By: Jacob Newman, UHEAA
Every college student is always looking for ways to cut down on their college costs. Many college students know that they need to pay attention to priority deadlines for financial aid, file their Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) each year, apply for scholarships offered at the university and local level each year, and work or find other ways to save money to pay for college expenses. One often overlooked source of cash for college is departmental (or college) scholarships.
At many colleges and universities, departments will offer scholarships that are only available to students who are pursuing a major in that department. For example, students who are studying mechanical engineering would be eligible for certain scholarships that are offered to students in the department (or college) of engineering. Here are a five tips to find departmental scholarships.
File your FAFSA!
Each year that you are in school, file your FAFSA. Not only does the FAFSA give you access to federal financial aid (grants, work-study, and student loans), but it also demonstrates your financial need for any scholarship that the department might offer to those who still have remaining financial need.
Once you know what you want to do, declare your major
Many students start college as an open major, meaning that they don’t know what they want to study yet. When I was in college, I didn’t know what I wanted to study until my sophomore year. College is definitely a time for exploring what you like! But once I knew what I wanted to study, I declared my major by meeting with the academic advisor in the college. If you don’t declare a major once you’ve decided what you want to study, you might not be able to apply for these departmental scholarships, which are only available to students who have declared a major in that department.
Ask your academic advisor about scholarships
Your academic advisor is a great resource to help you find departmental scholarships. They are often aware of many of the opportunities that the college offers or can point you in the right direction to find these scholarships. Many departments will post these scholarships on their website, but sometimes your academic advisor may know about others. They might even know of resources to help you with applying if there are specific requirements (such as crafting a good personal statement).
Polish your personal statement
Each scholarship has different requirements, but many of them will require a personal statement. Consider how you can alter your personal statement to reflect the scholarship that you are applying for. Remember to read the requirements of the scholarship carefully to make sure you understand what you are applying for.
Keep looking and applying
Check with your department every year that you are in school because scholarship funding can fluctuate from year to year. Departments also often have specific scholarships for specific purposes (such as study abroad experiences). Don’t get discouraged if you’re not selected for a scholarship. Keep working hard and applying each year!