Making College Affordable — How Your Students Can Increase Scholarship Awards and Take Advantage of Additional Opportunities
The largest college scholarship amounts awarded to students are generally academic scholarships. In light of the that, having your students do whatever they can to increase their academic scholarship is a worthy goal. In addition to college scholarships, there are often additional grants, programs and events that come with funds for college. Below are a few suggestions to consider in order to make college affordable.
Convincing your students to be intentional about test prep is not as easy as it sounds. Studying beforehand and being rested and refreshed the morning of the test is very important. Earning top scholarship dollars for college while in high school, however, will enable students to attend the college of their choice, graduating with little to no student debt. Unfortunately many high school students want to enjoy the high school experience without being bothered with thinking about (much less preparing for) college. As nice as that may sound (to the student), the reality is that the students who plan and prepare during high school are the ones who can afford their college of choice, making the college experience more affordable and enjoyable.
Most colleges grant academic scholarships based on the highest test score earned prior to a student being enrolled at the college. Even if the last test taken was a lower score than a previous test, colleges will usually award the scholarship based on the highest score earned. (You will see the words “generally,” “usually,” and “often” because this information may vary with each college.)
Some colleges super score college exams which means they will take the highest score earned in each section across numerous test dates. This is beneficial to students who take these tests multiple times, but not all colleges super score and those that do may only super score one of the college exams and not the others. Hopefully, if your students are looking for scholarships then they have also narrowed their top college choices. Find out which exams, if any, the college super scores because it might be to your students’ advantage to take that particular exam multiple times.
If you are not aware, there is now a third college exam in addition to the ACT and the SAT that is accepted by more than 140 colleges. Most of the colleges accepting this test for admission, as well as for scholarship awards, are Christian colleges, but not all. This exam is the CLT (Classic Learning Test). For more about testing, check out this article.
The best way to prepare your students to earn academic scholarships is to provide opportunities for the students to test at an early age. The PSAT can be taken years before the junior year (which is the year this test determines National Merit Scholars). CLT has a CLT8 and a CLT10 that students can take for free, from home. The CLT10 comes with scholarship potential as well. Students can take multiple practice tests for free on-line or on paper (via books that give test prep information while providing practice tests). Once students reach the 11th grade they should take at least 2 of the college exams (and taking all 3 may offer even more advantage). Some students prefer one test over the others, earning higher scores as a result. Encourage your students to take each exam at least one time in order to find their best option.
Spending money on test prep materials often brings a great ROI (return on investment). 36 University is an affordable on-line prep for the ACT. The cost is $15 but when registering, if the code “bryan” is used then the student saves $3 per month. There is no contract or number of months required for enrollment. Another prep many students use is College Prep Genius. The founder of College Prep Genius, Jean Burk, has children who threw away bags filled with full scholarship offers. She is a great resource and often speaks at educational (and homeschool) conventions. Regardless of which college exam the student decides to take multiple times, prepping for any of these tests will more than likely increase scores on any of the exams. In other words, prepping for the ACT may very well enable the student do better on the SAT and the CLT. This article will provide more information on scholarships, including links to independent scholarship opportunities. And this article includes a list of independent scholarships. Word of advice, if you apply for outside scholarships then set up a new and separate email address because you will be bombarded with emails.
Another way to increase scholarship awards is to attend scholarship events when offered. Not all colleges sponsor these events, but when they do it is well worth finding out the criteria for qualification, deadlines, expectations, and all applicable details. Bryan College hosts a scholarship event each semester for seniors who have been accepted to Bryan who have scored a minimum ACT 21 (or comparable SAT or CLT). The event is free and each student who attends will receive anywhere from $500 (minimum) to a full ride. Opportunities such as these are ones your students will not want to miss.
Qualifying for scholarships that stack will increase award amounts as well. Find out which scholarships are offered by the colleges your students are considering so that they can be awarded every scholarship for which they qualify. Be aware that academic and athletic scholarships do not stack at all colleges. If a student accepts an athletic scholarship and then gets injured, he/she might lose the scholarship. On the other hand, if an athlete chooses the academic scholarship over the athletic scholarship and he/she does not maintain the required GPA then that scholarship will be lost. If you decide to attend a college where scholarships do not stack, start talking with your students regarding their priorities in college. A thoughtful decision on priorities will help determine which scholarship opportunities to take.
Another way for your students to earn additional college funds is to make sure they qualify for state funding opportunities if they plan to attend college in their state of residence. Students in Tennessee have the ability to qualify for multiple state grants, but in order to do that they must be aware of the requirements for each grant in time to qualify. Homeschooled students often have additional requirements than students enrolled in pubic or private schools so if you homeschool your students, be sure you are aware of the qualifications.
Make sure you fill out the FAFSA in October of the student’s senior year. Many times scholarship money is first come, first serve so being in the pool as soon as possible is a definite advantage. If your student is a senior and you have not done this, do it soon!
Many colleges also have work study programs, providing work for students with financial need so that they can earn money working on campus each semester. Also, after the completion of the freshman year, colleges often offer scholarships for ambassadors, resident assistants, and additional positions not open to freshmen. In addition to these programs there may be opportunities to join leadership programs or academies that come with scholarship potential. Your students should spend time looking at the opportunities of each college they are interested attending. Having discussions with admission counselors and financial aid counselors is advised as well.
Unless your student is already a senior in high school, do not wait until the senior year to begin planning for college. No one likes debt so the sooner you and your students plan and prepare, the better! If your student is a senior, there is still much that can be done to make college affordable. Be sure you find out from the student’s top college choices which programs and events are time sensitive so that you do not miss out on any opportunities for increased funding.
Students are inclined to make a final college choice based on finances. How much will be awarded and how much debt, if any, will be incurred. That decision may be impacted by colleges with additional opportunities that, in turn justifies a higher expense (or more debt). For instance, students who attend Bryan College after high school that graduate with a 3.5 GPA can then earn their masters degree tuition free. That’s a huge advantage and one that will end up saving a student a lot of money. Every college is similar in many ways, but no two are exactly alike so be sure to find out everything you can about the colleges your students are pursuing.
Planning and preparing for college with intention can make the experience much more affordable and stress-free (okay, maybe not stress-free, but less stressful) than you can imagine!