18 Ways Parents Can Help With the Scholarship Process
If you’re new to the scholarship application process, there’s a lot of uncharted territory and even the most organized aspiring college students could use a little parental assistance. To help students win awards and offset the rising cost of college education, we’ve put together a few tips on how parents can reduce their child’s workload, unspool the complexities of financial aid, and avoid stepping on any toes.
How parents can help with the scholarship process
For many high school students, the college application process is an opportunity to take responsibility for their future. As a parent, carving out your place within the process is essential to your child’s success—particularly when it comes to winning scholarships. Here are 18 ways to add your parental touch to your child’s application process.
1. Decipher the difference between financial aid and scholarships
Most high school students don’t yet understand the different components of affording college. What is financial aid? What is a scholarship? How are they different? What is the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA®)? How do I apply for the Pell Grant? Is it possible to get a degree without taking on student loans? All of these (and many more) are normal questions that your child might not know the answer to – or might not even know to ask. As a parent, educate your child and guide them through the nitty gritty of financial aid, student loans, and scholarships.
The easiest distinction? A scholarship is essentially free money that will never need to be repaid.
2. Organize the scholarship search
Helping to organize your child’s college application process will increase their chance of success and reduce the possibility of forgotten deadlines or missing application materials. If your child is focused on identifying colleges and completing those applications during their senior year, you could quarterback organizing their scholarship application process.
3. Identify trustworthy sources
With over 1.7 million scholarship opportunities come almost as many opportunities for scammers to steal sensitive personal information. As an adult, help your child identify trustworthy college scholarship websites and avoid websites rife with scams. A rule of thumb: if any scholarship requires an application fee, there’s a good chance it isn’t legitimate.
Unlike many other websites, Going Merry goes to great lengths to verify every scholarship program listed on our site. We double-check scholarship providers, ensure no award carries any type of fee, and guarantee every award listed on our site is high-quality and scam-free.
4. Browse scholarship websites
Once you’ve found the scholarship databases you trust, browse each one. You’ll notice overlap between a few, but you’ll also likely find scholarship programs unique to each website. You could invest a lot of time into sifting through different scholarship opportunities to discover the ones right for your child. But if you can’t, Going Merry makes it more efficient. When your child creates a profile on our site, we’ll identify scholarship opportunities that fit their eligibility profile — things like their GPA, location, hobbies, ethnicity — and send those awards straight to their inbox.
5. Brainstorm what makes your child unique
After searching different scholarship websites, you’ll get a feel for different types of awards. You’ll probably be surprised at how specific and unique some awards are. Instead of only focusing on the usual types of awards like merit scholarships or those based on financial need, think about what makes your child unique. Do they love to spend time volunteering? Will they be the first in your family to go to college? Are they passionate about reducing drunk driving? If your child has a singular hobby, skill, or interest, search for awards along those lines.
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6. Tap into your personal and local network
One of the best strategies for winning scholarships is to identify local awards with less competition. National scholarship contests can be prestigious and offer lucrative prizes, but most attract tens of thousands of applicants. Even if your child is highly qualified, the odds are stacked against them. Don’t let this deter you all from pursuing these scholarship opportunities – but try to balance them with local scholarships, too.
Reach out to your personal network and browse social media accounts for local businesses. Are you an alumnus of a specific college or a member of a professional organization? From non-profit organizations to small businesses, you’ll be surprised by the number of scholarship programs that might not be on your radar. Find state, county, and even district-specific awards. To access Going Merry’s lists of state-specific scholarships, see number 18 on this list.
7. Curate a list of awards
Flag the scholarship opportunities that make sense for your child and house them all in one place to easily track different requirements. Some families use a scholarship-tracker template like this one for Google Sheets or this one for Excel. On Going Merry, you can create a list of awards directly on our website and track necessary details like deadlines, application materials, etc.
8. Brush up on winning tips
There are a number of ways to make a scholarship application stand out. Selection committees are looking for different things. Some programs prioritize scholarship applicants who apply early. Use the wealth of knowledge on the internet to your child’s advantage. Research how to win scholarships. Share examples of successful scholarship essays with your child. Read profiles of previous scholarship winners, which are usually available on the provider’s website.
9. Strategize your approach
Some awards are easier to apply to than others. Before you and your child tackle your list, take a step back and strategize your approach. For example, it might be a good idea to complete the easiest applications first. That way, you instill a sense of accomplishment and motivation to do the harder work. On the other hand, you may want to do the hardest part first and dedicate time to perfecting essays. With Going Merry, you can filter awards by level of competition and use this intel to prioritize your applications.
