The Monroe on a Budget column runs Tuesdays in The Monroe Evening News. Here is this week’s installment:

Scholarship application season has started for the 2013-14 academic year, and some of the deadlines for awards that will go to Monroe County, Mich., students have been posted for as early as late February.

A bit of preparation and organization before students start the process will help make the next few weeks not quite so frantic. If you kept a copy of the college application forms or your notes when filling those out, you actually have a good start.

What I recommend is building a “master file,” or what the academics call a “curriculum vitae.”

Start with listing all high school and college classes taken, cumulative grade point average, community service hours, leadership roles, sports and organized activities. Any volunteer efforts that students may have done as classroom projects or as service hours for confirmation preparation, scouting, clubs, or pageant platforms can be included. Any special awards such as academic letters or community honors also should be listed.

The relevant dates are:

  • Since grade 9 for the high school seniors.
  • Since the start of college for those who are continuing students
  • The past five years for returning adults.

You may need to look through family calendars or photo albums, or ask coaches and advisers, for dates and details. But record them as best as you can.

These details also need to be added:

  • A description of the student’s academic and career goals, along with the name and location of the colleges that the student has been accepted to or will attend. The reason you need this information is many scholarships are limited to students who will study a particular topic or will attend a particular college.
  • An explanation of what the student of any hardship or unusual circumstances that contribute to financial need, and what the student has done to pursue any available funding. Some of the awards that are based on merit also give preference to students in need, and it certainly is worth noting that such a student has already earned other scholarship money and needs only to make up the difference.
  • A list of the names and contact information of advisers, high school counselors, professors, pastors, teachers and coaches whom one could ask to write a reference letter.

Unfortunately, here’s the detail students can’t prepare ahead of time: a prewritten essay that can be used on every scholarship application. My daughter saved copies of all her college and scholarship essays, but I can’t recall any that she was able to use more than once.

Additional scholarship tips are at my Cash for College page.

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