At the University of Pittsburgh Admissions and Financial Aid office back in the 90’s, I started working as a work-study student giving campus tours. Eventually, after getting my bachelor’s degree and not really wanting to enter the job market, I decided to consider grad school. We had graduate students always in and out of the office working, getting a free ride, so I decided to ask the questions – to see how it could work for me. I had a great manager and she was super helpful with her guidance on how to get my MBA through a graduate tuition fellowship while working there. I was young and the program was rigorous, but since I had many different office jobs since high school, with a few interviews, I got approved for the program. Soon after getting my MBA, the job market still wasn’t very exciting so I was offered, and was happy to accept, my first real full-time gig with Pitt – as an Admissions and Financial aid counselor. I worked there for a few years before winning the job to recruit the first class of the College of Business Administration.
Since a lot of my friends and family know my history working for Pitt, they often ask me how to go about searching for college scholarships. So here goes, here is my advice:
First getting college scholarships is a matter of timing. If you already know which school you want to attend, you really have to apply on time and apply for financial aid as soon as possible. Even if you are not eligible for financial aid, this is the process that gets the ball rolling for internal scholarships and need-based aid. Money is always on a first come first serve basis, so don’t hold up your decision too long as you might just price yourself out of the best and easiest money. Once it’s gone, its gone.
Secondly, independent scholarships can be random. When I was in high school, I went to my guidance counselor’s office on a weekly basis to inquire about any new scholarships they were made aware of. I was always handed a manila folder and made copies of any scholarships that remotely applied to my circumstances. Woman – Check, Christian – Check, Minority – Check, Like to play an instrument – Check – there are a lot of random scholarships out there that you just need to be yourself to get. When I graduated, I was awarded 4 scholarships, I had a solid B average and a decent SAT but I wasn’t setting the world on fire. I even got one from the Rotary Club which I cannot remember even applying for. You must be diligent; you will win the war if you are.
Third, if you have a talent, there is a scholarship for it. Of course Athletics is the most widely known, but you don’t need to be the fastest running back in your school to earn a scholarship. There are division 2 and 3 scholarships out there, many being partial, but often times just enough to even out the costs to make it affordable enough for you to attend the school of your dreams. Being on scholarship also gives you extra support and helps to structure your time. A huge benefit is free tutoring, which helps you to make it through that crazy freshman year.
Fourth, if you are in the Band, toot your own horn – there are band and majorette scholarships.
Fifth, ask family members. Often times Uncle John or Aunt Tess is a member of a remote organization that gives away scholarships on an annual basis and sometimes they have a hard time finding good candidates for them. .
Sixth, explore military benefits – Many military organizations have scholarships focused on veterans’ children. Go online to the branch of service you are linked to, and see what other organization’s advertise for their scholarships or provided links on the family pages. Also, connect with AFCEA – the Armed Forces Communication and Electronics Association, many are very education focused and give away scholarships to STEM focused students.
Always be sure to ask if the scholarships are one time or renewable for 4 years – you will be surprised how many will renew for all 4 years.
I hope this information helps some. To get you started, I would recommend starting in your guidance counselor’s office. Some of the traditional organizations are still using snail mail as their preferred method of communication guaranteed – not sure if they are still using manila files but I bet some are. Next, visit these websites for more information:
Have questions or feedback? Post your comments. I would love to hear from you.