Melissa Brock

Melissa Brock

Writer & Blogger

My name is Melissa and I’m a longtime admission professional, personal finance writer, editor  and parent of two (very!) busy kiddos. I couldn’t make it all happen without my husband, Steve.

I hatched my site because I’ve heard so many head-scratching questions from parents. I’ve journeyed in the footsteps of hundreds of families, trekked to dozens of college fairs and even weighed the (billions?) of college savings options for my own two kiddos.

How Old Do You Have to Be to Search for Scholarships?

by | Aug 1, 2020 | Financial aid and scholarships | 0 comments

Did you know your child can earn scholarships as a kindergartener? Yeah! Unbelievable, right? It cracks me up to think of my son sitting down at a computer next year, typing away at a computer to fill out a scholarship application. (He’s four.)

I checked in with Michaela Schieffer, an independent college counselor with MoonPrep.com. She says, “While starting a separate savings account for college is the solid solution, you also have creative options to grow that account. I recommend beginning the search for external scholarships as early as possible. External scholarships can be used at any college, and are available as early as age 10 through graduate school. Since most of these early scholarship awards are dispersed in a check rather than directly to a college, this is a great way to augment your savings in a college account.”

Such solid advice! Here’s a deep dive into scholarships — at any age.

What if My Child’s a Senior?

Now, most people’s energy doesn’t turn toward thinking about scholarships until their kids get close to high school — and most students even wait till senior year to start thinking about scholarships. 

Is it too late to apply for scholarships when your student is a senior? No, of course not! Start looking at whatever age your child is right now and start looking, whether you’re starting as a rising senior, eighth-grader or sixth-grader. (And if your child is a rising senior, start now!) You can also look into how to help your senior combat scholarship overwhelm.

Don’t forget, your child can still look for and apply for scholarships during college as well. There are opportunities everywhere.

Here are some ways to get started on the scholarship search, no matter your child’s age.

Start Searching Now

Whatever age your child is right now, start looking for scholarships. 

What’s the first thing you do when you’re looking for information? Sure, you Google it. Check out FinAid’s Scholarship List as an example. 

Don’t forget to check out scholarships in your community. These are lower-hanging fruit because the community you live in is more likely to award scholarships to one of their community members. Here’s how to look. 

  1. Ask your child’s school counselor. School counselors are the heroes of community scholarship knowledge. Your child’s school counselor should be able to hand you a list of scholarships available in the community. If your child’s not in high school yet, ask in the school office at your child’s school for any information about scholarships. 
  2. Tap into your own local connections. Ask wherever you go — the dentist, the chiropractor — to find out whether scholarships exist, even for younger kids.
  3. Research past scholarships. Ask for old scholarship programs or scholarship awards night programs from local high schools. Don’t be afraid to ask for several going back a few years. 
  4. Branch out and ask about scholarships in another local area — or two. Don’t stick to your neck of the woods. Ask for scholarship programs at other high schools in your county or area. A local business might be willing to branch out, particularly if students in that area aren’t taking advantage of a particular scholarship. The business also might be willing to offer a county-wide or area-wide scholarship. 

Gear Your Child Toward Scholarship Types

First, let’s consider the ways scholarship committees award scholarships. They want to see your child do a few things.

Develop Specific Skills

Put yourself in a scholarship committee’s point of view. You’ll notice that lots of scholarships awarded are based on entrepreneurial skills, art skills and more. Has your child worked to develop a specific talent or interest? Whatever it is, nurture it, then use those skills to his advantage when you’re looking for scholarships. 

Here a few skills your child can develop over time: 

  • Fine arts prowess
  • Athletic talent
  • Leadership skills
  • Academic excellence
  • Team player skills
  • Analytical skills
  • Communication skills

Consider Ways to Serve

Wouldn’t that committee rather give a scholarship to a kid who actively provides value to a specific cause or organization? It’s one thing to be in clubs and hold leadership positions. But what if your child can make a serious impact? Doing something that makes an impact can make your child extremely valuable in the eyes of the scholarship committee.

Does your child have a hankering to serve others? Here’s an example. Annie Wignall Foskett was 11 when she created the Care Bags Foundation. She began collecting essentials (soap and shampoo, etc.) for kids in foster care and crisis situations. Foskett jumped into action by creating fabric care bags filled with these essentials. Fast forward 20 years later. The foundation now serves displaced, abused and disadvantaged children all over the world! 

