#55 Scholarships: Where to Find & How to Win Them Transcript


Jennifer Finetti  0:00  

If you can apply for a scholarship and some scholarships are really quick and easy to apply for some take a little more time. But if you can sort of think about it as okay, this is part of my job is I’m going to be applying for scholarships every week. I encourage students to try to apply to three scholarships a week, and they can be a mix of quick and easy scholarships to ones that are more involved that may involve writing an essay or doing something that takes a little bit more time. But if they are persistent, they’re going to be much more successful.


Lisa Marker Robbins  0:29  

My guest today gives free support to over 12,000 students on Discord. Those students are about to go to college and are figuring out how to pay for it all including finding and using private scholarships. Jennifer Finetti uses her background in counseling and psychology to help motivate students and support their parents. As a parent who recently helped her own teens figure it all out. She wants to support others in doing the same. She’s become an expert on scholarships through her work at scholarship owl. I’m Lisa marker Robbins and I want to welcome you to College and Career Clarity, a flourish coaching production. Let’s dive right into learning about finding and winning scholarships as a vehicle for paying for college.


I’m so excited to welcome Jennifer Finetti to the podcast this week. She comes here with a unique perspective of not only a mom, as many of my guests are moms or dads who have college graduates or students in college, and that kinda like spurs us all on to want to help more kids from what we learn through our own processes. But she has a unique expertise in private scholarships that are available for students. So we’re gonna talk today not only about private scholarships, but just how students can contribute to paying for college. Jennifer is a student advocate was scholarship owl. And she’s got a lot of great insights for us today. Jennifer, welcome to the podcast.


Jennifer Finetti  2:09  

Thank you so much for having me happy to be here.


Lisa Marker Robbins  2:11  

You have taken your own kids through this, and you help many students as an advocate. And I think it can feel overwhelming for students who need to help contribute to paying for college or to the parents who need their kids to contribute to figure out how to do that. So when you’re helping these students, what’s your first advice to them on how they help pay for college,


Jennifer Finetti  2:36  

I always tell students that they are responsible for contributing to the cost of their education, the vast majority of students are not able to pay for it completely on their own through savings that they’ve acquired over the years. In fact, many students have minimal savings of their own. However, they do have ways to contribute. One of the ways is by working part time while in high school and in college during the school year and also working full time during summers applying for scholarships and of course doing really well academically in school if that’s possible to increase the likelihood of qualifying for merit aid. And also just saving money that they receive for gifts right for birthdays, holidays, graduation, any money that you earn, or that you have received as a gift. Of course, you want to spend a little bit on yourself where needed. But the more you can save for college, the better off you’ll be. And of course, the more scholarships you can accumulate, the better chance you have of graduating debt free. And that’s really what we all want is a more affordable path to college for students where they don’t have the burden of debt when they graduate.


Lisa Marker Robbins  3:37  

We talk a lot and my flourish coaching and in my launch Career Clarity course about like that right college list. And that affordability piece is really key, I mean, part of it. And I think sometimes families underestimate how much power they have in the choice of I mean, there’s 1000s of colleges, and choosing the right ones to be on that list. So it’s a match for you. Students usually start with that social fit. But that academic fit of getting in has to enlist, but that financial fit like not overlooking that there sometimes just might be more affordable options that students perhaps should have a real mix on that college list so they know that they can afford the schools they’re applying to. I mean, it’s surprising to me.


