10 Ways High School Seniors in the USA Can Secure College Scholarships
#AskDanielTrust is a weekly column and vlog where Daniel Trust, an award-winning social entrepreneur, motivational speaker and youth advocate, answers questions and gives advice to young people from around the world. Do you have a question for Daniel Trust? If so, please connect and send him a message on Instagram, Facebook, Twitter or Linkedin.
In this week’s #AskDanielTrust, Michael says: Daniel, your website shows that you have awarded over $100,000 in college scholarships to young people in the United States. What advice would you give to a high school senior who is searching for college scholarships?
Michael, this is a great question. In the past 7 years, I’ve had the honor and privilege of mentoring and investing in the college education of 115 young people in the United States.
In this column and vlog, I am going to share 10 strategies and tips high school seniors in the United States can use to find and secure college scholarships.
1. Talk to your high school guidance counselor or college advisor
One of the best ways to find and secure college scholarships is to talk to your high school guidance counselor or college advisor and ask them if they know of any college scholarship opportunities for seniors in your community.
From my personal and professional experience working with high school juniors and seniors, I’ve found that when companies, organizations and individuals have a scholarship opportunity, they share that opportunity with your high school guidance office and ask them to recommend any students who fit the scholarship criteria and can benefit from the scholarship.
When I was in high school, my guidance counselor nominated me for a $10,000 scholarship from a national organization and I received it. This scholarship made a huge impact in my life.
My advice would be to build a strong relationship with your guidance counselor or college advisor and ask them to keep you in mind when they come across scholarship opportunities for students like you. You never know, you might end up securing a huge scholarship because your guidance counselor knows about your goals and how the scholarship can help you.
2. Complete The Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA)
As a high school senior applying to college and for financial aid, you will be hearing a lot about the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) this Fall from your guidance counselor or college advisor.
To apply for financial aid at the colleges you want to attend, you will need to complete the FAFSA as soon as it becomes available in October. Financial aid offices use the information you provide about you and your parents in FAFSA to determine how much financial aid you need and how much they will award you.
Many of the students I’ve worked with at Daniel Trust Foundation have qualified for the Pell grant, which is $6,345 for the 2020-21 award year. The Pell grant is awarded to students who have exceptional financial need and have not earned any college degrees.
The amount you receive for the Pell grant can change yearly and it also depends on how much your family expects to contribute to the costs of your college education, the cost of your school, your status as a full or part time student, and your plans to attend college for a full year or less.
When I was in college, I received the Pell grant for all the years I spent in college and this grant made a huge impact in my life. Keep in mind that by completing the FAFSA you may qualify for other grants, scholarships and grants from the federal government and your state.
3. Complete The College Board CSS Profile
If you are applying to private colleges and universities, chances are you will be required to complete the College Board’s CSS profile in addition to the FAFSA.
The CSS Profile is an online application that collects information used by nearly 400 colleges and scholarship programs to award non-federal aid.
Each year, the CSS Profile gives access to more than $9 billion for thousands of undergraduate, graduate and professional students who chose to attend private colleges.
Please check with the private colleges you are interested in to see if they will also require that you complete the CSS Profile in addition to FAFSA. If they require the CSS Profile, please make sure you work with your parents and college advisor to complete it as soon as it opens in October.
4. Talk to your high school sports coach or athletic director
When I was in high school, the athletic director at my school nominated me for a $500 scholarship because I was co-athletic of the year my senior year and I received it.
If you play a sport and you are good at it, ask your coach or athletic director if they are aware of any sports scholarship opportunities for talented student athletes like you.
One of my former students received a full-tuition scholarship to run track at a local university because he was very good and he built a strong relationship with his coach.
Keep in mind that sometimes when you are very good in a certain sport, you can be recruited to a college and qualify for a full ride scholarship. It’s very competitive, but it’s possible.
5. Find out if your high school clubs offer scholarships
There is a chance that the student clubs you are involved in at your high school offer college scholarships opportunities to its members who stand out more than other members.
