It's a new year, full of opportunities to plan ahead, build your resume and find new funding opportunities for your college education. So make a resolution to stay on track for success by making a month-to-month schedule for applying for scholarships.
January, February and March: This is the ideal time to begin researching and applying for scholarships. Many scholarships run in accordance with the academic calendar, so springtime is blooming with freshly opened scholarship applications preparing to pay out to deserving recipients in the fall. Strive to turn your applications in early and avoid the rush at the deadline date.
There are many ways you can find scholarships that are a good fit for you. First, make an appointment with your school's guidance counselor to discuss your options.
Many community organizations also sponsor scholarship programs, so don't hesitate to contact your local service clubs including Dollars for Scholars, United Way, YMCA or YWCA, Kiwanis International, local Chamber of Commerce or church.
There may be scholarships waiting right around the corner that you never knew were there.
When searching for scholarships online, set up a profile on Fastweb to be matched with scholarships that fit your academic ambitions. Scholarship America has a list of open scholarships to check out as well.
There are plenty of scholarship-related websites and search engines out there, so avoid having to pay off thousands of dollars in debt borrowed next year by paying a visit to CollegeBoard.com, Scholarships.com and CollegeNet.com early this year.
[Boost your scholarships search with these search engines.]
April, May and June: Most scholarship application windows will be winding down by now. If you've already submitted applications to the programs of most interest to you, this is a good time to start applying for smaller programs that are still open.
If you've found yourself procrastinating or forgot to apply earlier in the year, there's still time to find some fantastic opportunities. Search out programs that are still accepting applications.
Make a list organized by deadline date. Start from the top and challenge yourself to meet each deadline.
[Follow these five steps to organize your scholarship strategy.]
July, August and September: By midsummer, many students have their financial plans figured out and there are not as many open scholarship programs. This makes it the perfect time of year to break from filling out applications and focus on research.
Make a list of scholarships you find that fit your interests. Organize them by the date they begin accepting applications so you don't miss a deadline.
This is also a great time to make resolutions for the upcoming school year.
If you've had trouble with your grades in the past, set a goal to improve. Maybe you could use some more leadership experience, work experience or involvement in extracurricular activities to beef up your scholarship applications.
You have the whole school year to boost your ability to stand out of the applicant pool.
[Use this timeline to map out college savings for 2014.]
October, November and December: Now that the school year is well underway and the time to start working on scholarship applications is again fast approaching, it is a good time to do some pre-planning. Update your resume and make a list of teachers, coworkers and counselors who could provide glowing references for you.
Did you set goals to improve your grades or up your involvement this year? Revisit your goals from last semester and make sure you're sticking to your plan or getting yourself back on track if necessary.
Everyone has a different schedule and maybe your calendar is a bit different from the usual August through May college year. The important thing is to you set your own plan. Write notes on your calendar or set pop-up reminders in your email account – whatever works for you.
Get an early start and stick to your goals throughout the year. Your future self will thank you for all your hard work.
Angela Frisk holds a Bachelor of Science degree from the University of Minnesota—Twin Cities and is a former scholarship recipient. She joined Scholarship America in 2012.