Jennifer Finetti  4:23  

What I think is really interesting when I talk with students and parents is that often there is a disconnect between what the parent is able to help contribute for and what they support, both personally support as well as can financially support and what the students expectations are, that are options on the table for them for college. I think it’s really important that parents sit down with their kids, hopefully early in their high school time, right maybe as a freshman in high school, to sit down together and say, Hey, this is maybe a little bit early. It might feel early to be talking about college, but we really need to have that conversation. Here is what we have been able to save for you If any, here’s what we think we’ll have by the time you start college. And here is where the gap is right? This is where you need to help us out by helping to pay for your college. That also does include making more affordable choices on your college list. Now what is more affordable, that really depends on the situation with each family, some families more affordable would be starting at Community College, which is a great option for everyone to consider, but particularly for families where money is an issue. But then there are also families that say, Well, we really only want to consider an in state public university, because that’s going to be less expensive than private are out of state. And then there are families that say that may be true, but there may be schools that have great endowments that you can qualify for orgy we are kind of on the low income side. And there are some great universities that are out of state or that are private, that are really catering to families where affordability is an issue. If the students are really academically successful, it’s a big conversation to have. And it’s probably more than one conversation to have over a period of time. But it’s really important that students know what to expect from their parents. And sometimes that conversation can find everybody aligned. And other times it’s kind of a surprise moment. Sometimes students really are surprised that their parents unfortunately have not saved enough for them to go to college and to have it fully funded. It’s really important that conversation be open and that parents and students understand that there may be a disconnect prior to the conversation that conversation can resolve.


Lisa Marker Robbins  6:30  

I always feel like sophomore year of college, I like to freshmen a little bit of a break, right. I mean, it’s overwhelming to start freshman year of college, while both freshman year high school and college, but freshman year can be overwhelming, let’s let them navigate it. But I want to save families The pain of getting their kid on campus falling in love with that social fit of a campus that ultimately they can’t afford. So I might if you don’t have a budget figured out by the end of the 10th grade year and listeners, if you don’t, if you’re in that category, start having those conversations now. And I do think sometimes when it gets emotional, because there’s a lack of alignment, and that it’s okay to hit pause and walk away from it for a little bit. But you got to come back to it. Because you’re doing both of yourselves a disservice parent and child if you don’t do it. And frankly, even some of the fluid families that I’ve worked with, they have a budget too, they might be able to afford whatever. But one of the moms in our group recently said to me, just because I got approved for a mortgage for however much for a house, she said I’ve never maxed out. But we were approved for a mortgage for a house, we didn’t want to be house poor. So we always bought under what we are approved for even a family that has the means to maybe pay for more for college, maybe they’re gonna opt to not pay for all that or they often also want to have their kids have some skin in the game.


Jennifer Finetti  8:00  

I think that’s really true. I know of one family in particular, that’s very affluent, they have three children, they live in a very wealthy part of the Bay Area in California, for all three of their kids. They said, yes, we could afford to send you wherever you want to go. But we want you to start a community college for the first two years, because there’s no reason why you can’t get an excellent outstanding education for the first two years, you can live at home, get those basics out of the way. And then when you transfer you can go wherever you want to go. And their feeling on it was just because they could afford it. Part of the reason they were able to afford it is they had made frugal smart decisions financially, their entire adult lives, and they wanted to really show that to their kids. So sometimes, you know, you gotta listen to your parents. And if even if they have the funds, it might be a better choice to not go to your dream school or not try to pursue it, but maybe change what your dream is because it might be better for your family.


Lisa Marker Robbins  8:57  

I’ve seen this happen to where families are having that discussion on, we have a student who’s going to go their career path, because what I do is college major and career coaching. And so their career path is going to require an advanced degree, they’re gonna have to get a masters or a doctoral level degree. And so they’re trying to save money on the front end on that undergraduate degree. So they’ve got more available for what comes next. And that can be a driver in that too. When we’re talking about just thinking through the whole thing you had said something about consider how much you can work and a long time ago, and I’m wondering if you had this I do not have this statistic handy. I did the math on like if a kid worked just 10 hours a week while in high school and in college, and full time during the summers how much money they would have to contribute even with considering if they had to pay taxes. And I think it was like around $8,000 that they worked just 10 hours a week during school year full time during the summer. Do you have any math or stats on that? Or am I off? I don’t know. have


