The Scoop: Anyone considering a career as a couples counselor, family therapist, or psychologist can benefit from the 3.7 million college scholarship opportunities available at Scholarships.com. The site is frequently updated to add new options and eliminate outdated grants to ensure that all opportunities are current. Scholarships.com’s founders also offer tips for success when it comes to securing financial aid: Start early and stay at it. With nearly $19 billion in funding available each year, students can use the site’s matching algorithm to narrow their options.
One aspect of college may be more overwhelming than graduating high school, moving out of the house, and starting a new life on campus — the prospect of paying for the whole thing.
A four-year university can cost anywhere from $9,410 to $32,410 on average, according to the College Board. That figure doesn’t include housing, food, books, transportation, or anything else a successful college student may need.
Perhaps it’s no surprise that student loan debt in America reached a whopping $1.6 trillion in 2019. Approximately 44.7 million people currently carry a federal student loan, with the average student loan debt listed at $32,731, according to the Federal Reserve.
Scholarships.com was founded to connect prospective students with the more than $19 billion in financial aid doled out each year. Its free online scholarship search tool uses an algorithm to match students with opportunities they may qualify for, so they don’t have to sift through the 3.7 million scholarships available on the platform.
It can take years to get out of student debt, especially in uncertain economic times. Scholarships.com helps prospective psychologists, couples counselors, and family therapists, search for scholarships that could cut down their debt and enhance their future success.
But the only way someone can get any of that $19 billion available is to start applying, said Scholarships.com Co-Creator and COO Kevin Ladd.
“We’ve been around for more than 20 years, and we offer a safe scholarship search that takes about five minutes,” he said. “Our site is like a set of power tools. It still will take a lot of work to build a house with modern power tools, but it will be a lot easier and faster than it would be without them.”
Ensuring Users Find Legitimate Scholarship Opportunities
Recently, Kevin said the team has been working overtime to ensure that all of the scholarship information on the site is updated and accurate. While that work is an ongoing process, the team made it a top priority — especially because of the global Covid-19 pandemic.
One very important new factor in making sure all of the information is accurate was to check if deadlines had changed in response to Covid-19.
“Over the last several months, we’ve been pouring over every part of our database to ensure that nothing is outdated,” he said. “It’s time-consuming to do a scholarship search to find valuable information that you can act on. We want to ensure that when people come to the site, they come away satisfied and that they found value in that time.”
Through that process, Kevin said he discovered that many other scholarship search sites that have popped up over the years still list outdated or inaccurate information.
But Scholarships.com has a policy of eliminating any scholarship that is no longer active. Its goal is to help high school students — and their parents — reduce the burden of student loan debt, which adds another layer of stress and can follow graduates for decades.
Scholarships.com also works closely with high school guidance counselors to encourage more students to begin their searches and spread the word about its free service.
Application Resources Page Offers Tips for Success
Visitors can also use Scholarships.com’s Scholarship Directory to browse through the millions of scholarships and grants listed in the Scholarships.com database, but they may spend hours wading through options they don’t qualify for.
Instead, the team recommends users fill out a detailed profile so the platform’s algorithm can connect them with scholarships geared to their situation. It takes about five minutes to complete, and users can typically apply for about 10 scholarships immediately.
“It’s good for the kids to find scholarships and apply to them, but it can be difficult to get them to do it,” he said. “Start early because not everyone is going to. Then, work harder than everybody else.”
The site offers a student resources portal with plenty of tips about how to craft an essay that gets noticed. A checklist helps users keep up with deadlines.
Kevin said it can be a lot of work to apply for scholarships, especially when the database suggests dozens, sometimes over a hundred possible scholarships that users can qualify for. He recommends students look critically at the description. If they feel like it might be a stretch, they should dismiss it. Start by applying to five, then apply to five more, he said.
Also, students should see if they can use essays for more than one application. For example, if one scholarship asks for an essay on a specific topic and another only requires a 500-word essay to showcase the student’s writing abilities, users can turn in the same one for both to save time.
He also recommends starting early. High school sophomores may discover scholarships available to juniors. And if there is a community service requirement, visiting the site early on in the process will give them the time to volunteer enough hours.
Scholarships.com: Helping Students Navigate Uncertainty
When students know where they want to apply, or have already been accepted, it’s a good idea to have a conversation with the school’s financial aid department. Some colleges have reduced the amount of financial aid students receive with a scholarship.
“Everything is difficult financially for everyone. I hear schools take away scholarships,” Kevin said. “School is more expensive, and that’s why people are searching for more resources like outside scholarships.”
Financial aid letters aren’t easy to understand, and many in the industry wish there was a more effective process to help students and their families understand the fine print.
It remains unclear how the Covid-19 pandemic will impact universities and students. Kevin said he knows many small colleges that will reopen, but more prominent universities, including Harvard, plan to offer remote learning. Those looking to attend school to pursue a career in counseling, family therapy, or within the dating industry will have to stay alert.
In the meantime, it’s best to keep applying. Not only is the team at Scholarships.com always working to weed out the old information, but it is also planning to streamline the registration process.
“Higher education allows people to better their situations and careers, but many of them start with a huge load of debt because they don’t know what they’re getting into,” Kevin said. “Maybe kids won’t work that hard to find scholarships because they don’t know what they will do in the fall. It’s been a huge ripple in the way things normally work for the scholarship industry.”