Time is money. We’ve heard this saying applied to many different scenarios but when it comes to financing college, I usually hear the opposite. When parents ask counselors, “When should my child start applying for scholarships?” the common response is, “No need to rush. Wait until the beginning of 12th grade.”

I cringe every time I hear this.

Sadly, when parents receive that information, thousands of dollars are subsequently left on the table. They unknowingly allow their young students, who have powerful stories and great need, to let time and opportunities slip through their fingers during their middle school and early high school years. It is a costly mistake, one that their children could be paying for the next 20 years.

Seek and Ye Shall Find

With just a short google search coupled with a dedicated mission, students as young as middle school can discover many scholarships for their age range. Some require a written essay about a topic, like the National WWII Museum Essay Contest, others may ask for a video about the benefits of safe driving while some want the students to get creative and draw a visual representation of a concept like in the Illustrator Contest.

More Than Money

By having younger students embark on the scholarship journey earlier than their senior year, they will be building many skills and strategies that will serve them throughout their life.

For instance, students should use part of their summer and winter vacations to search and apply for scholarships. This will address the dismal effect of the ‘summer slide’ where students do nothing for two whole months causing an academic decline. By researching data and writing essays, students will be using their skills learned in school for projects that can benefit them financially and academically. They also are encouraged think about their personal struggles and triumphs. Self reflection is a critical developmental process and also helps students discover their passions.

Students will also learn the difficult lesson of perseverance. When they start the process, they will likely get rejected on a few, if not many, scholarship submissions.. This is a great time to have them practice how to revise their approach, create stronger essay applications and resubmit again. Learning how to overcome defeat and rejection is a priceless skill that many adults don’t even have. Strengthening that muscle earlier in life is key.

Another added benefit is enhanced organization skills. Keeping due dates, application requirements and topics in order is a must when applying for multiple scholarships throughout the year. An organized system will not only help them apply for and win scholarships but will also help them lead more organized lives throughout school as well as in their future professions.

It Is Time

So I ask you, when is now a good time to start? That’s right! Start now! With the rising cost of college, there is no better time to start than now (because you can’t go into the past and start then!).

“The best time to plant a tree was 20 years ago. The next best time is today.” -Chinese Proverb

Stay focused, keep at it and tell great stories!

Visit this link for scholarships for 6th – 12th graders.

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