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What You Need To Know About Scholarships

What You Need To Know About ScholarshipsWith the frenzy of early application deadlines finally winding down, I had a chance to participate in the #CollegeCash chat on Twitter the other night. For those of you not familiar with Twitter, chats are where people using the same hashtag (#) can talk about a topic. On Thursday nights, Jodi Okun, founder of College Financial Aid Advisors, hosts the #CollegeCash chat. Since she’s in California, the chat doesn’t start until 10PM EST. It’s a little late for those of us here on the East Coast, but the chat is always worth it.

Last night’s chat about college scholarships was with Tamara Krause of It was a great conversation and there were several takeaways that I wanted to share with you today:

1. If you know what you want to major in, you should start looking for scholarships through professional organizations and associations affiliated with that field. For example, here’s a list of scholarships offered through the American Institute of CPA’s (AICPA) for students interested in majoring in accounting.

2. To narrow down internet search results, trying searching more specifically such as “engineering scholarships 2013 2014”.

3. Make good use of social media. The Pinterest board has over 600 scholarships!

4. Beware of scams. It should never cost you more than a postage stamp to apply for a scholarship. Also NEVER give out your social security number or bank information.

5. Start your search locally and be prepared to do the work that other students won’t. Check out scholarship opportunities through employers, your church, local organizations, your bank or credit union, the town library and, most importantly, your guidance office.

6. Searching for scholarships is like a part-time job. It’s not a one and done deal. The more you search and the more you apply, the more likely you are to win something.

7. Scholarship searching is also a great job for parents who want to be involved in the process.

8. If you have to write an essay, apply the same rules as an essay for college applications: Grab the reader’s attention in the first two sentences and tell a story. If your essay bores you, it will most definitely bore the scholarship selection committee person who has to read it.

9. Start your search early and continue with it on a regular basis. There are actually scholarships out there for elementary school students!

10. Look for livelines versus deadlines. Find out what the earliest date is you can apply and apply on that date. Be the one to lead the pack of applications!

At the end of the day, scholarship searching is a process and a time-consuming one at that. Pace yourself and stay positive. Also keep in mind that private scholarships can often affect your financial aid award. Colleges treat scholarships differently, but some will reduce your merit scholarships dollar for dollar for each private scholarship that you earn. If your merit award is renewable (and most are as long as you maintain a minimum GPA), sometimes you need to approach scholarship searching very strategically.

Here’s an excerpt from a recent MarketWatch article about this issue:

“The findings by the National Scholarship Providers Association also point to how colleges treat outside scholarships when they’ve already given their students free aid. According to the NSPA, many colleges will take back the free aid they offered students who end up receiving an outside need-based scholarship.

In some cases, it is a dollar-for-dollar reduction that equals the amount of the scholarship. So students who get a $5,000 private scholarship could end up losing $5,000 in free aid that a college has offered them, which would leave them with the same out-of-pocket costs that they had before they received the scholarship.”

So, if you’re unsure of how colleges will treat private scholarships, give them a call and ask. It’s better to know up front before you invest a lot of time in your scholarship search.

If you want some help and guidance on your college search and application process, contact me today to set up an appointment for a free consultation.

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A Conversation About College

A Conversation About CollegeLearn More at Dobler College Consulting’s College Admissions Workshop

I will be hosting a free workshop titled, “A Conversation About College” on Monday, September 30th at Sacred Heart Church in Southbury, CT. For more information or to reserve your seat, head over to my Events page.

The workshop shares strategies to help your son or daughter navigate the college admissions process while eliminating mistakes that tend to reduce their chances of admission. Topics include college lists, essays, interviews, campus visits and what you need to know about making college more affordable.

All workshop participants will receive informational handouts and will be eligible for special discounts off private college counseling services.

Don’t live in or near Southbury? You can easily get in touch with me to set up a free 60-minute consultation to help address your pressing college admissions-related questions and issues.

Also be sure to snag your free copy of the Top Ten Tips For Navigating The College Admissions Journey.

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A Conversation About College Part IV

This is Part IV of a running series called, “A Conversation About College” which covered some of the more pressing questions about college admissions that were asked at a workshop I conducted a few weeks ago at Sacred Heart Church in Southbury, Connecticut:

Q: To get academic scholarship money from colleges someone told me you have to be in the top 10%. Is this true?

Academic scholarships, which are also known as merit scholarships, typically are awarded to students who have excelled academically while in high school. However, not all schools will restrict their merit money to students who finish in the top 10%. Some schools will offer money in tiers where a student in the top 10% may get more money than a student in the top 20%. Your best bet is to use a website like where you can research individual schools to see what they offer and who qualifies. The information may not always give you all the details, but then that is a great question to ask on a college visit or when your son or daughter meets an admissions counselor at a school visit or college fair.

Q: Where do you find scholarship money?

Private scholarships are tricky. They are typically rather small and the search can really chew up a lot of your son or daughter’s time which should be otherwise spent on priorities like school work, athletics or whichever activities they truly enjoy. In fact, the average private scholarship is just $2500 and less than 7% of graduating senior receive one. Having said that, is a website where your son or daughter can create a profile and then be notified when scholarships which meet his or her criteria become available. I would also have them check with their school counseling office and the town library. Both should have resources for local scholarships as well as application information.


Q: Financial aid forms – how to best complete them?

There are two financial aid forms, the FAFSA and the CSS Profile. The FAFSA (Free Application for Federal Student Aid) is the federal form required to be considered for aid at any institution. The CSS Profile is only required if your child chooses to apply to one or more of some 250+ private schools that require it. Check with each school he or she is considering so that you know if you need to complete both. Once you know which forms you need to fill out, you need to know that you cannot fill out the FAFSA until January 1st of the student’s senior year while the Profile can be filled out as soon as your child has identified schools where he or she will be applying.

Another great resource dedicated to everything in the financial realm of the college admissions world is a blog by Lynn O’Shaughnessy called, The College Solution. I tell all my students and their parents that it is a must-read.

If you have any thoughts you would like to share on “A Conversation About College,” please use the comment box below – I would love to hear from you! You can also email me directly at

Eric Dobler is the president and founder of Dobler College Consulting. Follow him on Twitter.

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