There's more to scholarships than simply winning them; you need to concern yourself with keeping them, too.
When your child receives a scholarship, you celebrate and then breathe a big sigh of relief. At least that's the way we reacted at our house. After all, scholarships can go a long way in offsetting the cost of an education.
[Find out how to win scholarships this application season.]
But with renewable scholarships—which many are—there are requirements for keeping that scholarship. Often, those requirements are academic in nature.
That's why it's important to look carefully at scholarship renewal requirements while you're still making a college decision. It may be too late to wait until after the scholarship has been awarded and the school year is under way. Here's what to consider now:
1. Understand the renewal requirements: It's worth talking to your child about the number of credit hours that must be taken, what GPA needs to be maintained, and any other renewal requirements placed on the scholarship.
If your child is awarded a scholarship, odds are good that the renewal requirements will be attainable, but consider the challenges, too.
2. Realize the consequences: The higher the school's tuition and the bigger the scholarship, the greater the financial issue your family will have if the scholarship isn't renewed. While you don't want to focus on the negatives, you need to be pragmatic as well. Understand what it will mean if your student does not meet the scholarship renewal requirements.
And by all means, if your child's attendance at a school is based on keeping the scholarship, make that expectation clear.
[Ask these five questions when talking about family college financing.]
I was thrilled when I received a large scholarship from my university, the University of Kansas, during my senior year of high school. I felt that all my hard work during high school had paid off, and proud that I was able to help my parents with tuition through scholarships.
[Read about scholarships that might be right for you.]
But once I received this scholarship, I had a new set of academic requirements to adhere to in order to remain within what my school calls "Satisfactory Academic Progress"—and it's more complicated than you might think. Here's how I make sure I'm not at risk for losing any of my scholarships:
1. Know what's expected: When a university gives a scholarship, it almost always includes academic requirements for renewing that scholarship right along with it. But if you're like me, you blow past that part in order to get to the good stuff—the dollar amount.
Know what requirements go alongside your scholarships, and do this sooner rather than later. You don't want to be the person that realizes halfway through a semester that they're at risk of losing his or her scholarship.
2. Communicate with the financial aid office: I realized during my freshman year that, while I was doing well in my studies, I had lost sight of what specific requirements I had for my financial aid. Because only a few students receive my scholarship each year, this information wasn't easy to find on the financial aid website, amid all the information for incoming students.
I saved myself a lot of time by simply giving the Office of Financial Aid a call and having someone there send me all the information. I learned a lot that I wasn't aware of before, such as the maximum number of classes that I can drop or withdraw from without penalty.
3. Stay on top of other responsibilities: In the spirit of staying on top of things, don't forget about other obligations such as honors programs, majors and minors, and study abroad.
One thing I've learned in college is that, while most of these organizations provide advisers to students, advisers can't be expected to check up on every student to make sure nothing is slipping through the cracks. It's up to you to make sure you're meeting the standards for the many things you want to be a part of in college.