Scholarships are designed to reward academic success and promote educational advancement. Whether you're looking forward to launching your career or you're returning to school to develop new skills, earning a scholarship is a significant accomplishment. In terms of the financial benefits, scholarships are particularly attractive to young professionals and couples who are just starting out in the workforce. More important, receiving a scholarship can open the door to educational and employment opportunities.
Earning a scholarship, particularly a prestigious one, can distinguish you from your classmates and help you to more fully enjoy your educational experience. In addition to covering your education costs, certain scholarships also allow students to take advantage of opportunities to expand their knowledge and experience outside the classroom through internships, fellowships or travel abroad. The Fulbright Scholar Program, for example, affords students the opportunity to study and conduct research in one of approximately 155 countries. Earning one or more scholarships can also raise your visibility and make you more attractive to admissions committees if you plan to continue your education at the graduate level.
If you're preparing to enter the workforce, listing one or more scholarship awards on your resume can set you apart for other candidates and make you more appealing to prospective employers. This is particularly true if the scholarship allowed you to develop certain skills or increase your work experience by completing an internship with a specific company. During hiring, companies that offer internship programs typically give priority consideration to previous interns, with some making direct job offers after the internship ends. Earning a scholarship from a particular company does not necessarily guarantee that you'll receive a job offer, but it can increase your chances of securing employment in that industry or field.
With the cost of a college education on the rise, it's become more vital than ever for students to seek out scholarship funding, no matter how small the amount. According to the College Board, during the 2017-18 school year, the average cost of one year of college was $34,740 at private colleges, $9,970 for state residents at public colleges, and $25,620 for out-of-state residents attending public universities. Federal and private student loans can help to close the gap for students without scholarships, but you can easily find yourself in a pile of debt after graduation. The problem is compounded if you borrow more than you need for basic living expenses. Student loan debt affects 44.2 million Americans, totaling $1.48 trillion nationwide. Adults between the ages of 20 and 30 are paying an average of $351 per month on student loans.
Finding Scholarship Opportunities
Competition for larger awards is often fierce, but smaller awards often have fewer applicants. Your chances of earning a scholarship might be increased by applying for multiple awards in the $1,000 or $2,000 range rather than one or two larger scholarships. Experts recommend searching out lesser-known sources for scholarship funding, starting with awards that are offered locally. Community organizations such as the Kiwanis Club and the Veterans of Foreign Wars often offer smaller scholarships and might receive only a handful of applications. Education funding is also available through corporate contests, professional association awards and work-study or co-op programs.
Rebecca Lake is a freelance writer and virtual assistant living in the southeast. She has been writing professionally since 2009 for various websites. Lake received her master's degree in criminal justice from Charleston Southern University.