If you are a high school senior this year (2012), what are your alternatives with respect to scholarships? If you are in Georgia or Tennessee, you have each states version of the Hope Scholarship, of course. But, could you do better? Should look for Hope Scholarship alternatives? And, from another point of view, what if you are just entering the ninth grade… Should you plan on the Hope Scholarship being available? Should you plan on a different strategy? I think just considering these questions may actually provide better solutions for some students than what the Hope Scholarship may provide.
First, for the high school senior:
There’s nothing that you can do to really change, academically, your current situation. But, you should look at these options to make sure you are doing what is best for you.
1) If you qualify for the Hope Scholarship, that’s great. However, don’t just decide to take the Hope and go to a school in Georgia if it is not right for you. If you have a specific set of goals with respect to a major and career path, first pick the best school that you can get into that will help you with these goals. If that matches with a Hope qualified school in Georgia, great! If not, you may need to look outside the state for your best interests.
2) Have you applied for need based grants and aid? This is extremely important especially for private institutions. You may find that a need based award may be better than what you would end up paying taking a Hope award in Georgia. Remember, Hope does not cover room, board, fees, and all of tuition. So, run the numbers and see what works best for you.
3) Have you considered other awards that are available to you? Perhaps your parent(s) work at a company that provides scholarships. Maybe you qualify for grants or scholarships based on community service, ethnic background, or you live in the right county. These kind of scholarships take digging and work on your part.
4) Look for work/study opportunities. These can be through the financial aid office of the college. However, there are also work plans called “cooperative or co-op” programs that are not need based. These are a favorite of technical/engineering colleges and universities. You will need to have a competitive GPA because companies interview applicants for these positions. You will find it is worth it because they pay extremely well.
For the new ninth grade student
1) Grades, Grades, Grades!!! Do you realize that your freshman year class grades are as important as your junior or senior year grades? When you calculate your total high school GPA, your freshman classes carry equal weight especially for the Hope Scholarship. So, determine now that you will make choices that will enable you to maximize your grade output starting with your Freshman year. This will put you on a competitive footing for GPA based scholarships in the future, and, perhaps more importantly, get you into your first choice college.
2) SAT and ACT prep. The second most important thing for scholarships and college applications is your SAT or ACT score. Don’t wait until a week before your SAT to think about the test. Prepare now and prepare often. Make it a goal to learn at least 200 SAT vocabulary words for each of your years in high school. During your junior year and the summer before your senior year, you can ramp up and double this amount (or more). You should also take practice tests and learn the appropriate techniques to approach the tests. Do this and you will be rewarded with your efforts.
3) Number three is community service and school activities. Don’t put your name on every available club or activity offered. Instead, pick what you are interested in doing and spend real time working on it. If you want to be differentiated on scholarships or college applications for service and activities, you will need to stand out for specific areas showing quality work effort.
4) When you become a senior, review the senior list: financial aid, etc…
For all of these recommendations, do what is best for you. Do you have goals written down? If not, write them down. Plan short term and long term goals. Make decisions based on the goals and you will find that achieving them is not only doable but becomes part of your daily life choices. There are Hope Scholarship alternatives for you. Plan well and don’t just except what others say is best for you.