Faced with the rising price of a college education, students and parents often look for ways to lower costs. As a result, scholarships for need, merit, athletics, community service, hobbies, and other interests are often highly sought after—especially large scholarships offered on a national level.
However, students should also consider scholarship sources closer to home. Local businesses, religious or ethnic organizations, and other venues often acknowledge hometown students by helping with college costs through scholarships that are awarded on a yearly basis. And while a $1,000 local scholarship may seem small in comparison to the large sticker price of college, winning several of these scholarships could help to offset the cost of room and board, books, and some tuition.
Local scholarships have an advantage over national scholarships: they are only available to a smaller pool of applicants from a specific geographic region. Because there is less competition, the chances of winning are higher. Students should still apply to national scholarships that are meaningful to them, but it is also important to research the scholarships offered to your specific high school, town, county, and state.
Now, local scholarships may seem like a great idea, but where do you begin? We hope to guide you on a path to finding your best-fit local scholarships in this blog post.
When should I start looking for local scholarships?
It is best to start researching scholarships by the spring and summer of junior year, as most deadlines for these awards are in the fall of senior year.
How do I find local scholarships?
Start by asking the guidance office at your high school for a list of local scholarships. For example, Schreiber High School in Port Washington, NY, has an extensive list of local scholarships available to its high school students. Another group to ask within your high school is the PTA. Scarsdale High School in New York offers a PTA scholarship that awards college-bound seniors a one-time grant ranging from $1,000 to $7,500.
Next, investigate scholarships from the companies or organizations where your parents are employed. Many companies, like Burger King, CVS Health Foundation, and PepsiCo offer scholarships to the children of employees, and the Human Resources department or supervisor will most likely have this information. Many employee scholarships are also merit-based, rather than solely need-based.
Religious and ethnic organizations
Additionally, explore the groups that you and your family belong to. Religious and ethnic organizations often have scholarships that are awarded to the children of members. For example, the Ancient Order of Hibernians, Knights of Columbus, Elks, and Lions Club all offer national as well as local scholarship opportunities. If applicable, your place of worship may be aware of local scholarship opportunities that hope to assist members of your faith.
Other places to check include the websites of your town, community, and local media (TV, newspapers, and radio stations). Additionally, your library’s reference section may have a list of scholarships offered by town businesses or civic groups.
To cast a wider net, research the offerings of your state grant agency. Each state has scholarship opportunities for its residents. In taking a closer look at New York, for example, The Scholarship For Academic Excellence is intended for students who will attend a New York college, and is based on the results of the Regents exam.
Additionally, many scholarships in New York and elsewhere pay particular attention to applicants pursuing certain high demand fields. The NYS STEM Incentive Program provides a full SUNY or CUNY tuition scholarship for the top 10 percent of students in each New York State high school. Note though, that this scholarship (like many others of its kind) comes with conditions: awarded students must often either remain in the state or work in their particular field for a certain period of time. In the above example, students must pursue a STEM major and agree to work in a STEM field in New York State for five years after graduation.
What are the requirements?
Local scholarship competitions often ask for a completed FAFSA form and may ask for tax returns/W2 forms (from student and parents), a copy of your transcript, letters of recommendation, and student-written essays. Many local scholarships also require you to take the PSAT/NMSQT by the fall of your junior year.
Finally, it is important to meet all scholarship deadlines, follow scholarship application directions, and gather your application materials early. Here at Collegiate Gateway, we know the value of pursuing college scholarship opportunities. Feel free to set up a complimentary consultation to learn about our admissions consulting services. Whatever your question, Collegiate Gateway is happy to help!