Nothing strikes fear in the hearts of parents like a question about paying for college. Will we qualify for financial aid? How much does college cost? How best to save for college? How can my child earn scholarships? 

We all need a roadmap when navigating these questions. A great first step is in your child’s guidance office. Most guidance counselors can steer you toward an online database of national, regional and local scholarships. Another great source of information requires a little preplanning. In your child’s junior year, contact the financial aid office of their top schools. Find out their application deadlines for various aid and scholarships. 

Financial aid and scholarship tips for your student:

  1. Meet all application deadlines: Start a financial aid calendar. Put a reminder a month prior to every deadline so that you have adequate time to get recommendations and transcripts
  2. Gather application materials early: The sooner you talk to your references for recommendations, the better. The best teachers and coaches get inundated with requests, and you want to give them adequate time to write the best recommendation they can for you. Some guidance offices only send out transcripts once or twice a month, so you want to get those requests in early.
  3. Visit your school’s scholarship website. See below for links.
  4. Talk to your guidance counselor: They are your gateway to a successful college career. From testing, to admissions and financial aid, your guidance counselor is your own personal expert. Talk to them about your goals, and ask for their help in achieving them.
  5. Don’t ignore small awards: The larger national awards have many people apply, but the local women’s club, sorority, professional organization or rotary club may have smaller scholarships, and $500 awards add up quickly. My daughter obtained over $16,000 in scholarships by applying to every small scholarship she was eligible for, and only one was for $4000. The rest were $1000 or under.
  6. Request letters of recommendations early. See number 2. This cannot be stressed enough, let the recommender know deadlines, and provide them with a list of your accomplishments and things that set you apart to make it easy for the recommender to make the letter personal.
  7. Write a great essay: This is the key to many scholarships. Many students won’t take the time to do this. My daughter started her junior year. Every month I would give her a topic (from a previous scholarship app) and a starting sentence. She would write an essay and we would review it together. By the time she had to write her actual essays, she was comfortable with the process. 
  8. Sing your own praises: This is one time not to be modest. Highlight those things that interest you, that make you special, that you have done that have made a difference in the world and things that have changed your perspective. The goal is to set yourself apart from the rest of the crowd. (This is true for admission essays also.)
  9. Try, try again: Numbers are key. You probably won’t win them all, but you can win many. While most of the scholarships are for seniors, there are organizations that offer scholarships for applicants as early as their freshman year. Apply early and apply to everything you qualify for, and wait for the phone to start ringing. It is joyful when you get to celebrate the fruits of your labor.

Scholarship Links in Flagler County:

Flagler Palm Coast High School:

Matanzas High School:

Scholarship Links in St. Johns County:

Bartram Trail High School:

Creekside High School:

Pedro Menendez High School:

Allen D. Nease High School:

Ponte Vedra High School:

St. Augustine High School:

St. Johns Technical High School:

Scholarship Links in Volusia County:

Deland High School:

Atlantic High School:

Deltona High School:

Mainland High School:

New Smyrna Beach High School:

Pine Ridge High School:

Seabreeze High School:

Spruce Creek High School:

Taylor High School:

University High School:

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