Tips to earning scholarships for college

HOUSTON (KTRK) -- It is only the start of the second semester, but now is the time for high school seniors to start applying for college scholarships.

Ray Weaver, the senior manager of college readiness for HISD says there are some tips to making the most money for school.

"What we have a lot of times is students and parents seeing sticker shock on prices of colleges. Most every student will pay less than what the sticker price is," said Weaver.

The first thing every student should do is fill out the free application for federal student aid (FAFSA). Most all scholarships require the FAFSA, which is available now to complete.

"Filling out the FAFSA is a requirement of many scholarships because they want to ensure students are using all the dollars available to them," Weaver said.

After you've completed the FAFSA, go online and search for scholarships that you qualify for. Many school districts have websites that require a student to log on in order to see all of the available scholarships.

"What we see is a lot of deadlines are coming early in the spring," Weaver said.

Between now and then, you should apply to every scholarship you qualify for, no matter how small the payout may be. Many scholarships that are going to be providing a substantial amount of money require an essay component.

"It's one of those that a lot of students dread, but do get help from parents, from counselors, and from other members in their community to write that essay. It's also a good way to practice for the college application itself," Weaver said.

One of the most important scholarships for students in the Houston area is the Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo Scholarship. The Rodeo plans to give away $23 million in 2015.

"It's a really neat opportunity for students who have family members that are veterans and have served in the military, and also for students who have participated in livestock competitions. Even students who have no experience
whatsoever with the Rodeo still have available through their Art Project Foundation," Weaver said.

Although you may think you're competing with many other applicants for a small amount of money, Weaver says many go unnoticed.

"Very often we have organizations that reach out that are just desperate really to give money to students in the Houston area," Weaver said.

It is important to look at not only the traditional organizations, but also things outside of your interest that still contribute to the local community.

"The time that you put in earning that $200 is a good return on investment, versus the time you'd spend working a minimum wage job. Even the small scholarships are a good investment."


Websites to search for scholarships:

Free application for federal student aid (FAFSA)

HISD's College Readiness website

Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo Scholarship - If you don't like essays, Zinch has a weekly Three Sentence Essay Scholarship for $1,000.
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