I’ve been substitute teaching at a local Vermont high school for the last few weeks and it’s been an awesome experience. Students like to ask what I do when I’m not at their school. I tell them that I write books and teach students how to find and win scholarships. This always leads to more questions, especially from college-bound seniors. Last week, a student said, “I feel like I’ve missed all of my opportunities. Is it too late to get any scholarships if I start now?”
The bad news is it’s Mud Month here in Vermont (that season between winter and spring), so you’ve missed most of the scholarships available to high school seniors. By my estimates, 40% of the scholarships I find are specifically for high school students, especially the local ones. I tell seniors that this is the most important year to apply for scholarships because it’s the only time they can “triple dip” in the scholarship pool. What I mean by that is, it’s the only time they’re eligible for scholarships for high school seniors, entering freshman, and undergraduates. Next year, that pool shrinks to scholarships only for undergraduate students. (Heads-up, high school juniors!)
The good news is that it’s not too late, but you’ll need to spend time over the summer pulling together documents. You’ll need certain documents in order to apply for scholarships. If you think high school is demanding of your time and energy, college is even more intense. Moving away from home for the first time, getting oriented as a freshman, attending classes, completing challenging homework, perhaps working part time, and, of course, meeting new people and having a social life means you’ll be super busy! This leaves little time left to devote to applying for scholarships. This is why you’ll want to get your Scholarship Portfolio assembled and ready to go. It will save you a ton of time to apply.
What’s a Scholarship Portfolio?
When you find a scholarship, you’ll see that the funding organization has a list of documents you’ve got to send them just to be considered. If you fail to send even one, you’re immediately disqualified. These documents can include:
- The Application (online or paper)
- Official Transcripts (sent from your high school or college) or an Unofficial Transcript (a copy you have and can send)
- Personal Statement and/or Essay
- Letters of Recommendation (1-3 letters may be required)
- Test Scores
- Tax Returns
- Proof of Enrollment
- FAFSA SAR
- Age Verification
- Photo (headshot or a flattering selfie)
I suggested to this high school senior, that he use the summer months to request these documents and write his resume, personal statement, essays, and a sample scholarship application. Keep in mind that it may take a month or two just to get your Letters of Recommendation back. If you need a sample scholarship application, you can find links in our Featured Scholarships. Print one and use it as a sample to work off of to cut down on mistakes and the time it takes to complete new apps. Keep several printed copies of ALL documents in your files for quick assembly so you can easily meet the deadline. Be sure to also scan and create electronic files (e.g., PDF, Word, JPG) of these documents and put them in a scholarship folder on your desktop for online-only applications. This allows you to find and upload the files or print out new copies to mail.
If you want details about the Scholarship Portfolio documents, you can read more about it here. With your portfolio assembled, you can use the “cookie-cutter approach” and save a ton of time on the scholarship application process.
About those Financial Aid Award Letters
High school seniors (and their parents) may find that the financial aid awards they received for their freshman year, evaporate when they’re a sophomore. Unfortunately, I hear this is quite common. Colleges enroll you as a freshman with a nice award package and count on the fact that once you’ve completed your first year, you’ll stay at the college no matter what the price is next year. This is why applying for scholarships throughout your college career is so important—especially if you don’t want to graduate deeply in debt with monthly student loan payments for the next 15-20 years! Here’s a great link for more information about those award letters.
So, no, it’s never too late if you start today. But that’s up to you. If you assemble your Scholarship Portfolio over the summer, you can hit the ground running at the start of the scholarship season (roughly October through March). You’ll find it’s easy to apply immediately for all the scholarships you’re eligible for and still have a social life. Missed deadlines won’t be an issue anymore.
Do you have a scholarship question? Send me an email. I really love to hear from students and parents, especially during Mud Month.