Recommendations for Finding Scholarships

Tuesday, June 14th, 2016
Recommendations for Finding Scholarships

I am often asked to share some of the resources I've found and lessons learned while helping my daughters find scholarships for college. Here are my notes from the process I have used. I hope it is helpful to you.

It is important to begin this process with the understanding that finding enough scholarships to get your child through college is hard work.  There is not one website to go to that will meet all of your needs.  For me, it has become the equivalent of a part time job.  

Let me begin with a disclaimer.  My daughters, who were blessed to be able to graduate debt free, went to a small private college.  The tuition was far greater than that of a state college or university.  It was the only school we considered, and the only school to which they applied.  It is the only college with which we have any experience.

Most of us do not think about looking for scholarships until our child's junior or senior year of high school.  The process of successfully finding college scholarships is one that really needs to begin much earlier.  In fact, the groundwork needs to be laid as young as possible.  Here is what I have learned:

Good grades = money for college
High SAT Scores = money for college
Extra-curricular Activities = money for college
Good Writing Skills = money for college

Good Grades

Students are rewarded for a job well done.  Colleges have substantial academic scholarships.  The better the student's grades, the higher the reward.  Many private scholarships are based upon academic achievement, as well.  Keeping the GPA (grade point average) up and being part of the National Honor Society will move the student closer to financial assistance.

High SAT Scores

This goes hand-in-hand with good grades.  Academic scholarships are often higher based on the GPA and SAT scores.  There are some private scholarships that ask for these scores.  There is a new SAT test out that is supposed to be more relevant to what the students are actually learning.  If you have old study materials from an older child, you will want to replace those with the current study guides.  It might be worth having your child attend an SAT prep class, meet with a tutor, or use the many on-line study guides.

Extra-curricular Activities

Schools and companies that give private scholarships want to see that a student is well-rounded and contributing to society through volunteer work.  They want to see participation in team or group activities, as well as leadership positions within those groups.

Good Writing Skills

Colleges and private scholarships require writing essays with the application.  The more compelling the essay, the more likely the student will find success.  Grammar, punctuation, spelling, and the ability to use descriptive words are all a must.  In fact, many scholarship applications warn the applicant to be careful about the quality of the essay.  How are these skills developed?  The first step is reading.  Read to your child.  Let them see you reading books.  Read books as a family.  Listen to audio books.  Help them to love books – so much so, that when they enter a library or bookstore, they gasp at the possibilities that lie before them.

How to Begin

For each of my children, I set up a "college box".  In the boxes I put everything I could think of to have on hand to get them into college and to work on scholarships to pay for it.  Here is how I categorized each box:

I. Supporting Documents
    In this section, I have folders for:
    Correspondence with the college
    Documents needed for the college (vaccinations for health office)
    Copies of any awards the student has received
    Transcripts (official and copies)
         Official transcripts are in envelopes marked with school's seal
         (These must remain sealed – do not open!)
    Return address stickers for mailing scholarships (with student's name)
    SAT results
    Documents showing community service
    Resume – create a document that shows
         Contact information
         Education to date
         Leadership experience
         Skills (music, photography, foreign language, etc.)
         Extra-curricular activities
         Volunteer activities
    Wallet-size photo (some scholarships ask for one)

II. Scholarships to Complete
This is where the student's support team (Mom?) reports for duty.  I spend many hours a week searching for scholarships.  When I find one that my child qualifies for, I create a folder, print out the requirements, and only give her the information about the essay she needs to write.  When she returns the essay to me, I submit the application for her.  I see this as a team effort.  While I'm entering her contact data and uploading her essay, she can be working on those good grades and writing essays for the next scholarship.  It helps us accomplish more in less time if we work together.  I don't write the essays for my children, I simply do the secretarial work.  Make sure you note the due date on the scholarship, and have it in well before that date.

III. Scholarships Completed and Waiting for a Response
This helps me keep track of which scholarships she has submitted.

IV. Scholarships Received
A folder of celebration!  Some scholarships are renewable each year.  Use this section to keep track of those.  Often report cards, letters, or proof of continued enrollment are required to keep the scholarship coming each semester.  Don't miss those deadlines!

V. Scholarships Declined
This helps me know where we should no longer focus our attention and move on.

VI. Letters of Recommendation
Find several adults who would be willing to write letters for your child.  I used five people.  Teachers, employers, pastors, volunteer coordinators, and coaches would all be perfect for this.  Some scholarship applications require an original letter of recommendation, rather than a copy.  I ask the letter writers to give me 15 copies of their letter.  They seal it in an envelope and sign their name across the seal.  If any applications require an original letter, I use one of these.  If not, I send a copy.

