As you might guess, How to Go to College Almost for Free is a book about winning scholarships. Its author, Ben Kaplan, won nearly $90,000 in scholarships to use for college. I ran across this book in the library, and thought that there was no time like the present to begin looking into what I could do to help with the scholarship process for my son.
I applied for scholarships myself myself as a senior in high school, but while the application process itself was similar back then, the research process seems to be greatly expanded now. (Which is all to the good; back in the 80’s the research process consisted mostly of checking with my guidance counselor and asking my parents if their employers offered any scholarships.)
The book is aimed primarily at high school students, but includes information for kids as young as 6th grade (did you know there are scholarships that 6th graders can apply for?) and information for current college students, returning (adult) students, and parents of prospective students. I found the sports analogy used throughout the book a little tiring after awhile, but I can see the point.
As a parent, I found the suggestions of where to look for potential scholarships to be the most useful feature of the book. (That and the idea that it pays to start early. Really early.) Among other places, he suggests looking at community groups, local organizations, employers, all levels of government, Dollars for Scholars, and the Encyclopedia of Associations as sources of potential scholarships. Some of the suggestions in the book were a little outdated (it was published in 2001) but a lot of them would still be valid.
As a student, I would have found the tips on how to write essays, get organized, and complete applications the most beneficial. When applying for a scholarship, he stresses using an application theme, which is often “created around particular activities that you’re passionate about, particular interests that fascinate you, life experiences that you’ve faced, or career goals that you’re striving toward.” It seems like good advice; be focused and show things you’ve experienced or are interested in that will help the judges to feel like they know you as a person. He also includes a “Scholarship Coach Search Profile Worksheet” to help people find out information about themselves that might make them eligible for a variety of scholarships. Back when I was applying, that was the toughest part. What was I interested in anyway? What did I do over the years that might apply? The worksheet acts as a nice prompt for those types of things.
Overall I think this is a pretty helpful book for anyone interested in going through the scholarship application process. And scholarships are great things! It may seem like a lot of trouble to seek them out and apply, but it’s not nearly as much trouble as working to pay for school or to pay off debt.