You might equate applying for scholarships with going to the dentist or doing the dishes, but it could help you afford the school of your dreams.
In fact, students and parents cover about 35% of college costs with scholarships and grants, according to Sallie Mae.
Although scholarship awards come with great short-term benefits, such as shrinking your cost of attendance for a semester or school year, consider these five long-term benefits as well.
1. Lessen your student loan debt
Every dollar you earn via scholarships is one less dollar you have to put toward college tuition, books, and other fees. It’s also one less dollar you’ll have to borrow — and repay with interest — via federal and private student loans.
It might not be possible for you to avoid loans altogether. After all, class of 2017 graduates left school with an average student loan debt of $39,400. But winning scholarships for college is a great way to lessen your debt burden down the road.
Say you borrow $20,000 in loans at 6.00% and repay it over 10 years. You’d have to fork over $6,645 in interest, according to our student loan payment calculator.
Now say you earn a $10,000 scholarship and have to borrow only $10,000 at 6.00%. In this case, your interest charge would be a more reasonable $3,322.
You’d save more than $3,000 in interest thanks to your scholarship. And with less debt to worry about after graduation, you’ll be able to focus on other financial goals, such as scoring your first job.
2. Get a potential career mentor
A scholarship might last a year, or longer if it’s renewable. But if it’s a scholarship that includes other benefits, such as on-campus support, you could be in a position to find a mentor who will guide you for the next decade.
The UNCF/Koch Scholars Program, for example, awards up to $5,000 a year to African-American students interested in entrepreneurship. It also matches these students with a faculty member, community leader, or off-campus subject matter expert via its mentorship program.
So if you’re a business major, you could get paired with a business professional who can show you what it takes to make it in the business world.
Other scholarships might have less formal mentor-mentee arrangements, but the opportunity exists anytime you win an award from a private foundation. Try to build rapport with the people leading the program so you can make the proper connections.
Like with all relationships, you’ll get what you put in. Just remember that careers are all about connections, and you can make a great ones via scholarships. You never know how that benefactor-turned-mentor could help you down the road.
3. Build out your professional network
While scholarships can help you save money, they also can help you earn money as you begin forging professional relationships. Winning scholarships now can help you add peers to your social and professional networks later.
While hunting for journalism scholarships, for example, I was fortunate to land awards that included out-of-town trips, off-campus lunches, and networking events with my fellow winners.
Anytime a scholarship rewards more than one student, you have the opportunity to meet a fellow striver, someone who is also climbing the ladder in college and beyond. They too could be a long-term connection to commiserate with or even partner with down the road.
To make meaningful connections, apply for scholarships offered by professional associations. They typically include a conference visit where you can rub shoulders with your regional or national peers.
To get started, become involved with the local or on-campus chapter of an association connected to your field.
4. Beef up your resume and LinkedIn profile
If you’re still in school, filling in your one-page resume could be something of a chore. You might be too young to list part-time jobs, summer internships, and full-time work.
Scholarships make for solid stand-ins on your resume, at least until you have more career achievements to highlight.
If you’re asked about these financial aid victories during job interviews, you’ll be able to talk about how you took the initiative to apply for them. This could go a long way with a company that’s seeking an independent, autonomous employee.
5. Gain an unforgettable experience
As much as they can positively affect your future, scholarships also help you make everlasting memories. You could win study-abroad scholarships, for example, and discover your passions (or yourself) on another continent.
That’s the benefit of a scholarship award that spans more than a semester or two. It could last a lifetime.
With that in mind, expand your search to include scholarships offering an experience, whether that’s volunteering in your community, taking on a leadership role on campus, or traveling the globe. The rewards might not be obvious right away, but give them time to manifest accordingly.
As you start applying for scholarships, make sure you avoid these common essay mistakes so you can put your best application forward.
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