When parents start talking to me about college, they often mention that they’ve been haranguing their kids about applying for private scholarships.
It happened again on Wednesday night before I gave a talk at High Tech High in San Diego, which is where my son is a junior. A mother expressed frustration that her teenage son wasn’t prowling for free cash.
I could appreciate her frustration since it’s not easy for me to motivate my own 16-year-old (and that’s an understatement) , but I told her that I think the focus on private scholarships is largely misplaced.
The average outside scholarship, according to the latest figures, is worth less than $2,000. And typically these scholarships, whether a teenager snags one from the Rotary Club, a union, a community foundation or some other organization, aren’t renewable. I don’t have to tell you that $2,000 isn’t going to go far.
Rather than spend inordinate amounts of time chasing private scholarships, which roughly 7% of students receive, I’d argue that kids should devote those extra hours to earning stellar grades.
Here’s why: Most of the big bucks for college come from the institutions themselves. And the best way that students can ensure that they snag some of this serious cash is to boost their GPA and class rank. When colleges and universities are deciding who will earn the biggest aid packages, it’s a student’s GPA which is the biggest factor.
In fact, I’d suggest that the best way that teenagers can help pay for college during these scary economic times is to simply become more studious.
You can learn dozens of ways to shrink the cost of a bachelor’s degree by reading The College Solution and checking out my blog archives. You can learn even more by visiting my second college blog at CBSMoneyWatch.com.