Most of us know that it's important for college-bound students to be active outside of school so as to appear more well-rounded to admissions officers. We encourage our children to pick up hobbies, play sports, participate in community service activities, get a part-time job--and thankfully, all of those things can actually translate into real dollars when it comes time to pay next semester's tuition. There are hundreds, if not thousands, of scholarships available no matter the niche. So whether your kiddo is the star basketball player or a lifelong insect afficionado, there's probably some financial assistance out there for him, though you may have to do a bit of digging. Check out our tips below.
Read more ¿Qué más?: 9 Ways to fund your kids' college education
What to keep in mind:
Being unique is good. The more unusual your child's activity is, the fewer people he'll be competing against. If your kiddo is into something really offbeat, be sure to search high and low for any related opportunities. Support that interest and explore different organizations related to it. Organization-based scholarships are the easiest to find, but be sure to look for private opportunities as well.
Every little bit adds up. Many interest-based scholarships are for smaller amounts, $500 here, $1,000 there, but don't let that stop you from making the effort. You can apply for various scholarships and combine them all to make a dent in that bill. Every little bit counts, so apply for as many scholarships as possible and remember that no matter how small the amount, if your kid wins, it was worth the effort.
Where to look:
Major-specific. If your child already knows her intended major, this is a good place to start. It's not necessary to commit to a major before starting college, but if your child has, he'll have the opportunity to apply for scholarships and grants related to that major, whether school-sponsored or not. These are especially prolific in science, math and the creative arts.
Private sector. There are lots of wealthy individuals out there who want to help out kids who remind them of themselves. So if your child has a weird hobby or interest, say, a passion for pigs, there's a scholarship for him. No matter how strange the topic, make sure you do a thorough search so you don't miss out on any opportunities.
Memorial scholarships. A great place to find interest-based scholarships is among your school's distinguished alumni, where you'll find many scholarship funds that have been founded in the name of former students who left some of their money behind to help out students with specific interests and hobbies.
Community-specific. Don't forget the little guys. Many local radio stations, newspapers, community groups, towns, etc. have all developed scholarship funds for students in their local area. Check websites, cold call, whatever it takes. Again, the pool of applicants is much smaller, so the odds are better that your child will score the cash.
Recruit some help. Your child may have already had several meetings with his school's guidance counselor, but may not have known to ask for help with more specific things, particularly those unrelated to his course of study. Guidance counselor's can be an excellent ally and are usually thrilled to do some digging for enthusiastic students.
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