Remember that a scholarship can help pay for tuition, books and fees and with costs rising each year, this type of assistance can often be the difference between getting a college degree or not getting that degree. In addition, scholarships may be based on academic performance, athletic ability, financial need or a student’s association with a particular group or organization. This last item may open up a world of scholarship help that some have never considered.
When looking for help in paying for a college education, parents and students should not limit their search to just the very competitive scholarships that come from a specific school. Many students think of a scholarship as only the money given to students in the top 5 percent of the class who go to a prestigious university. But this vision is far from the truth.
In addition to seeking assistance from a university and/or large corporation, college-bound students may want to look for help from one of the many religious and fraternal organizations. While these scholarships are also quite competitive, the fact that they are limited to members of certain organizations or church-bodies can make them attractive sources for funds.
Sometime during the junior year of high school, or no later than the first semester of the senior year, students and their parents or guardians should begin to ask a few questions about what the student is interested in and what they want to study. Along with these questions, the student should also consider who they are and which groups or organizations they belong to. When writing down some of the memberships and areas of interest that may be sources of financial help, it would be best not to set any limits. If a parent or close relative is a member of a fraternal organization, church or similar or similar, there is a simple rule to follow – apply.
In this area alone, thousands of dollars go unclaimed each year, simply because no one asked and no on applied. Many groups and organizations, not to mention colleges and universities, urge parents and students to actively seek scholarship help even if the student is not in the top 10 percent, 20 percent or 30 percent of the class. In addition, a student should not be steered away from applying for a scholarship due to age or to the fact that they work and will not be a full-time, traditional freshman.
For those who are high school students, the best place to start is the high school counselor’s office. In fact, this may be a good place to start for those who are older and will not be a “traditional” college freshman. Religious and fraternal organizations often supply counselors with basic information about college scholarships. While it may seem that the high school counselor may only have information on more traditional academic scholarships, remember that a simple brochure and a phone number may open a door that the student and parents have not considered.
Beyond the information this office will provide, a student should contact local organizations because the more limited number of local residents may help the student’s chances in getting the scholarship. For example, one fraternal organization offers several hundred dollars in scholarships each year to children of members who live in a particular city. Three are $1000 scholarships and two are $500 scholarships. According to the group’s guidelines, applicants must be average or above average academically and must be of sound moral character. Those who are chosen to receive a scholarship will have a personal interview with an organization member.
One of the myths surrounding scholarships is that the money goes only to the best students. While this may be true of many academic scholarships, most counselors, college admissions personnel and others who help prospective students emphasize that financial help may be available to a far greater number of students. In fact, many religious organizations specifically target students who fit the average or above average category and who are members of that particular church or group.
A preliminary search for religious scholarships will turn up dozens of church-related organizations that have funds available. A few well-placed questions at local churches and fraternal organizations can uncover dollars that may not be used otherwise. For example, one church organization offers up to $1,000 to students who are active members of the church. The grade point average is not a significant factor, though financial need certainly is. As the group notes, the number of awards varies from year to year, depending on the amount of money available and the number of applicants.
Another scholarship with church ties offers help for church members who attend a particular church-related university. While this may seem to set very strict limits on the number of students who may benefit, keep in mind that the number of scholarships and the amount of each scholarships vary, again depending on how many students apply and how much money is in the fund each year.
A third type of church-related scholarship does not restrict the student to a particular university, though this student must be a member of the denomination. The scholarship may be used at any two-year or four-year school and grade point average is often a rather minor consideration. However, even these types of scholarships can be competitive if a number of students apply. Better grades and a resume that contains community activity and service will definitely help a student’s chances. As with most scholarships and grants, religious and fraternal organization scholarships have an early deadline. This is usually in February or March of the year, with the scholarships to be used in the following semester.
The bottom line with fraternal and religious based scholarships is – don’t limit yourself to just one or two sources that you are most comfortable with. Stretch the limits a bit by asking a local pastor, a high school counselor or an admissions staff member at a nearby university. These individuals sincerely want people both young and old to further both education and the mission of the church or organization.