THE BRIDGE TO COLLEGE
There are four kinds of money used to pay for college: cash, loans, financial aid and scholarships. Scholarships are available yearly and year-round, not just before a student begins college.
As a preliminary matter, note that different institutions use terms like “financial aid,” “scholarships” and “grants” interchangeably. To keep things clear, recognize that “financial aid” is based upon the parents’ ability to pay for college. On the other hand, “scholarships” and “grants” are awarded based upon student merit, which often is not measured by grades or test scores.
Also differentiate between scholarships extended at the time that a college offers admission, and those that are extended afterwards. The scholarships provided at the time of an admission offer is really not an award of money. Rather, because colleges publicize their tuition at higher levels to give the impression of a highly-valuable education, they drop the cost with “scholarship” offer as an incentive for the student to enroll in their college instead of another. It is a bit like negotiating a car; the sticker price is not usually what you’ll pay.
Scholarships that are available after an offer is made, or from a source outside of the college, are true monetary awards. There are a lot of scholarships available for students who put in the effort to pursue that money.
Most colleges have scholarships that are not widely publicized. When rich alumni donate to their alma maters, they often create scholarships. Usually, only the people who work in the university’s “money” office know of these opportunities. Once a student enrolls in the college of choice (or perhaps even before), go to the college financial aid office and ask what scholarships and grants might be available. Set aside a fair amount of time, get comfortable, and start filling out applications.
Private scholarships are also widely available, offered by Fortune 500 companies, charitable foundations, community organizations, and myriad other groups. The number of scholarships you can find is dizzying. Where do you look for them, and how do you apply?
The starting point for scholarships should be your high school counselor’s office. Counselors are aware of some valuable opportunities. After looking there, look online.
Scholarship search engines can be effective tools for finding large numbers of scholarships. There is no shortage of scholarship search websites, and most are sortable. You don’t have to work with all of the search engines; many have similar information. A few even collect information about available internships.
Because you will find more scholarships available than you can complete, it is imperative that you work efficiently and strategically. Create a master list of scholarships in a spreadsheet, inserting the name of the scholarship, the amount of the scholarship award, the link to its webpage, and the due date. To organize your work, sort according to due dates, then prioritize by the monetary value of each scholarship and the likelihood that you are an appropriate candidate.
The typical scholarship application requires a resume and an essay. Before beginning your essay writing, check your list of scholarships to see if one essay can be used for multiple scholarships. You may be able to recycle a good essay that you wrote for a college application, but many scholarships have unique prompts. The key to effective pursuit of money is diligent work, so be sure to plan your work for maximum effect.
Finally, as a rule of thumb, never apply for scholarships that have an application fee. Even if the fee is only a few dollars, the majority of these are money-making schemes for the offeror.
Robert A.G. Levine, president of Selective College Consulting Inc., can be reached at (813) 391-3760, email BobLeVine@SelectiveCC.com or visit www.SelectiveCollegeConsulting.com
when teens say pyaar, parents run far
The music gets mushy, the picture goes fuzzy, and the heroine tremulously reaches up for a kiss.
“EWWWWW!” groan my kids in unison.
Music to my ears — but it won’t last much longer.
While my little one still has a few years of skipping around elementary school hallways, the older one is counting down her last few months before heading off to middle school — that infamous cauldron of seething hormones. If we don’t have to deal with the dating dilemma then, it will certainly rear its head in high school. All parents wrestle with the same ickiness — when to give in? At what age? Do we let them date in pairs, in groups? But for many desis, the question is “do we let them date at all?”
Parental approval was a pipe dream when I was a teen and “boyfriend” a mild profanity I would never utter in front of my parents. Among Indian kids, “boyfriends” and “girlfriends” were declared covertly in schools, and matters progressed or stagnated based on the various parties’ transportation options, scariness of parents and the level of innate duplicity in the child. Most teens chose between 1) toeing the line and ruthlessly crushing out those butterflies in the stomach; or 2) becoming masterful double agents adept in fabricating decoy plans with a network of equally devious collaborators. Most parents fell into two camps: 1) watchful hawks or 2) don’t-ask-don’t-tell types who harbored unnerving suspicions but prayed nothing would come to light until their kids were safely ensconced in matrimony. (We did occasionally hear rumors of a third kind — ones who were privy to their teens’ love lives and cool with it, but dismissed them as urban legend.)
Now here we are on the grown-up end of things, and, thanks to the total lack of parental precedent, we find ourselves winging it. Dating can be a minefield for any family, but our cultural norms complicate matters so much more for our kids.
Most moms I spoke to endorse the approach of hoping the situation arises as late as possible, and then staying on top of things by keeping expectations and lines of communication clear. One friend was open with her cautiously progressive mother when she was a teen growing up in the United States, and says she plans on a similar approach with her daughter. “We empower her with information; we talk about everything,” she says. “She understands that everything we do is to protect her, but if I just say no, the more I do, the more curious she’ll be.”
And can we really blame our children for assuming that achieving romantic bliss is a primary goal? From Disney princesses whose happy endings inevitably take place in a wedding dress to Bollywood heroes wooing heroines in an endless musical loop, our kids are bombarded with the imagery of romantic love. Is it fair to convey tacit approval by surrounding them by such messages and then slap them on the wrist when they try to enact social rites they see around them, especially as they get older and see their non-Indian peers dating? Even if we could completely forbid them, should we? After all, most of us hope or expect our children to marry one day. If we prepare them so carefully on all other aspects of their life, this also could be a path we teach them to navigate while they are young enough to listen to us and still be living under our roof. This may be our opportunity to teach them about discretion, safety, self-respect, impulse control and kindness within the difficult sphere of relationships.
Some people have strong opinions about the cultural background, religion and gender of the person with whom their child is involved. When my friend Nandini wrote in a Tampa Tribune column that she’d be fine with her sons dating non-Indian girls (as a response to a question), she faced open hostility. “How dare you?” asked one outraged Indian mom, assuring Nandini she would change her mind when her sons were old enough to date. A decade later, Nandini’s mind remains unchanged. But it’s worth thinking about what is important in a child’s partner. How much would you compromise for your child’s happiness, and how much do you expect your child to compromise for yours?
Many questions, but I’m no expert. I intend to be a fabulous open-minded confidante when the time comes, but I’ve eaten my words before. Meanwhile, I’ll just sit here and revel in the sweet uncomplicated nature of the ages I’m dealing with now, and hope teenage angst and yearning take a long detour on their way to my house.
Anu Varma Panchal is a mother of two and owner of www.YourEditingSolutions.com