Thursday, October 29, 2015

Where to Find College Scholarships?

Students looking at colleges--and college prices--are looking for scholarships too.  With annual costs of attendance ranging into the $40,000 to $60,000 a year, who could blame them?  In addition to searching the web for "scholarships," the data show large numbers of searches for specific types of scholarships.  Some of my favorites are:

  • free scholarships
  • fun scholarships
  • weird scholarships
  • scholarships for left-handed people
  • easy scholarships

We can take away a couple of important lessons from this list .  One critical point is that any legitimate scholarship I've ever heard of is free to the applicant, except for perhaps the cost of mailing.  If you have to pay ANYTHING to enter a scholarship competition, it's not a good sign, and you may very well be in the process of getting ripped off.

"Easy scholarships" is also worth your consideration.  We grow up thinking that hard work is a virtue, and that anything worthwhile will take lots of hard work.  Guess what.  With scholarships that's not always true.

If you're an average student, your most "high probability" shot at a scholarship is looking at those available through your high school guidance office.  Many of these are likely available only to students from your immediate area, perhaps just your town or even high school.

The question then becomes, is your time best spent completing extensive applications like the one for the Coca-Cola Scholars Program Scholarship?  After all, that's a $20,000 scholarhship, and 150 of those will be awarded.

While I would never tell a student not to apply for that, I can tell you that I've seen many truly exceptional students apply and never make it through the first round of screening.  The competition is simply that intense.

Meanwhile, I've seen local scholarships of up to $500 or even $1,000 awarded after selection from an applicant pool as low as 3, 2, and even 1.  How would you like those odds?

But don't take my word for it.  Talk to your counselor.  Ask about local scholarships, and ask if you'd likely have a shot at the biggest national scholarships.  Then play the odds as you think best.

For more ideas on finding scholarships, check out my scholarship guide at

Wednesday, October 28, 2015

Two Year vs. Four Year Colleges

One primary consideration in choosing a college for many students is the choice between a two-year and a four-year college. Many students decide to study for one or two years at a local community college. While attending the two year school, a student takes care of many of the courses required for any four-year program, and can earn an Associates Degree as well. For some careers, the two-year program is all that is needed.

Applications for those schools are fairly simple, and acceptance (for most programs) is guaranteed to high school graduates. (Please note that some programs are selective. For example, a nursing program may require certain classes or test results.) Some other key advantages include:

  • A college prep schedule in high school is unnecessary
  • SATs are not required for admission (again, this is for most programs)
  • Cost savings are very significant

Students attending a community college must plan their classes there carefully to be sure that most or all of their credits can be transferred to a 4-year college of their choice if they decide to continue their studies.

Many community colleges have articulation agreements with 4-year colleges. Here’s what Rowan College at Gloucester County (a local favorite) has to say about their articulation agreements.
 "Rowan College at Gloucester County has partnered with a number of four-year universities to make earning a bachelor's degree a seamless transition, with cost- and time-saving rewards. Graduates of Rowan College are guaranteed admission at their choice university, provided they meet prerequisite requirements and grade-point-average standards.."
It’s important to note that students must meet certain criteria in terms of achievement while at the community college to be accepted at the four-year institution. As you can see, a community college is a great place for many students to start, or even complete, their higher education.

Student’s who attend a community college most often choose the one closest to home. There are exceptions to this rule though based on the availability of specialized programs. For example, New Jersey students planning to attend a community college and interested in mortuary science will want to attend Mercer Community College, while those interested in culinary arts may want to attend Atlantic Cape Community College.