Now that college acceptance letters have finally come out, many seniors are finally able to breathe a sigh of relief. However, now that they no longer have to face the fear of rejection, seniors are left to face another issue entirely: how to pay for college. Today, the College Board reports that the average cost of college tuition for four years ranges from $37,800 for public schools with in-state tuition to $127,100 for private institutions. Even with the merit and need-based financial aid that many schools offer prospective students, it can still be quite difficult to make ends meet.
Possibly the best-known scholarship in our area is the BECA Scholarship, an application that allows candidates to apply for a multitude of scholarships using one common application. A total of $250,000 in scholarship money is being offered by these sponsors, who include various local banks and service organizations. Of course, it is important to note that no one will apply for every single one of the forty scholarships; some of them are general and require only a certain GPA, but others only consider those students who attended certain middle and high schools. To complete the application, one must provide academic information, two letters of recommendation, and a list of community service and extracurricular activities, among other things. Many of the scholarships included on the BECA application require supplemental materials, such as a brief essay.
However, it can get boring filling out the same old information and writing essays about topics that, to be completely honest, are dull and unrelated to our lives. Fortunately, there are some pretty unusual scholarships out there to shake things up a bit! Many students have probably heard of the Duck Brand Stuck at Prom Scholarship Challenge, in which you and your date must wear outfits made entirely out of Duck tape to prom. There is also the Chick and Sophie Major Memorial Duck Calling Contest, which has a grand prize of $2,000. If you are interested in cooking, check out the National Candy Technologists Scholarship and whip up some tasty treats. Even though all of these sound completely unrealistic and ridiculous, they could help you take the next step towards your future. For those of us who aren’t as creative or skilled at duck calling, there are quite a few unique scholarships that require a slightly more traditional approach. There are scholarships available for writing letters to authors, creating documentaries, and even outlining a plan for what to do in case of a zombie apocalypse!
Many wonder how to go about locating scholarships and applying for them. There is no better place to start that Leonardtown’s very own Career Center, where Mrs. Toombs and Mrs. Haverkamp are always more than happy to help you with anything. According to Mrs. Toombs, the trick to getting a lot of scholarship money is to apply for everything: “Even if you don’t think you’re going to win the scholarship, it doesn’t hurt to apply. The more you put your name out there, the more likely it is that you will receive something.” Not only does the College Access Program, which meets every Tuesday for juniors and every Thursday for seniors, provide hard copies of scholarships, but it also educates students about scholarship search engines, like Cappex, Fastweb, and College Answer. Such websites match users to the perfect scholarships by analyzing data, such as GPA, community service involvement, extracurricular activities, and even parents’ professions, which eliminates the vast majority of time wasted simply looking though pages and pages of scholarships, only to qualify for two.
Even though it is only February, the end of the school year is fast approaching; graduation will be here before anyone realizes it. The idea of beginning the next chapter of life may be scary, but with proper preparation for college, the transition may not be quite as sudden as before.