Jennifer Finetti  10:00  

specific math because of course, every state is different, right? Depending on your state’s minimum wage, and most high school students earn minimum wage, what I will say is that you’re somewhere in that right range because I have looked at this as well. If you look at that number, let’s say it’s not even 1000, let’s say it’s six or 7000. For the year, if a student is working throughout the year, that is actually more than what they could take out in a federal student loan their freshman year, and in their sophomore year, they can take out up to 6500. So it’s about in there for that as well. And for their junior and senior year, they can take out up to $7,500 each. So is it possible for students to earn enough income just from working to avoid taking out student loans? Yes, it is. Yeah, and a lot of students don’t think about that. And especially if you start earlier in high school, if you start when you turn 16 In high school, and have this as your plan and try to save as much as possible of your earnings. It is possible just on earnings alone to avoid taking out federal student loans.


Lisa Marker Robbins  10:58  

I love we used to like save your birthday money, save your graduation money, like that takes a lot of discipline, or at least save a portion of it, right. But having that family financial talk early, could really provide the incentive to have more discipline to be able to do that. Now. I’m a huge fan of finding the free money. So we already referenced merit scholarships by having the right college list. But you specialize in binding free money in the form of private scholarships. And that’s the work that you’re doing to support students and scholarship owl. So what are some, I even myself working in this space? We always feel overwhelmed when I hear about like, finding scholarships, kids applying the scholarships, how much time it’s going to take where to find them? What are some of the tips that you have for how you find the money how you apply best practices for doing so and doing so smartly?


Jennifer Finetti  11:58  

Absolutely. Well, let me first briefly cover the three different types of scholarships. There’s institutional scholarships that are offered by the universities themselves. So wherever you’re applying to college, make sure you apply for scholarships through your school, you should apply for those scholarships. During the time they are accepting applications. What happens is, a lot of the time students will say, Well, gosh, I’m applying to 15 schools, I don’t want to apply to scholarships at all 15 schools, because that’s really time consuming. So I’ll wait and see where I’m accepted where I want to go, and then I’ll apply for scholarships at that school. The problem is, in most cases, the filing deadline for scholarships will have already passed by the time you get your offered admission. So you definitely want to make sure you know what their scholarship application deadlines are. And if it means applying to scholarships at 15 schools, you just got to do it because that would be so disappointing if it turned out that you only applied to scholarships at certain schools, and then you ended up going somewhere else. So that’s for institutional scholarships. for colleges and universities, they do offer merit based aid based on your academics, they do also offer need based scholarships. So you know, if you are somebody who has financial need, and you’re strong academically, you have a great chance of getting a number of scholarships from the universities that you apply to. All right, so next local scholarships in your community. And I know students hear about this all the time, right, the best scholarships of local scholarships in your community. That’s probably a mantra that students are hearing at school from guidance counselor’s all the time. And the reason why is that these scholarships target a smaller regional area. I live in California, there are scholarships available for students in the city or county where I live, but people in Massachusetts are not eligible. Right. So local scholarships are really great, because you don’t have as much competition. One of the challenges with local scholarships is finding out about them, because sometimes they’re offered by small businesses, small nonprofits. And so they may not really publicly advertise and promote their scholarships really well, the best way to find out about them is first of all, to visit your high school guidance counselor or career counselor. Or if you’re going to community college or if you’re whatever college you’re currently attending, you can visit the Financial Aid Office of that college and ask them Hey, do you have a list of local scholarships, I’d like to see which ones I might qualify for. So that’s a great way to find out about them. But then you can dig a little bit deeper. And this is what a lot of students don’t think about doing. So what I always tell students is think about all the organizations that you were involved with growing up, maybe when you were in elementary school, you were a scout, maybe you were in Little League, or maybe you were in a gymnastics program, when you were in middle school, what were you involved in? What were your parents doing? Were they members of the PTA and when you were in middle school, and then all the way through high school, think about all those different organizations you were involved in, even if it’s been five years since you were involved, contact every single one of them and say, Hey, I was a Girl Scout from this time to this time and for this local troop. I’m just wondering, do you know of any scholarships for Girl Scouts that I can apply for? Either from my local troop or from the national organization? Can you send your eighth tip? Yeah, every single organization you’ve ever been involved in, and you would be surprised how many of them offer scholarships, and you would never have found out because they don’t know how to contact you, because maybe it’s been several years since you were involved. So it’s a great way to find out about scholarships. Also, ask your parents if their employer might offer scholarships for students find out if your parent volunteers for an organization, maybe they offer scholarships for children of volunteers, it does take a little time and legwork, but it can be really worthwhile.


