for your child’s education is unwise, many families are forced to be creative with their finances to meet the rising cost of education. According to the College Board, over the last 10 years, fees and room and board for full-time undergraduates increased by 31% at four-year private colleges and by 42% at four-year public institutions. As a result, middle-class families are most likely to feel the pinch.
That’s why we’ve created this comprehensive guide to college financing. In it, you’ll find everything you need to help you identify a plan of action, whether your child is in the first grade or in the last year of high school.
From the time Christopher Phelps, a senior at North Carolina Agricultural and Technical State University, was in elementary school, he knew that academic scholarships were going to be his golden ticket to a free college education. His parents, Norman and Connie Phelps, made sure all three of their sons excelled academically every school year. “We did not have a college f
und established for our boys. We kept our sons
on a strict academic regimen,” says Norman. “They knew that school, community service, and leadership activities were the priority.”
During his junior year in high school, Christopher, who won more than $150,000 in scholarships, spent at least one hour every day researching and filling out college applications. The Phelps family required that each child mail off at least one scholarship application a week. In fact, the other two brothers, Norman and Calvin, received more than $350,000 in scholarships. For Christopher, who boasted a 4.2 grade point average in high school and averaged five to 10 hours of community service a week, finding scholarships to apply for was easy.
In all, Christopher won 13 scholarships from various organizations including Alpha Kappa Alpha. With time, effort, and a little knowledge about where to look, your child can attend college for free, too.
The Scholarship Box
The key to scholarship success is taking the time to fill out applications completely. Marianne Ragins, founder of The Scholarship Workshop (www.scholarshipworkshop.com), an educational and consulting service that gives presentations on college topics, suggests creating a scholarship box to hold all application materials.
In the scholarship box, students should arrange the applications to their top 15 scholarships according to deadline. Here are the other components:
Student activity list This is a list of all the things the student has done from the ninth through the 12th grades. It should state any awards, honors, and participation in academic contests.
Official transcripts The student should request five to 10 copies. High schools have different criteria for obtaining this document, so students should visit their guidance counselor for help.
ooEssays Most scholarships require essays. Ragins suggests that students complete two basic essays: one that describes who he or she is and another that describes future career goals.
Recommendation letters Students should ask for recommendation letters at least two months prior to the application deadline. Ask people who have worked closely with the student and can give a strong recommendation about his or her character