There are many ways to pay for college:
1) Get a job!
2) Encourage your parents to start investing in a 529 when you are a baby [might be too late!]
3) Take out lots of loans [bad option!]
4) Apply for lots of scholarships [fantastic option!]
The best formula for getting scholarships is: lots of volunteering/serving in your community [most important] + extracurricular activities + grades as a 9-12th grader. During your Junior (and especially) Senior year, consider spending 1-5 hours/week on applying for scholarships.
How to get Scholarships
- Good grades (A-B average is helpful) & ACT scores
- After school involvement (sports, activities)
- Community service (Community service is the most important!)
A simple plan to follow (freshman-senior year):
- Strive for good grades. The best grades will not earn you a scholarship, but bad grades will definitely hurt your chances.
- Take the ACT practice course and/or practice tests.
- Do after school activities
- Play a sport. (If you are just an average athlete, consider doing a sport like cross country or track. It will keep you in shape and looks great for scholarships)
- Be involved in a school club or activity. (Band, student council, mathletes, ect).
- I was loosely involved with student council and youth and government in high school. It did not take much time, I got to hang out with my friends, and I then wrote that I did it on scholarship applications!
- Do community service.
- You have a great advantage being involved at Bloomingdale Church and the youth group because we are constantly doing service projects and most of you are involved in a regular serving activity (children’s church, Day Camp, Awana, media team, SLT, music team, etc).
- Scholarship committees want to give money to students who are serving in the community.
- Document everything you do.
- Beginning your freshman year, document your extracurricular activities for later reference. (I would include everything from weekly activities to one-time service projects.)
- Professionally organize your activities in “understandable” terminology.
- During your Junior-Senior summer/Senior fall, take time to neatly organize your involvements on a computer. (I suggest making a chart that includes hours involved and a short description of the activity.)
- Describe church service projects using non-church language. (Example: Gulf Coast Missions trip is now described as “Gulf Coast Hurricane Relief Trip: Served in Louisiana on June 25-July 3, 2006 by assisting in rebuilding efforts, cleaning up damaged homes and yards, and listening to people’s stories.”
- Search for scholarships (Senior year is by far the best year to get scholarships)
- Even if you think you are going to a community college first, you still should apply for scholarship senior year!
- Sign up for free FastWeb scholarship search.
- Talk to school guidance counselor about available scholarships.
- Scholarships ideas: retail chains (Target, Best Buy), schools (your elementary, middle, and high school), local (chamber of commerce, women’s club, city), workplace (your parent’s work, your work), and ethnicity (Italian American).
- When filling out scholarship applications, be professional!
- Print neatly (type if possible). Type out all application questions
- Turn it in ahead of time.
- Reuse information.
- Many applications ask for the same information. Since you have already organized your activity involvement (on the computer) and answered some of the same questions, you can save time on the next scholarship application.
- Ask for recommendations early.
- Give them plenty of time to fill out the application (at least 3-4 weeks!)
- Attach a cover letter that includes any instructions as well as some helpful information about what activities you have been involved in. (Your math teacher probably does not know that you coached little league soccer!)
- As the deadline approaches, follow-up and politely remind the recommender that you need the recommendation by the deadline.
- Write a thank you not when they give you the recommendation.
- Get the scholarship check personalized.
- If you win a scholarship and the committee gives you the option of the check being written to you, do this! When colleges see that you have won outside scholarships, they sometimes will pull back some of the aid that they said they would give you.
Remember, if you spend ten hours preparing a scholarship application and win $500 dollars, you are making $50 an hour without tax. Can you say, “Free money!”
What is God calling you to do with your life? If you could choose any career path at this point, what would it be?
Begin to ask God to guide you in what vocation you should pursue.
If you are looking into public universities/private colleges, consider:
- What Christian on-campus groups are available?
- Is there a church that you would feel comfortable attending?
- Are you spiritually prepared to live in an environment with many temptations?
- What kind of scholarship does the college offer
If you are looking into Christian colleges, consider:
- What kind of “Christian” college are they? (You do not have to be a Christian at some
- Christian colleges…this changes the experience big time.)
- *There are three types of Christian colleges: a Christian college where there is Christian influence, but not everyone is necessarily a Christian (Hope); a Christian college where there is strong Christian influence with a liberal arts focus (Wheaton, Taylor, Bethel, IWU); a Christian Bible college with strong Christian influence and extra Bible class requirements (Crown, Toccoa Falls, Moody)
- How many Bible classes are a part of your general education?
- What is chapel like? Do people go?
- What is the spiritual climate like on campus? Are students there to grow in their faith or party? Are students involved in regular ministry?
- What kind of scholarship does the college offer?
- Start reading about what colleges fit you.
For Christian colleges, consider:
- Going to www.christiancollegeguide.net
- Googling: “Christian Colleges”
- Attending a college fair (there is at least one in the area every semester)
- Reading Daniel’s “Christian College Descriptions”
- Visit colleges in person
- Do not go on a campus preview weekend. (We joked at my college that this was the only time that the food was good and the flowers were blooming.)
- Ask current students on campus why they like it. Ask them if they are growing in their relationship with the Lord. Ask them what they are involved in. Ask them about chapel, intramural sports and varsity sports teams, available ministries, professors, etc.
- Apply for colleges early!
- We suggest applying in the fall of your senior year.
- You are more likely to get accepted when you apply early.
- Once accepted, you can then apply for financial aid. (The earlier you apply, the more likely you are to receive it.)
- Take high school AP classes or summer COD classes.
- If you feel comfortable with a particular subject and your high school offers it as an Advanced Placement class, you can get college credit.
- COD offers summer classes for discount. You can take one of these classes after you graduate.
- Taking AP classes in high school and COD classes is a cheaper way to take general education classes (math, history, English, science). For my brother Joel and I, it opened up the opportunity to take other classes that we were interested in at college.
- Finish strong.
- Once you have been accepted to a school, the tendency is to neglect your current high school life and fantasize your future college life. Don’t do this. Finish well in your high school and youth group experience.
Finish strong: Leave a legacy in someone else’s life before you graduate!
Christian College Descriptions
Daniel’s College Overview
Christian College Fairs (local fair with many colleges)