…Continued from Part 1 of our latest story on scholarships. While low-income students benefit from free tuition programs, many colleges today are leaving middle-class families in the dust to finance their degree. Insider Kevin Ladd, COO of Scholarships.com, shares how that happens and what to do about it. If you haven’t already read Part 1, click here.
So don’t trust that colleges are charitable, request sample financial aid letters, learn how to decode them, and ask for grants to replace loans.
Then on top of that, apply for outside scholarships. These are grants awarded by foundations or private companies, not the universities themselves.
But students still need to be careful. Some scholarships are scams or companies attempting to collect sales leads through applicant emails.
Kevin’s company, Scholarships.com, has been curating these types of scholarships for 20 years. What started as just a digital version of a phonebook-style scholarship database, the site is now consistently ranked one of the top five scholarship databases.
His team still manually vets every single scholarship opportunity, making sure they’re legitimate and attractive to students.
“We’re curating this collection of scholarships based on what we think is valuable to the user and if it’s a good fit for our site. If it’s some website that’s got a giant phone number at the top of the page and a chat window pops up and it’s just obnoxious, we’re like, ‘No, this isn’t what students are looking for,’” he described. “If you find a scholarship on Scholarships.com, you can be confident that it’s a legit scholarship.”
Most scholarships on the site offer at least $1,000, geared toward high school seniors and juniors, usually with at least a 3.0 GPA and no test score requirements.
“$500 nowadays barely covers a book,” Kevin added.
From there, the students apply online, sending their application essay directly to the offering company. Scholarships.com doesn’t review the application.
“We’re just sort of matchmakers…It’s up to the students to decide whether they want to search for scholarships and how invested they want to get, to what degree they want to have to actually pursue this thing. ‘Oh, crap. It’s a 500-word essay and it’s only $500. I don’t think so.’ Or ‘Hey, this is $5,000. It’s worth me spending an hour and a half or two hours, three hours, whatever, to try to win $5,000.’”
From his 20 years in the business, Kevin noticed that winners tend to be articulate writers from middle-class families. They’re also hard-workers, like Jade, who commit the time applying for numerous scholarships.
“If you’re going to win an outside scholarships — the ones that rely on essays or little videos — if you want to win 10, you should apply to 100, because even if you’re really, really smart and really good at essays and videos, you’re not going to obviously win all the ones that you apply for and you might not even win anywhere near all,” he warned.