apply weekly can help keep the motivation going. You and your child have to determine how much time can be invested while they maintain their academics, activities, and social life.

How and when do you get started?

The early scholarship applicant gets the scholarship worm so to speak. Art, poetry, and community service scholarships tend to be available even to middle school students.

As early as freshman year, students can sign up for and gain micro-scholarships for achievements they’re already unlocking in high school. Sophomore and junior year, students can start their research and organization process so that senior year is solely focused on applying.

Scholarships for seniors tend to be most available Sept-April and then the cycle begins to taper off so keep this timeline in mind and get a jump on the scholarship season when it opens.

Got more scholarship questions swirling around? Stay tuned for future scholarship posts to dig into more juicy scholarship details and find your magic money momentum.

Kate Kaushal has been a professional high school counselor in the Chicago Public School system since 2011 and has played many roles including: senior academic and social emotional counselor, post secondary counselor, head of counseling, ACT test coordinator, CPS selective enrollment test proctor and master counselor for the district.

She received her Bachelor’s degree in Music Education from Saint Xavier University and a Master’s in School Counseling from Roosevelt University. Prior to 2011, she worked in various positions in social service, including a partner organization to DCFS, a group home for young men, and an experiential outdoor education camp for at-risk youth in North Carolina.

At Phillips Academy in Bronzeville, she started as the Junior counselor and then moved into the post-secondary arena where she found her passion. She believes in holistically working with students and prides herself in her ability to match students with resources, especially scholarship opportunities and enrichment programs. In her years as a postsecondary counselor, she drastically increased the amount of scholarships (from 500,000 in 2015 to over 15 million in 2019) earned by the graduating classes and received a Data Impact award from Chicago Public Schools. She was also a final nominee for College and Career Counselor of the year in 2018 and has presented at multiple CPS School Counselor professional development events.

Kate is a lifelong learner and is excited to join the My College Planning Team to help families find the best holistic college fit for their child and the most scholarship money possible to offset their educational costs. Kate also has a knack for matching families to the resources they need, including alternate options like trade or gap year programs. Outside of work, she enjoys running, yoga, event planning and spending time with her 2 young children.

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