The key to college scholarships is knowing where to look

By Miles Rosen

The price of tuition for colleges has always been a growing problem for students in the United States.  For many, the cost alone of a university may be the only obstacle in the way of higher education. Families are rarely able to pay for multiple kids to attend a college on their own, so in order to help ease the financial pressures of further education, it is important that students take the time to apply for scholarships if they don’t want to be in debt from student loans for years to come.

Scholarships come in a variety of shapes and sizes, ranging from smaller, locally run prizes to larger nationwide prizes that could mean a full ride.

Fletcher Womble, a Career Development Coordinator in the Career Information Center (CIC) feels that students need to take advantage of scholarships, both national and local.

“The biggest problem is that students don’t apply for [scholarships] when they do qualify for them,” Womble said. “We are lucky in this area because we have a lot of scholarships that are school-specific. Previous students or parents of students have started [them] for students in the district or students at East, so that’s a smaller pool of applicants.”

For these small-scale scholarships, the funds may be smaller than the national contests, but because fewer students are applying for them, the odds of winning are greater. These kinds of scholarships are usually based on positive community interaction and academic excellence. Many of these contests focus on athletic commitment along with academics, like the Donald M. Clarke-Pearson Runners’ Scholarship, founded in honor of a former Chapel Hill High student who tragically committed suicide.

Colleges have a number of scholarships available that don’t require a separate application. Instead, these contests simply require that the students who apply for them submit their regular application by a certain date to be considered. Some schools have different scholarships based on different career choices. Elon University, for example, has the Fellow Programs, which offer scholarships for engineering, education, communications, and business, all of which do require a smaller separate application due by Jan. 10, 2012.

But even despite the availability of contests, finding scholarships to apply for can be difficult, especially if students don’t know which ones they qualify for. To search for these contests, students should try Fastweb, an online database with over 1.3 million scholarships. The site asks students about their majors and colleges and compiles a multitude of scholarships geared towards the students needs. Fastweb does not fill out the scholarships for students; it merely provides information about the contests and links so students can find the correct scholarship forms.

Fastweb is one of many online resources that provide helpful information to students, but people who use sites similar to Fastweb need to be careful. Often times, sites that look almost identical to this one are scams designed to prey on unsuspecting students. These websites have posts that sometimes require a payment in order to apply for the scholarship. These are fake, and should be avoided.

“You’re looking for free money,” Womble said. “It’s important to remember you don’t pay to get a scholarship.”

Whether students need only a little money to finish paying for college or are looking to try to pay for everything through scholarships, East still has a multitude of resources geared towards students’ lives after high school. Even so, there is pressure on students to be proactive in finding out how to pay for college.

“There are a lot of people out there wanting to give,” Womble said. “It’s just a matter of taking the time to apply.”

For more information on any of the scholarships or resources listed, visit the CIC by the main office to learn more, and be sure to check up on weekly emails from the CIC which contain helpful information on anything college-related.

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