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Let’s begin by talking a little bit about the types of financial aid that are available to you. There are four types of financial aid: scholarships, grants, work-study, and loans. Today we’re going to focus on scholarships, specifically outside/private scholarships.
A scholarship is money that doesn’t require repayment. While Illinois does offer merit-based scholarships, which would be considered an institutional scholarship, there’s another type of scholarship out there called an outside/private scholarship. What that means is that the money is not coming from the academic institution but from another source. These sources can be local organizations, national/international organizations, community based organizations, corporations, etc.
A great place to start looking for local scholarships is with your high school guidance counselor. They are more than likely aware of some local scholarships that you could apply for. While local scholarships may not be worth the “big bucks,” that money can add up to quite a chunk of change. Also, there is less competition for local scholarships as opposed to national scholarships. And while I always recommend looking in your local area for scholarships, there are also federal and state scholarships, as well as the outside/private scholarships that we were just talking about.
While some of these scholarships are geared towards younger students, the majority of them open their applications to students during the fall of their senior year. So what can you do right now to start preparing? I’m glad you asked!
You can start by writing your personal statement. This is your chance to stand out and to tell the scholarship committee something about yourself that isn’t included on the scholarship application itself. What I recommend doing is writing a statement which can be molded to fit several different prompts.
Some examples of questions that could be asked: Discuss a special attribute or accomplishment that sets you apart. Why are you a good candidate to receive this award? Who in your life has been your biggest influence and why?
As always, when writing a personal statement, be sure to have several people from different backgrounds read your statement. Each of them will have their own writing style, notice different things about your writing, and have different suggestions on how you can improve your statement.
Once you’re satisfied with your statement, go ahead and do a little research to see what day the scholarships that you’re interested in applying for open. Be sure to write these down on a calendar so that you don’t miss their open/close deadlines.
So what are you waiting for? Let’s get writing!