A couple hundred dollars from a local scholarship may sound like a drop in the bucket when it comes to paying for college tuition and expenses, but the reality is that every dollar counts and several local scholarships can add up to a significant amount of free money for your education.
The reality of large-sum grants
There aren’t many people who can afford to foot the complete bill for their higher education. Yet most only apply to large-sum scholarships and grants to help pay for college, and while those $10,000 and $50,000 nationally awarded grants could make a significant difference in affordability, the truth is they’re difficult to get.
According to an October 2015 article in U.S. News by contributor Jessica Zdunek, largely-funded government agencies and well-known national brands like Ford, Nordstrom’s and Coca-Cola award significant educational scholarships each year, but applying to these means going up against hundreds, if not thousands, of other applicants across the country, which significantly reduces your chances of winning such a grant.
That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t apply for large scholarships, because there’s still the chance you could win, but you should better your odds of financial aid by applying for local grants as well.
The advantages of local scholarships
A first, albeit obvious, advantage of a local scholarship is just that: it’s local to where you live.
According to Zdunek, local scholarships can have application limitations that can actually increase your odds of being awarded. These grants can be limited to people who live in a specific town or region, to a certain GPA minimum, and even to specific extracurricular activities. As long as you meet the criteria listed, you are more likely to win a local award than a national one.
“Scholarship providers like to see people from their community succeed and so they often offer local scholarships available only to residents of a particular geographic region,” says an article on Scholarships.com, a financial aid and scholarship resource site.
Local scholarships are also less likely to be known, so there will be less competition for them than for a national grant.
According to a January 2011 article in U.S. News by Scholarship America, community organizations that offer scholarships typically inform the local high school, either by contacting the guidance counselor or by posting the scholarship in the school’s career center. Instead of competing against the thousands of people searching the internet, applicants compete only against the other students in their school.
Local scholarships can also be awarded on a relationship basis, such as businesses with financial assistance opportunities available to employees and their families. Some businesses will even award scholarships to students if they plan to work for the company after graduation, as this is seen as an investment for the company.
They are also generally easier to follow up on and there’s often a designated person in the business who can answer questions about the scholarship or application requirements directly.
Every dollar counts
“Local scholarships sometimes aren’t as eye catching because they’re just a few hundred dollars. This can discourage people from applying, but the truth is these small amounts add up,” says Zdunek.
Even if the dollar amount is less than that of a national scholarship, any amount is helpful in offsetting the expense of higher education. For instance, those dollars could go toward books or equipment, or help cover smaller living expenses.
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