The Scholarship System: 6 Steps on How to Win College Scholarships and Secure Financial Aid

We keep hearing about this student loan debt crisis. What can parents do to help their students avoid it?

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If you have students in college, high school students or younger, or perhaps you are just DINKs (Dual  income no kids) right now but know that you will eventually have kids in college, I am sure you are wondering how in the world you can afford college for one kid, never mind multiple kids!

We keep hearing about this thing called the student debt crisis, basically a huge bubble waiting to burst that is filled with trillions of dollars of debt that graduates cannot afford to pay back.

Sounds scary, doesn't it? If not, it should. This country is burying a generation in debt and making it impossible to truly realize the "American Dream" without paying a huge amount to loan and debt collectors each month.

So what can we do about this? How can we save our children, teenagers or current University students from being part of this massive debt crisis?

The answer sounds simple, but we all know otherwise.

The answer is to find money in other places

While this sounds great, most of you are probably thinking "Duh!! But where in the world can we get someone else to pay for our students' education?"

This is especially frustrating if you are in the middle-income range where you have too much money for financial aid but not enough to actually pay for your kids to go to college.

Here are a few tips on how you can help your students find money for college in other places.

1.     Start some research for them.

For many students, starting the process is what derails them. They start creating logins, signing up on numerous scholarship portal websites, and are quickly overwhelmed. By perhaps combing through these hot spots for scholarships, finding just a few for them to apply for can get them in the right mindset and show them that scholarships applicable to them do exist!

2.     Create a schedule.

Many scholarship deadlines are in the fall **yes, that's coming QUICKLY! If they begin now and submit 1 scholarship application per week, they can have 19 applications submitted by the end of October (when many deadlines are). Even better, as students complete one scholarship after another, they will find many scholarships ask similar, if not the same, questions. Quickly, they will realize that they can simply tweak previous submissions and decrease their time per application exponentially.

If they don’t want to put in the time, perhaps some motivation will help. If they spend only 4 hours per week until the end of summer which is about 48 hours total (assuming 12 weeks of summer) and win a $2,000 scholarship (which I know they can easily do if they are putting in this amount of time!), they will earn $41.67 PER HOUR! I don’t care what they say, no part time job will pay them that well. Heck – most college graduates aren’t even making that within the first couple years of graduating!

3.     Get them involved.

Scholarship committees like to see students being active. They do not necessarily have to be the president of every organization they are involved in but they do need to show that they weren’t just a couch potato.

Some great summer activities include volunteering, part-time jobs, summer camps, internships, shadowing potential careers, creating their own business – the list goes on. Honestly, as long as your student is learning and developing, it counts!

4.     Reward them.

Rewards do not have to be cash but they could be any little ‘present’. Perhaps they get to stay out one hour later than usual or their boyfriend/girlfriend gets to stay an hour later or they get some extra video game time. It all depends on the ‘rules’ you have in place but I would say if stretching them incentivizes them, so be it!

However, cash is always king, especially in teenagers’ eyes. Paying $3-5 per each application (so in my earlier example, it would end up around $95 by the end of October) is not much compared to the hundreds or thousands of dollars in scholarship money.

Overall, as a parent, you can play a critical role in getting your student a free ride or at least some free money that can help reduce the bill. I promise -they will thank you when they see their friends paying hundreds of dollars every month towards their student loan.