One of the best decisions you can make for your career and future is to pursue higher education. Whether you’ve taken some time off or are going directly into a program after completing high school, earning a post-secondary credential, like a career certificate, can help you get a job love and lays the groundwork for growth and advancement.
But, how will you pay for that education? While career certificate programs cost considerably less than two-year and four-year degrees, they do still have fees. One option is to find scholarships to cover some or all of the cost.
Here’s how to find the right scholarships and put your best foot forward when applying.
Where to Find Scholarships
Scholarships are free money to use to pay for education. You don’t have to pay them back and you shouldn’t have to pay to apply for one.
Many organizations offer scholarships, from large corporations to banks and from local governments to schools. You can find scholarships by talking to your high school guidance counselor or the financial aid office at the schools where you’re applying. The U.S. Department of Labor also has a scholarship search tool.
Since many local businesses offer scholarships, it’s worth checking around your area to see what’s out there.
How Many Scholarships Should You Apply For?
Ideally, you should apply to as many scholarships as you can. Keep in mind that you won’t be eligible for every scholarship out there. Many have restrictions on who can apply, based on planned area of study, income, or other factors.
It might also be worthwhile to pursue quality over quantity. Don’t spread yourself so thin when applying for funding that your applications are weak or not as good as they could be. It may be better to focus on creating the best possible application for a scholarship rather than applying to everything.
How to Write a Good Scholarship Essay
Most college scholarship applications require you to write an essay. Essay topics vary and can be anything from a personal statement to answering a specific question. If you’re not much of a writer, don’t stress about the essay too much. There are things you can do to produce a solid piece of work, even if you’re not 100% confident in your writing skills.
- Review the basics of a good essay: Your essay should have a clear introduction, body, and conclusion. Include a thesis statement or main argument in your introduction. Then, use the body paragraphs to support your argument. Finally, tie everything together in the last paragraph.
- Keep it simple: Don’t try to impress the scholarship committee with big words. Instead, focus on keeping things simple and readable. The clearer you are, the better your essay will come across.
- Choose a topic you like: If you have prompts to choose from, pick one on a subject you’re interested in. If you’re writing a personal statement, think about what matters most to you, then write about that.
- Follow the word limit: Most essays have a minimum word count and some may have a maximum word limit. Be sure your essay isn’t too long or too short.
- Have someone review your essay: Get someone to read and correct your essay before you submit it. You may ask your guidance counselor or an English or language arts teacher. Ask them for feedback and tips on making the essay even better.
How to Win Scholarships
The following tips can move your scholarship application to the top of the pile:
- Be unique: Think about what makes you unique and play up your strengths in the scholarship essay. The people reading your essay want to see something different and beyond the cliche.
- Apply early and often: The sooner you start looking for scholarships and applying, the better. You’ll have more selection and will be less likely to miss the deadline. Plus, some scholarships take applications on a rolling basis, which means first come, first awarded.
- Get help: Parents, teachers, and guidance counselors can all provide support and assistance as you look for scholarships and apply. You don’t have to do it alone. In fact, you may need a letter of recommendation from at least one person.
Consider Other Financial Aid Options, Too
Scholarships aren’t the only way to pay for your education. Other options include grants, which also don’t have to be repaid. If you’re a Veteran, you may qualify for educational benefits, too.
Orange Technical College helps future and current students find the financial aid they need to pay for a career certificate. Contact us today to learn more about scholarships and other sources of financial aid.