It is heartbreaking to hear stories of students working frantically against a scholarship deadline, and hitting “submit” just a few minutes too late. All that hard work, but nothing to show for it. For that reason, I start talking about application and scholarship deadlines almost from the first day of Senior Year. As sad as that story is, there is one kind of deadline that is even worse to miss….the one you didn’t even know to try for, might have benefitted from.
We have high hopes that students will be applying to schools and scholarships all around the country…from home-town local scholarships and their near-by community colleges to out-of-state schools and National level scholarships. When kids apply to local scholarships, they are a bigger fish in a smaller pond. When they apply for national-level scholarships, they are a tiny fish in the ocean…but someone has to win. Most scholarships are asking students to answer, in some form, two questions: Who are you? What do you hope to do? Those same two questions show up on college applications, and during job interviews, plus every time you meet a new person…so more practice at presenting this information is great.
Here is the deadline I cannot help students with: School specific scholarships. Often, these are a tremendous source of help in the world of paying for education. Universities, community/junior colleges and trade schools ALL offer scholarships to incoming students….but here is the catch: They all have different deadlines. They also often ask a student to submit their application for admission EARLIER than the general application deadline (called Early Action). For many schools, the deadline to apply for both the school and the scholarships that can be won is NOVEMBER FIRST. Sadly, most Seniors are just getting their FAFSA figured out, and are still working to figure out which schools they want to apply to….so they have not looked yet at school scholarships and their specific deadlines.
If you are a Senior, go to the website for EACH school you are considering: look up both their application deadline AND their scholarships. Note scholarship requirements and the deadlines. Do they want you to apply to the school by a certain date to qualify for the scholarship? An EARLY ACTION DEADLINE is generally November 1st, rather than later in the year. An “early action” school is asking you to apply early, but you DO NOT HAVE TO ACTUALLY ATTEND. You can wait to see what other schools will offer you in their financial aid offers, and choose the one who offers you the best financial aid package.
Early DECISION is very different. This is a school making you a very good financial aid offer, and asking you to COMMIT TO THAT SCHOOL. In one way this is good, in that the school is “courting” you, and making you a very good financial aid offer. The bad news is you are 100% committed, and if another school makes you a better offer later, you are stuck with the Early Decision school. If you are offered an Early Decision financial aid package, be certain it is a school you REALLY WANT to attend, because you are committed to your choice.
It can be very challenging to pay for college, but it is VERY SAD to miss out on scholarships you didn’t realize they had, and can’t apply for because the deadlines have flown by. Choosing a school is a very big decision, and finding their scholarships is a big part of that process. November 1st is looming, so the time to finalize your research is NOW. Good Luck!!
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