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College and Adulthood Planning – Scholarships & Grants

In our previous post, we talked about the value of work. We stand by that, but, of course, we also have an uncommon twist to this idea – what if your college-bound child treated applying for scholarships and grants like a job? It may sound a little bit far-fetched, but it’s not. If a high school kid takes this approach from their first year of high school through their senior year, the return can be substantial.

Look at it this way: Let’s say a student works from freshman year through senior year of high school and under ideal circumstances earns $5,000 a year. This is figuring a $15 an hour job, working 333 hours a year. That puts them earning $20,000 during their high school years, and that seems wildly generous.

But, what if they put their time into applying for scholarships worth $100,000 over the same time period from freshman to senior year of high school? Think about it: spending 250 hours a year to make $100,000 in scholarships is tax-free money. So, over the four years of high school, if your kid spent 1,000 hours making $100,000, that would be $100 an hour for their education, tax-free. That’s a big deal!

Free Money

There is so much free money out there for students. If they can develop the work ethic and if you help them to put systems in place to manage their time and go after these grants and scholarships, that is time well-spent. When they treat this as a job, taking it seriously to make serious money, it becomes a game-changing approach to college affordability.

Most kids wait to apply for grants and scholarships between their junior and senior years. They literally try for that money once, thinking there are few opportunities out there. But the opportunities ARE out there and they are plentiful.

This resonates with us as we think back on some missed opportunities with how we paid for college. Our folks invested and paid for half, and we earned one scholarship. We also worked throughout college, and then took out some loans to cover the gap. In our senior year, final semester, our parents told us there was no more left in the college funds they had set aside. We didn’t want any more loans, so we quickly ran to the student aid office, applied for 6 scholarships, and fortunately got one for our exact need of $3,000. When you light a fire under someone, it’s amazing what they can accomplish. What if that fire had been lit well before that? We could have made it through college with no loans, and much less burden on our parents.

Next Steps for Students

For the student who wants to take this seriously, how can they get started looking for grants and scholarships? Here are a few ideas:

  • Get to know the scholarships available for the colleges you want to attend
  • Search for local scholarships
  • Ask teachers and other mentors to nominate you
  • Find scholarships based on your gifts and interests
  • Look for scholarships given by your faith community or other religious organizations

Again, the money is out there, you just have to know which rocks it is hiding under.

Next Steps for Parents

What if you create the vision and expectations for your children from their freshman year of high school? College would probably be free and they might even get paid to go to school. It takes a shift in mindset, but it can be an incredibly valuable set of lessons for both you and your child.

There is a trade-off here, of course. With a regular job, you might expect your kids to pay for the food, movies, and other stuff they do with friends. You might expect them to help with their clothes or cell phone or other regular living expenses. If they’re not earning a paycheck, these budget line-items are going to fall to you as the parent. The thing to realize is this type of spending does not compare with the cost of a college degree. So, you can spend a little bit now on an allowance or some other system so they have what they need in high school, but the payoff in scholarships and grants can be tremendous.

This is a new way of thinking for most people, but it is definitely a path worth considering. The cost of higher education is not getting any cheaper. The value of grants and scholarships should not be overlooked. With some guidance and expectations set, your kids can take this uncommon path to pay for their education. Check out our scholarship system resources if you want more information!