VII. Envelopes/Post-It Notes/Pens/stamps
I like to have all of my supplies in one place.  I have the average size business envelopes, as well as 9"x12" envelopes.  Most scholarship applications are now on line, but one of the big ones that we actually won required about 15 pages to be mailed in.  The large envelopes were perfect, and it really helped to have them on hand.

What Kind of Money is Available for College?

Student Loans – I recommend avoiding these, as it only saddles the student with debt after graduation

Scholarships – Awarded through applications and essays by schools and private organizations.  These do not need to be paid back.

Grants – Awarded through the government, schools and private organizations.  These do not need to be paid back.

Work Study – these are jobs offered through the school to students who qualify based on a certain financial level.  They money earned working at these jobs goes directly to the school to cover tuition.  Some jobs are on campus, some are at local companies.

Money your child can save through jobs, gifts, etc.

I strongly encourage your child working to help with school.  An education that one works hard to attain is one that is most appreciated.

Where to Find the Scholarships

There is no simple answer to this question.  Look everywhere.  Here are some suggestions:

File FAFSA in January/February of your student's senior year.  This is the federal database that all colleges use to determine a student's financial needs and government awards.  In California, the state Cal Grant and the federal Pell Grant are awarded from the information you provide on this site.

See your high school counselor.  They often have a list of scholarships available.

Meet with the financial aid department at the colleges you wish to attend.  Beyond the academic scholarship, your child may qualify for a music or athletic scholarship, or a department scholarship (science, communications, etc.)

Do the parents' employers offer scholarships?

Is your child a:
disabled (or child of a disabled person)
child of someone serving in the military
child of a police officer or fire fighter
(These all have special scholarships)

Check with your Chamber of Commerce to see if they know what local organizations offer scholarships.  Local VFW and American Legion chapters often have annual awards.

Check the websites of major corporations to see if they offer any.

I highly recommend the following books.  They are inspiring, have good insight, give great suggestions on writing essays and submitting applications, and have lists of places to look for scholarships.  When you purchase these books, you get access to the author's updated online information, as well:

    How to Go to College Almost for Free by Ben Kaplan
    The Scholarship Scouting Report by Ben Kaplan

These websites have a great many scholarships to research:


Follow rabbit trails.  I have found they often lead to new sites and new ideas.

Companies and schools who offer scholarships may look at your child's online presence.  What are they putting on social media?  Are they presenting themselves as someone schools or companies want to invest in?

Do not pay to enter a scholarship.  Legitimate scholarships do not ask for money.

Another way to reduce the cost of a college education is to reduce the number of classes one needs to take prior to entering the four year college or university.  Locally, The Master's College and College of the Canyons offer courses for high school students that will also count as college units.  Online courses will accomplish the same goal.  You can contact those schools for more information.

Ultimately, I believe if a family works as a team, and the student is willing to work hard, a good college education is attainable.

Permission to share this information is granted as long as it is shared without charge with the following attribution:

     Copyright 2016, Kathy Mack, All rights reserved
2014 Christmas Card Mack Family.JPG

Merry Christmas from the Mack Family!

You probably have already noticed how young the girls look in our Christmas photo this year.  We had decided over a year ago, that when Kathy’s mom passed away, we would honor her on our Christmas card, since Christmas was her favorite holiday, and many celebrations were spent with our family prior to her stroke in 2005.  Doris Mullen went home to be with her Savior on July 21.  She got to see all of Kathy and Cindy’s families before her final breath.  Amy and Wendy were at her side when she left us.  We are all blessed to have been able to call her Mom or Grandma.  She left an indelible mark on all of us, for which we will always be grateful.  We are even more blessed to know that we will see her again in eternity.