Lisa Marker Robbins  15:30  

Any sort of an estimate of how much time somebody puts into applying for scholarships that in that rate of return,


Jennifer Finetti  15:39  

I don’t really have an estimate, because every person in every situation is different. We’ve all heard these wonderful news stories about this person got offered a million dollars in scholarships, this one got a half a million in scholarship offers. Those are students who are proactive in applying for scholarships, they don’t get it on a whim, they’re not just lucky, they actually have a strategy, they do the work they put in the time they’re organized. And that’s how they’re getting all of those scholarship offers. So that’s what I always tell students, it’s not just a numbers game, it’s not just luck, it is about effort. It’s time it’s persistence. You know, the hard part, when you’re talking to let’s say, a 17 year old about applying for scholarships is there’s no guarantee, you can say just to somebody, you should be applying for scholarships and see what you can get. They’re looking at the situation and saying, okay, but I can spend this time applying for scholarships, I don’t know, if I’m gonna get one, two, I want to put that time in. And it’s hard to convince somebody to put that time and it’s a lot in some ways, it’s easier to convince them to get a job, because that’s guaranteed money. But if you can apply for a scholarship in some scholarships are really quick and easy to apply for some take a little more time. But if you can sort of think about it as okay, this is part of my job is I’m going to be applying for scholarships every week, I encourage students to try to apply to three scholarships a week, and they can be a mix of like quick and easy scholarships to ones that are more involved that may involve writing an essay, or doing something that takes a little bit more time. But if they are persistent, they’re going to be much more successful


Lisa Marker Robbins  17:07  

at so they could do like, you know, if they made that commitment to themselves three a week, and then do a mix, maybe a low effort, medium effort, high effort, and whatnot high effort, one look like Like what would be the most amount of work, somebody would have to put in applying for a scholarship.


Jennifer Finetti  17:27  

Each scholarship has their own set of requirements. A lot of times the requirements are very simple writing an essay about your academic career goals. And maybe it might have a second requirement like attaching proof of enrollment or proof that you’ve applied to a college or something like that, right? Those types of scholarships don’t take that much time, but they do take a little bit of time, then you get the scholarships that are very involved where it’s write an essay about this topic, provide a personal statement about this, get three letters of recommendation, attach your transcript, you know, and so there might be nine or 10 things you have to do. And it can be super overwhelming to a student to decide do I want to take the time to apply for that. But when you’re really good at applying for scholarships, which is where I worked with students on as to how to get good at it, you had a lot of things at your fingertips, you can have your transcript right on your computer in a folder where you keep it, you can have a photo of yourself in that folder, you can have digital copies of your letters of recommendation that you’ve already requested, and keep them there. You can have essays you’ve written before, that you can maybe take and review, make some changes to make that essay work for this topic. So what you want to do is you want to have all the things you need at your fingertips so that if there are multiple requirements that might scare off other students, you decide for yourself, I have most of those materials at the ready. It’s fast and easy for me to apply for that scholarship. So I know I’m not gonna have as much competition when I apply.