Once you identify an approach, write a to-do list. Then, divide and conquer. If your child is focused on essay writing, lighten their load by sourcing financial documents, high school transcripts, or completing the FAFSA®. Completing the FAFSA® can be challenging at any age, so use Going Merry’s FAFSA® Made Easier to make the application a breeze.
10. Help them brainstorm application materials
Depending on the scholarship application, your child will need supplemental materials. This could be letters of recommendation, tax documents, essays, or a creative project to showcase a skill. If your child has a series of scholarship essays to tackle, sit with them and brainstorm topics, personal anecdotes, or ways to approach tough prompts. If they need to ask for letters of recommendation, think through different teachers, coaches, or mentors who know them well and can speak to their character and work ethic.
11. Identify outside resources
Sometimes, outside perspectives can be just the thing to help students feel motivated. If that’s the case for your child, assist them in finding those external resources. This could be an in-school guidance counselor, a tutor, a private college counselor, or even a how-to book. If your child needs some extra guidance on their essays, reach out to local community colleges or universities and hire students who might want to aid an aspiring college student in exchange for some cash. An added bonus? These students might have experience and be able to lend insight into the scholarship application process.
12. Keep scholarship deadlines at the forefront
High school seniors have a lot on their plate. Add value by reminding them of scholarship deadlines and tracking the continually evolving to-do list. Some families like to do this with a physical calendar where you can include details and dates, while others might find it easier to go digital with email or text reminders to keep everyone in sync.
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13. Proofread essays and applications
Careful proofreading can take a scholarship essay from average to extraordinary. It’s tough to notice typos or identify mediocre sentences when you’re too close to a piece of writing, which is where you come in. Read your child’s essay with fresh eyes and boost it to the next level by catching grammatical errors, repetitive words, and other areas where they could improve.
14. Resist the temptation to do the work for them
While it can be challenging to see your child struggle to balance their tasks, doing the work for them is never the answer. Scholarship review committees are well-versed in reading essays from high school students — and they’ll be able to spot a parent-penned essay from a mile away. Not only could you get your child disqualified from scholarship programs, you’ll also be taking away a valuable opportunity for them to learn.
15. Don’t apply too much pressure
The looming promise of a full ride can tempt even the most level-headed of parents to micromanage their child’s scholarship application process. No matter how excited you get, try not to put too much pressure on your child. They have a huge burden to manage and the weight of your expectations will only add to their stress in a negative way.
16. Offer support
Throughout the college application process, your child will face wins and losses. You can be their biggest cheerleader when they need some extra encouragement. Take them out for ice cream to celebrate when they win an award – or even when they check something tough off their to-do list. And be a sympathetic ear if they just need to vent or cry. This time brings up a lot of emotions. No matter how old we get, none of us like to be rejected. Your support, encouragement, and belief in your child will go a long way toward bolstering their mindset as they approach a busy and difficult season.
17. Help your child understand how to use their award
When your child wins a scholarship, work together to understand how their award works. Some award dollars might go straight to your child’s college, while others might get deposited into their bank account to be used for other college expenses. Most scholarships can’t be used for just anything, and it’s vital to understand the fine print.
18. Remind them to say thank you
Undoubtedly, there were many people (aside from you) who helped during your child’s scholarship application process. Remind your child to express their gratitude. Encourage them to write a “thank you” to the teachers who penned recommendation letters. Prompt your child to send a grateful email to the selection committee who chose them for an award. Some college students will need to apply for scholarships each year, and everyone remembers the students who say thank you.
Get matched to scholarships with Going Merry
As your family prepares to send a child off to college, creating a plan to afford college tuition and other expenses is a vital part of the process. Hopefully, scholarships can make up a meaningful piece of the puzzle. As a parent, your presence and aid will be invaluable to ensure your child thrives — and wins more awards — during the scholarship application process.
Going Merry is passionate about empowering families to afford higher education. We curate a robust database of scholarship opportunities and guarantee our offerings are high-quality, scam-free, and applicable to a number of students. We also make the scholarship application process easier by allowing you to create lists, track deadlines, and house personal documents all in one spot. When your child creates a profile, we’ll match them to awards and send those scholarship opportunities straight to their inbox. Encourage your child to reach their educational goals by signing up for Going Merry today.