Now that students have identified their college enrollment choices and spent some time looking for possible university-based merit aid, it is time to take the next step: locating suitable "at-large" merit aid opportunities.
I re-project the attached .png to re-emphasize the differences on types of aid we are seeking, and I remind students of their meeting in the CRC, during which they heard about various merit aid opportunities. Also, I project this helpful handout, distributed in our CRC, and I point out the Illinois Student Assistance Commission recommends a number of helpful scholarship search sites for students seeking merit aid.
I. also, make a few comments about scholarship scams (of which, regrettably, there are several). I point students to this webpage (from the Federal Trade Commission), and I explain that they should beware of any "promises" from a scholarship benefactor. Additionally, I warn them that there are a number of "legitimate" scholarships out there that require personal, marketable, demographic data in exchange for a "chance" at, say, $10K for college. These kinds of offers, I warn, are to be considered with great caution, and, generally, they do not require anything for an "application" that would even moderately emulate a classroom assignment. Clearly, I intone, I will be "approving" the merit aid applications that you pursue for purposes of my course.
After I make these initial clarifications and share these initial details, I direct students to meritaid.com, the site we will use for the remainder of this process ...
Once students have navigated to meritaid.com, I ask them to sign-up for a free account in order to access the meritaid.com database of potential scholarships. Meritaid.com is hosted by Cappex, a college search and recruitment consultancy stared in 2006. Cappex has been mentioned in a number of news stories and it seems as reputable as any of the "players" in the expanding market of college search and preparedness companies/concerns.
However, Cappex (and then of course meritaid.com) is a FOR PROFIT company, so help students keep this in mind as they consider the information found at the site. (As a caveat, I also ask students to use the College Board's Big Future planning tool as a cross-reference for information from meritaid.com.)
Nevertheless, meritaid.com stands out (in my mind) over other college scholarship search tools because of its easy-to-use interface and richness of information. And the key to meritaid.com's effectiveness is its use of a detailed, personal profile, built for each student who joins. The student profile asks a number of questions, and, then in the background, the site matches student interests, involvement, and demographics to appropriate merit aid awards. From the list of qualifying merit aid awards, students will select one to complete for my course.
After joining meritaid.com, students complete a basic profile and begin browsing the site. Once students have established their accounts, even with minimal personal data, they may begin browsing merit scholarship matches. (The video attached to this lesson is a screencast, detailing the site's basic functionality and student interface.)
However, many of the scholarships students could be eligible for, ones embedded in meritaid.com's rich database, are missing from student matches because they have incomplete profiles. For help with completing each profile as fully as possible we turn to parents ...
Nationally, there are a number of excellent merit aid awards set aside for all manner of special groups, ethnicities, religious affiliations, and associations. Students (yes even eighteen-year-olds) do not always know that mom is a member of the NEA or that dad is in the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers for instance. Both of these workplace, parent affiliations, earns a student a chance at a merit award, as these organizations grant money yearly to the college-age children of members.
So, once students have established meritaid.com accounts and have begun winnowing potential scholarships, I email all of my parents to assist their students with completing more thorough profiles. (Attached is a .pdf I send to parents with a note asking for their assistance to help their children.) I ask parents to spend about 15 min. one evening, reviewing students' profiles for thoroughness and accuracy, and I request that parents document their participation with this Goggle form.
The new information that parents share increases each student's chance at additional scholarships ...