“Average” college students in search of scholarship dollars received a bit of good news last week when the website, College Humor, announced the start of their $5,000 “Average Student Scholarship Contest.” While humorous in nature, the scholarship is, indeed, real — no laughing matter for students in search of ways to finance a college education. But the scholarship is only one of many geared towards students who might not necessarily find themselves at the top of their class. Here to weigh in on other sources of aid for the “average” student are a few of our college finance experts:
You don’t need to get straight A’s to win a college scholarship!
Shannon Vasconcelos: The new College Humor “Average Student” Scholarship clearly and hilariously illustrates the point that you don’t need to get straight-A’s in order to win a college scholarship. Scholarship qualifications vary widely depending on the priorities of the sponsoring organization, so “average students” should utilize scholarship searches like those available on www.scholarships.com and bigfuture.collegeboard.org to find good scholarship matches, as well as run basic Google searches on any characteristics that may make the student stand out. There are scholarships out there for creative students, vegetarian students, even students who have been treated for acne! Students should also realize that characteristics that may seem very typical at home may be very unique, and potentially rewarded with scholarship funding, at certain colleges — think the Jewish student at a Catholic school, the New Englander at a Mid-Western school, or the engineer at a school known for communications. Keep an open mind about where to apply, as an ordinary student at one college may be an extraordinarily valuable student to another college.
Start searching for college scholarships early
Beth Feinberg Keenan: There are many scholarship opportunities available to students who look beyond grades and standardized test scores. These scholarships might be a little harder to find, but looking for any type of free money is going to take some time. You will not only have a better idea what is available the earlier you start your search, you could also become a stronger candidate for those scholarships looking beyond academic performance.
Community service and civic scholarships may be an option
Carl Buck: There are “serious” scholarship opportunities for students who might not be the valedictorian of their class or who did not score a 30 ACT or a 2100 SAT but for whom participation in community service or being the first in a family to attend college might be recognized by many colleges and corporations and scholarship funded as well. Drew University, for example, offers the Drew Civic Scholarship, a community service award offering $20,000 over four years ($5,000 per year), and Coca-Cola has awarded over $14 million in first-generation scholarships in the US for students who are the first in their immediate family to attend college.