When I was a senior in high school, I was a member of the key club and because I added a lot of value to the club, my advisor nominated me to receive the club’s scholarship. I believe the scholarship was $1,500. Cool, right?
I also know students who have received college scholarships from local clubs like the Rotary club and other student clubs that are nationally recognized.
If you are part of the Math and Science club or any other student clubs at your high school, you should definitely talk to your club advisor and ask them if there is a scholarship opportunity for club members.
6. Apply for scholarships offered at your local community foundation
Did you know that every major county or city in the United States has a community foundation and these organizations give out millions of dollars every year in college scholarships?
Yep! That is true. When I graduated from high school, I received a couple of college scholarships from my local community foundation in Connecticut.
These renewable scholarships changed my life. When students ask me for scholarship recommendations, I always encourage them to visit the website of their local community foundation and find out what kinds of scholarships they offer to talented high school and college students.
To find a community foundation in your state, simply use Google and search for “Community Foundation in your city, county or state.” The list of all the community foundations will pop up. Visit their websites and learn more about the college scholarships they offer and deadlines.
7. Find out if your employer has a scholarship program
Many large companies in the United States offer college scholarships and/or tuition assistance programs for their employees and their children.
If you or your parents work for a large company, you should check with your Human Resources Department to ask them if they have any college scholarship programs.
When I was in college, I worked for a large bank and they offered a tuition assistance program for their employees. At the end of each semester, I would complete an application listing my classes and grades. The company would then reimburse me the tuition costs I had paid for my classes.
If you work for a small business or organization, it's also worth asking your manager if they have any scholarship opportunities. It doesn't hurt to ask.
8. Learn more about the college scholarships your friends received
One of the best ways to find college scholarships is to ask your friends what kinds of scholarships they received when they graduated.
For example, if one of your friends posts on social media that they received a college scholarship, do research on that scholarship program.
When I work with high school students, I always recommend they ask their friends for college scholarship recommendations and when it’s appropriate, I encourage them to ask their friends to put in a good work for them to the program managers who manage the scholarship program.
9. Talk to a financial aid advisor at the college you are applying to
Many colleges in the United States list the scholarship opportunities they offer to students like you on their financial aid office’s website.
I highly recommend you visit the financial aid office website at the college you are interested in going to and review all the information and scholarships they offer. After you've done your research and you have questions, email or call one of the financial aid officers listed on the website.
When you call, introduce yourself and tell the financial aid advisor that you are very interested in attending their college and ask if they can give you more information about the scholarships you saw on their website.
By doing this, you are building a relationship with that school and that relationship can be valuable to you if you do decide to attend that college.
10. Apply to scholarships offered by your college’s foundation
Once you’ve been accepted into college, you can continue searching for scholarships and a great place to start is with your college’s foundation.
Majority of colleges in the United States have foundations and the jobs of those foundations is to raise money for student scholarships.
In most cases, these foundations work alongside the alumni association or alumni office. My recommendation is that you learn more about the scholarships your college’s foundation offers and build a relationship with the professionals who work in those offices so that when a scholarship opportunity opens up, they think of you and recommend you for it.
The above tips will help you secure scholarships for college
Michael, I hope my answer to your question was helpful to you and all the high school seniors in the United States who will be searching for college scholarships this Fall.
Did you find this article and video helpful? If so, please share it on your social media or with a young person who can benefit from reading it.
Do you have any other advice you’d like to add to my advice? If so, please share it in the comments of this article or video. Thank you so much for reading and watching. Stay tuned to next week’s #AskDanielTrust Q&A.
Daniel Trust is President and CEO at Daniel Trust Foundation, an award-winning nonprofit organization that supports young people in the United States and Rwanda through various educational programs and digital campaigns. To support Daniel Trust Foundation's work, please sign up to become a monthly donor by visiting: www.DanielTrustFoundation.org.