Lisa Marker Robbins  18:52  

Yeah, I was just gonna say like you were talking about how the local ones, you could be the big fish in the small pond. So the competition’s less, it’s the same thing with applying for colleges, the most selective colleges have a lot more requirements than the ones that are less selective, because some kids just simply aren’t going to want to do the work. So yeah, the competition for those high effort probably is going to be large. Did those always? Or do they typically have a higher dollar value on the award amount when it’s a lot of work? Yeah,


Jennifer Finetti  19:24  

they often do have a higher dollar amount, but not always, sometimes nonprofit organizations asked for a lot of information. And so it might be that it’s a $500 or a $1,000 scholarship, which to a student seems like a pretty typical award offer, but to a nonprofit that might only award one or two scholarships a year 500 or $1,000 might be a lot to them. And so they might really be trying to weed through all of the applicants to select the perfect candidate to receive their their money. So it kind of depends on the situation. What’s the


Lisa Marker Robbins  19:56  

right time, like, is there a too early and is there a too late to be applying for scholarships,


Jennifer Finetti  20:02  

I tell students to apply for scholarships year round. That really is the right answer. Because scholarship providers offer scholarships at different times of the year, a lot of students think that sort of the high season when they should be most focused on scholarships is, let’s say, January to March. And that’s not necessarily because of information that anyone has told them. That’s just the feeling they get, because basically, they’ve completed their college applications from August to December. And now they think, Okay, now I’m gonna focus on scholarships, and around March is where they start really getting their acceptance offers. So that’s kind of the time that students think is the best time to apply. But in reality providers offer scholarships throughout the year. And also, if a lot of students are applying from January to March, wouldn’t it be smart to be applying for scholarships at less common times of the year, when there’s still money available, but not as many students are applying. So that’s what I always tell students is try to have a system rent it out. Yeah, so the third source of scholarships is private, external scholarships that are available, and you can find them online pretty easily. These are the kinds of scholarships we have on the scholarship, our platform, they’re also available on other scholarship websites, and you can search for them on Google. But it can be a little tedious and overwhelming to look for scholarships through Google, you can do it, you can put in keywords and try to narrow down the type of scholarships you’re looking for. But no matter what you do, you’re gonna get so many search results. So it’s a lot easier to go to a scholarship website that offers a way for them to match you to scholarships. And so that’s a great way to find these sorts of third party private external scholarships, and there’s so much money available for students and example right now we’ve got over $800,000, in our platform currently available. And wow, you know, I highly encourage students to apply for all kinds of scholarships, all three kinds, because that’s going to be a great strategy for you, as you look ahead to paying for college.


Lisa Marker Robbins  21:55  

So they come in to scholarship owl, they fill out demographic information about themselves, and then you’re just putting in front of them only the ones for which they qualify and are currently open. Is that right? That


Jennifer Finetti  22:08  

is correct. Yes, it takes a lot of the guesswork out. Because so much time is spent by students trying to find scholarships that are matched to and scholarships that are currently open. That’s something that we’re able to solve for the student when they’re on our platform. And then we have a lot of tools that they can use to organize and strategize for their scholarship search, so they know which ones to prioritize. As just one example, we allow students to see how many other students on our platform have applied for each scholarship. So you can focus on lower competition scholarships by saying 1000 people applied for this one, but this one over here has less than 100. Applicants, I’m gonna go for that one. So that’s just one example of how you can really strategize and focus on scholarships, do you have a better chance of winning?


Lisa Marker Robbins  22:51  

Well, it’s just a better ROI on your time investment. I noticed like on LinkedIn, I work with a lot of kids, I get students on LinkedIn, we use it to learn about careers inside. And when they pull up a job, it’ll tell you how many applicants have come through LinkedIn already for that. So I had said, like, I like to let freshmen be freshmen. But is freshman year too early to start applying for scholarships or like age wise with kind of a minimum age maximum age of when to look,


