My parents made me a good-faith deal after my freshman year of college. They’d do their best to cover my cost of attendance if I made an effort to secure as many scholarships as possible.
With little evidence of financial need, I learned that my best chance at winning gift aid was to focus on merit-based scholarships for journalism.
Here are four ways I found — and won — $11,000 worth of journalism scholarships to stave off student loans.
4 ways to find journalism scholarships
You can have all the latest scholarship tools at your disposal. But knowing where to look for gift aid is only half the battle. You’ll also want to consider what you’ll need to win each scholarship for journalism.
Here are four strategies I used to win money for college — that you can use, too.
1. Seek financial aid through your journalism school
I didn’t spend enough time at my campus financial aid office. But my first stop on the journalism scholarship search was through my college, Arizona State University’s Walter Cronkite School of Journalism. What I found was a list of 60 scholarships for journalism degrees.
To my surprise, many of these scholarships were merit-based. I could win one even if I didn’t have a high financial need.
I won the school’s lone print journalism opportunity, the Mary Ann and Jack Nock Print Scholarship. It was a perfect fit for me because it rewarded students with high GPAs, and that was one of my strong suits.
To this day, the Nock family scholarship doesn’t show up in online search engines like Fastweb and Unigo. That’s one reason to consult your school even if you’ve skimmed every online scholarship aggregator.
Also, if your school doesn’t have a journalism scholarship opportunity that fits your specific major and strengths, it can point you in the direction of one that can. At Columbia University’s journalism school, for example, 80 percent of students are hooked up with financial aid.
2. Make connections via your internship or job
I had an after-school internship or job during seven of my eight semesters on campus. As paid gigs, they acted as scholarships. After all, they could cover the cost of books or groceries.
But I realized during my sophomore year that these part-time positions could also lead to scholarships. As the sports editor of my school’s daily newspaper, for example, I had a leg up on the competition for one award. My editor in chief encouraged me to apply for the inaugural State Press Alumni Club Scholarship worth $500.
If you have a position on or off campus, see if there’s a way to turn it into a scholarship. Casually mentioning that you’re in the market for financial aid — as I did with my boss at the State Press — could lead to a scholarship. Even if it doesn’t, mention your work experience on other journalism scholarship applications. It could help you win.
3. Win awards for your favorite clips
Including my journalism work experience as well newspaper and magazine awards on scholarship applications strengthened my candidacy. Little did I know that local organizations that reward good journalism often offer scholarships to study it.
That’s how I found my way to the Arizona Press Club and its scholarship. As a junior in 2009, I and two rival University of Arizona students won scholarships for reporting. I won based on a favorite clip in which I profiled a concussed high school football player.
You might think that only your grades or essay-writing ability can score free money for college. But don’t overlook your classwork or published work. If you have worthy clips, they could either win you financial awards — or a journalism scholarship — from your local press club.
4. Write essays to impress national foundations
Most of the in-state scholarships for journalism that I won were worth $1,000 or less. Nothing to sneeze at, for sure, but still short of what I needed to lower the high cost of out-of-state tuition.
Searching online helped me learn about multithousand-dollar awards for aspiring sports journalists. The Jim Murray Memorial Foundation, for example, considers candidates from 32 journalism schools. Thankfully, mine was on the list.
At first, I considered my chances of winning one of five $5,000 awards to be pretty slim. After all, the essay prompt — the past, present, and future of sports journalism — was scary in and of itself. I tackled it to the best of my ability and, to my surprise, ended up winning.
The lesson here is to think about how you stand out as a journalism student and seek out organizations that cater to your interests or accomplishments. There are all sorts of reasons you could win scholarships.
If you’re a history buff, for example, you might find yourself writing or recording an audio essay to win the Voice of Democracy Scholarship. The winner receives $30,000 and a trip to the nation’s capital.
Start applying for journalism scholarships
You might begin your scholarship search without a major in mind. But focusing on journalism scholarships can also help you cover your next tuition payment.
But don’t forget about going one level deeper. Apply for journalism scholarships related to your major concentration (such as print, online, or broadcast) and coverage specialty (such as news, features, or sports).
Also, remember that there are scholarships for every kind of student. You might not have amazing grades, but maybe you have some great clips. It’s possible you lack internship experience but can make up for it by writing an awesome scholarship essay.
Whatever your plusses and minuses, consider these sources of scholarships for journalism. Seeking these out helped me put $11,000 toward the cost of my four-year degree. Just imagine how much you could win for yours.
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