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Paying for college: A ‘How To’ scholarship guide for rising seniors

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How to find scholarships:

Finding scholarships to alleviate the overwhelming price of college can seem daunting. We have all heard the pledges from guidance counselors about the abundance of elusive scholarships out there for left-handed people, for those with blue eyes, for people who have a knack for collecting stamps. Going into my senior year, the year where the importance of scholarships really starts to kick in, I thought finding free money would be easy. Let me say that money waiting to be given away to students pursuing higher education does exist; it’s just not as simple to find the big bucks. Here are my tips, if you are starting on your search for scholarships.

When should you start looking?

According to every guidance counselor, you should start looking for scholarships early in your high school career. And generally, I agree. However, as a freshman, I was more concerned with not getting lost in the daunting hallways than I was with my future, a far four years down the road. I did not start to apply for scholarships until the summer before my senior year. I found it helpful to set aside some time each month of my senior year to dedicate to searching for and applying to scholarships. Setting milestones for yourself — whether it be per day, per week or per month — is helpful for getting to your final goal. I set the goal of applying for two-to-four scholarships per month, which sectioned and separated the amount of money I knew I needed to get for college into manageable chunks.

Where should you look?

This was my biggest question when I started looking for scholarships: Where should I go to actually find this money? Like many others, I started my search online and quickly became overwhelmed by the sheer magnitude of sites out there offering to send me to college for free. I did not know which ones were worthwhile and which were busts. But during my senior year, the counselors created the key to the scholarship kingdom: The Grady High School Scholarship Guide which contains hundreds — if not thousands — of scholarships ranging in prize money from a few hundred dollars to full tuition. This resource changed the course of my scholarship search.

The counselors’ suite is also a helpful place to turn to when seeking scholarships hunting aid. On the tables outside the counselors’ individual offices, they have handout-after-handout of scholarships open available for students. And if you need help while in the suite, the counselors are never far away!

Who should you ask for help?

There are innumerable sources of help for finding scholarships suited to your financial and merit needs. Many of these sources exist at Grady. I found the best place to ask for help in finding scholarships was in the College and Career Center (CCC), located on the E100 hallway, across from the nurse’s office. The dedicated volunteers who man the CCC are mostly parents themselves, knowledgeable in weeding out pointless scholarships from the life-changing ones. The CCC is open all school day, most populated during the three lunch periods. There are vast numbers of resources available in the CCC besides advice from the volunteers; the center has an impressive collection of up-to-date scholarship books and computers for research of scholarships with live assistance from one of the well-informed volunteers. This year, the College Advising Corps, a group that aims to “increase the number of low-income, first-generation college, and underrepresented high school students who enter and complete higher education” came to Grady. With the program, two recent college graduates were added as permanent resources for Grady students who need help with scholarships

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Paying for college: A ‘How To’ scholarship guide for rising seniors