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Scholarship application essays often ask how winning an award could change one’s life. It's hard not to just think about the ways money could help with college costs.
Here are three unique benefits of scholarships.
1. Networking opportunities: When you win a local or national scholarship, you'll likely have peers who won the same award.
If as an undergraduate students won a $5,000 scholarship from the Jim Murray Memorial Foundation, for example, they’d meet other second- and third-year journalism students from more than 30 colleges.
Scholarships with this kind of benefit provide a great opportunity to build long-lasting connections with students at their or across the country.
Students could also benefit from applying for an alumnus-funded scholarship specific to their college major, department or school's financial aid office. If won, students could network with a graduate who has gone on to bigger and better things.
For example, Arizona State University's Armstrong Family Foundation Scholarship , which provides Arizona residents up to $8,000 per year, includes regular contact with the family to ensure student recipients reach their goals.
2. Ongoing support: Some scholarships come with the built-in benefit of an adviser to ensure students make the most of their winnings.
The UNCF/Koch Scholars Program, for example, offers mentorship support to undergraduate African-American students interested in entrepreneurship. This is in addition to the monetary awards: up to $20,000 in undergraduate scholarships over four years.
3. Real-world experiences: Some scholarships offer students the benefit of gaining real-world experience.
The Golden Key International Honour Society, for example, connects its scholarship winners with nonprofit organizations for volunteering opportunities. Golden Key chapters at universities can decide on the focus of their service.
Volunteering or working as part of a scholarship could give students the experience they need to decide on the best major or career path for them. At the very least, their service would be worth adding to their resume.
Additionally, students could take advantage of study abroad scholarships, such as the Boren Scholarship, to learn a new language and culture while experiencing a different part of the world.
How to Find Scholarships With Extra Benefits
Whether interested in networking, mentorship or other benefits, be sure to search for and apply to scholarships that offer more than a monetary reward.
In some cases, students might find it helpful to search by scholarship organization rather than using a search engine. If stumbling upon the GEICO Life Scholarship on Unigo, for example, students might think it awards $1,000 and not much else.
But by becoming a member of the awarding organization, Golden Key, students could also benefit from its online library of leadership training materials. The organization also offers a portal of resources for students considering graduate school. To be a Golden Key member, one must be among the top 15 percent of students at their current school.
While it's easy to search for scholarships online, it's often more effective to start at the college. Ask the financial aid office about school- or state-based scholarships that come with extra perks.
At Texas A&M University—College Station, for example, the Regents' Scholars Programawards up to $5,000 per year for up to four years to first-generation students. It also includes an academic success program that pushes scholarship winners to sign up for activities and receive mentoring.
Students also can build a rapport with the donor responsible for your scholarship. Give them updates on progress in school and how the scholarship money is behind used. They might award additional funds or connect with someone in their network who can help along the college journey.
No matter what students do, don't think of scholarships as merely money. Although that might be the most important benefit of winning a scholarship, it's not the only value they can gain.