Jennifer Finetti  23:23  

I really recommend that students really start applying for scholarships when they’re 16 and older. And the reason why is that there are a lot of scholarships for ages 16 and older. And usually, scholarships are not going to be as eligible for students that are younger than that. That doesn’t mean there aren’t any. But it’s less likely that you’re going to find enough scholarships that you’ll be able to be matched to as far as starting your freshman year. While you shouldn’t necessarily apply for scholarships your freshman year, you can start doing research your freshman year to sort of think about what are the kinds of scholarships that I want to apply for, you can even start keeping a list of some that interests you so that when you hit that age, when you’re eligible, you’ll be able to apply, but also freshman year is a great time to think about what kinds of organizations do you want to get involved with that might offer scholarships. If you know of certain organizations in your community that offers local scholarships, get involved with them as a freshman, and keep your involvement up throughout your whole high school experience, and then apply for those scholarships. Usually, those scholarships are not awarded by random drawing. They are usually looking to award the funds to a student who has been very proactive within their organization. So be that proactive student and you’re really going to put yourself up there as a finalist already by the time you apply.


Lisa Marker Robbins  24:37  

What percentage of scholarships listed on scholarship owl would be like a college student would be able to apply for I hear of students still getting new scholarships while they’re in college.


Jennifer Finetti  24:49  

Yes. And I will tell you that we often have scholarships on our platform that are more open to college students than the high school seniors which I think is a misnomer. I think a lot of people assume that the vast majority of scholarships are high school seniors, but at least within our database, that is not true. So if you are a current college student, keep applying to scholarships every single year apply for institutional scholarships through your university. Because again, those scholarships open up every single year at your school, apply for local scholarships in your community, and private external scholarships, like what we have in our platform, and do that all the way until you’re done with grad school, law school, medical school,


Lisa Marker Robbins  25:26  

if that’s your money out there. Absolutely. That’s fantastic. And they’ve got someone like you to help advocate for them and point them in the right direction, because they know you’re in there supporting the students and the work that they do. Well, this is fantastic. I’ve worked with students for a long time, I do not specialize in scholarships, or out or anything college funding wise. But I always say to families, there’s money out there, but I’m helping you with other parts like the right college major. So find those trusted resources out there. And it sounds like scholarship out would be one of them. And you so thank you, Jennifer for making time to help us today. You’re welcome.


Jennifer Finetti  26:07  

I just want to throw out just a couple things, types of scholarships that are out there, you know, everybody’s afraid of essay scholarships. Yes, there are a lot of essay scholarships available. But there’s some really fun creative scholarships that students can apply for through social media. Or maybe it’s a scholarship that asks for somebody to cook some food. We recently had a dorm cuisine scholarship on our platform, there might be scholarships for somebody who can draw scholarships for people that have an interesting thing they want to convey about a cause that interests them, you can create a video about that. So if you don’t love essay scholarships, there’s lots of other options for you, and repurpose your essays. If you do have essays you’ve written for college applications, repurpose them for your applications for scholarships as well. That’s another great way to reduce the time that you spend.


Lisa Marker Robbins  26:52  

That’s fantastic advice. So, okay, families get out there and find that free money because I think whether you’re on a budget or you’re a fluent, we all would like to spend less on college. So thanks for the tips today. Jennifer, thank you so much. What fantastic insights on not only finding scholarships to help defray your out of pocket costs for college, but in paying for college in general. Before your family jumps into searching for scholarships, I’m going to encourage you for this week’s college bound conversation with your family to discuss your college budget, not just as a parent, but with your student too. My goal is for a student to never step foot on a campus that ultimately the family can’t afford. There’s absolutely nothing worse than you as a parent struggling against your teen, when they have their heart set on something that’s out of your budget. With over 3000 universities. I know there is something for everyone’s budget out there. You just have to be savvy, but you first have to determine your budget before you find those schools. So that’s your homework start or maybe finish that discussion as a family and nail down what you really can afford to pay, then I encourage you to implement the tips and strategies that Jennifer shared in this episode. Speaking of money, I provide the podcast and guest interviews for free because my heart is to support your family. It would mean the world to me not to make money from the podcast. But to help more people. Nothing increases the reach of College and Career Clarity more than your rating, reviewing and sharing episodes with friends. Would you take a moment to do so? It would mean a lot to me. Thank you once again for listening to the College and Career Clarity podcast where I help your family move from overwhelmed, confused to motivated, clear and confident about your teens future.