Music Ministries Internship

Sunday, January 26th, 2014
Children's choir.jpgThis semester, I am completing a music ministry internship at a large church.  I am serving as an assistant to  the Director of Instrumental Music and Children's Choirs.  I will be assisting in planning and organizing church music ministries, services, and special events.  I will be aiding in the recruitment and payment of personnel needed for worship services and events and will be assisting the volunteer Children's Choir Directors in planning and organization as needed.  I will be attending the worship planning meetings and will be observing the adult choir, orchestra, and worship team rehearsals.

cello.jpgOver the past two weeks I have already been stretched a lot and have discovered that there is so much that I have yet to learn in tis field.  Our worship pastor and instrumental music director have strongly recommended that in addition to my required classes for my major, I sit in on the instrumental technique classes so that I can learn as much as possible about how to play every instrument.  I do not have to reach an advanced level in each of the instruments, but I do need to be able to play simple songs and sight read simple music. This will help me be:

Continue Reading "Music Ministries Internship" »

What is Worship - Part 4

Saturday, January 4th, 2014
Baptist Church.jpgOne of the largest misconceptions about worship today is that it something that only takes place at church, but this could not be further from the truth.  Worship can and should be done everywhere – not just within the church building.  The tabernacle and temple of Israel were designed to be symbols that reminded the Israelites of God’s presence among them – not the sole places of worship.  This concerned the Samaritan woman who asked Jesus where the acceptable place to worship was:  Israel or the mountains of Samaria.  Jesus responded by declaring “Woman, believe me, an hour is coming when neither in this mountain nor in Jerusalem will you worship the Father.  You worship what you do not know; we worship what we know, for salvation is from the Jews.  But an hour is coming, and now is, when the true worshippers will worship the Father in spirit and truth; for such people the Father seeks to be His worshipers.  God is spirit, and those who worship Him must worship in spirit and truth.” (John 4:20-24).  1 Corinthians 6:19 tells us that the Christian’s body is the temple of the Holy Spirit who is in us, and Romans 12:1 tells us that we are to present our bodies “as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is [our] spiritual worship.”
Continue Reading "What is Worship - Part 4" »

What is Worship - Part 3

Friday, January 3rd, 2014
Matza Bread - Photo Credit <a href=></a> .jpgIn a previous blog post, I discussed the importance of having a God-centered worship.  A God-centered worship should then take time to reflect, not only on the person of God, but also on the works of God.  God actually commanded the Israelites to include reflection in their special feasts of worship.  During the Feast of Booths, the Israelites were commanded to live in tents to remember that “the sons of Israel live in booths when [God] brought them out from the land of Egypt.” (Leviticus 23:43).  The Feast of Unleavened Bread was created to celebrate the day God brought out the Israelites from the land of Egypt (Exodus 13:9) because this feast would “serve as a sign to you on your hand, and as a reminder to you on your forehead, that the law of the Lord may be in your mouth; for with a powerful hand the Lord brought you out of Egypt.  Ark of the Covenant - Photo Credit <a href=></a> .jpgThe Passover was designed to be a “night to be observed for the Lord for having brought them out from the land of Egypt; this night is for the Lord, to be observed by all the sons of Israel throughout their generations.” (Exodus 12:42).  The temple and Ark of the Covenant were filled with symbols that reminded the Israelites of their history and dependence on God for salvation.  

Continue Reading "What is Worship - Part 3" »

What is Worship - Part 2

Thursday, January 2nd, 2014
Hands raised in worship - Photo Credit <a href=></a>.jpgIn the previous post, we discussed the fact that worship is first knowledgeable:  you must know something about the One you are worshipping so that you are not worshipping blindly.  Knowledge alone, however, is not enough to give us the right focus for worship.  The Bible tells us that even the demons have knowledge of and believe in God, but this does not save them (James 2:19).  We must choose to make God the focus of our worship:  we cannot worship God and something else simultaneously (Matthew 6:24).  When we try to worship God in our own way we are actually worshipping ourselves:  this is false worship and not pleasing to God.  In Matthew 15:7-9, God tells us that “this people honors Me with their lips, but their heart is far away from Me.  But in vain do they worship Me, teaching as doctrines the precepts of men.”  

Continue Reading "What is Worship - Part 2" »

What is Worship? - Part 1

Wednesday, January 1st, 2014
Christians WorshippingIn a class at The Master's College, we studied the history of the Christian church and the development of hymns and worship.  While we read several good books on worship including John MacArthur's book "Worship: The Ultimate Priority" and David Peterson's "Engaging with God", we also were required to develop our own philosophy of worship based on the Bible and personal experience.  I wanted share my philosophy on my blog.

 I have broken down my philosophy into five separate parts and I will be highlighting each point of worship in the following blog posts.  Worship is:

     - Informed
     - God-Centered
     - Reflective
     - Responsive
     - All-Encompassing

Today, however, I will be addressing our first point:  Informed Worship.  

Continue Reading "What is Worship? - Part 1" »