Obviously, it’s better to develop a child’s burgeoning desire to serve organically, rather than trying to do it just for scholarships or personal gain. However, if your child has a great idea, nurture it. You never know how much a great idea can take off!

Here are some ideas you and your child can think about developing: 

  • Help disadvantaged children
  • Assist senior citizens
  • Raise awareness and help for animals
  • Take care of the environment 
  • Help the hungry 
  • Assist the homeless
  • Reduce crime and promote safety
  • Enhance the local community or state
  • Help disadvantaged schools

It’s a great idea to do some research to find out what the needs are. A great way to launch a major project is to start by volunteering. Encourage your child to check at school, at your family’s place of worship or city council to determine what type of help is needed. Encourage your child to just get started wherever he or she gravitates toward, such as a homeless shelter or nursing home, and ask whether it takes volunteers.

Does your child have to build his own nonprofit or create an amazing foundation like Care Bags? No. Showing extraordinary compassion toward a particular cause is also a phenomenal way to gather scholarships 

Develop a Vision or Trajectory

Help your child develop a vision for his or her life. I know, it can seem impossible for most young people. How can they possibly know everything that’s available to them? Most kids have a limited worldview because they haven’t had the life experience that comes with age. However, it’s a great idea to have some sort of idea of what that could look like. Does your student gravitate toward social justice issues? Writing? Entrepreneurship? What does that life look like? 

My aunt knew at a very early age that she wanted to be a teacher. She was probably in second grade when she declared she wanted to influence children for the rest of her life. Guess what? She became a first grade teacher and taught for years! I’m amazed by that story and like to share it because you might not be too young to figure it out. 

Build on Other Traits

What other characteristics does your child have? Is your child a minority or have a disability? Is your child left-handed? You already know there’s a scholarship for just about everything you can think of. I have a personal example that applies to this. My school counselor knew that I’m deaf in my left ear and partially deaf in my right ear (yes, it’s true!) and got me in touch with our local vocational rehabilitation office. The organization gave me some extra scholarship money over the course of my four years at college. (State vocational rehabilitation (VR) offices help people with disabilities prepare for, obtain and retain employment.) 

I wouldn’t have even known it was a possibility if she hadn’t mentioned it. Sometimes it’s about talking to everyone you know — and searching online for that information. 

The University of Washington has a great list of scholarships for those with disabilities if your child qualifies. 

Get in the Habit of Looking Often and Take Action

It’s never too early to start looking for scholarships, but it’s important to also look for them all the time. Be on a constant search for scholarships that fit your child’s profile. Encourage your child to look, too. Here’s a quick example of what you could do: 

  • Look for scholarships on the first and 15th of every month. (Set a calendar alert so you remember to do it.)
  • Select at least two scholarships to apply for every month. (Your child can do this!)
  • Create a Trello board to keep track of scholarships researched, applied for and received. It’s really helpful so I stay organized. I do this for my blog and align my editorial calendar with the following:
    • Articles to Write
    • In Writing
    • Editing
    • Ready to Input
    • Inputted
    • Review in Six Months/One Year, etc.
  • Create an account for the scholarship money. (But learn the scholarship rules — some scholarships don’t allow you to just “take” the money. Some may have specific requirements, like a preference to pay the school directly.) However, if a scholarship committee allows you to cash a scholarship check, consider whether you want to invest the money in a diversified fund — particularly if your child wins the scholarship years before the start of college. Consider contributing your own money to that account as well (regularly and often!) so there’s a robust amount earmarked for college.
  • Constantly review what’s going well during the scholarship search. If 

Don’t Get Discouraged

Not getting results? Keep going. Keep moving forward! 

I know I already mentioned this, but don’t wait till high school to start looking for scholarships, particularly if your child is truly doing some exceptional things. If he’s creating his own app to feed the homeless in Africa, you bet scholarship committees will want to hear about it — even if your child’s only eight.

When it comes down to it, it’s a very generous world we live in — and people want to help promising kids go to college!

Make an Impact on the World

Here are a list of scholarships your child can apply for, divided by age.

Starting from Kindergarten

Starting from Middle Elementary

Starting from Middle School

Starting from Early High School

Notice that the bulk of these are for younger students! Good luck with your own child’s scholarship search!

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