Unfortunately, every year the next class of graduates is deemed “The Most Indebted Ever.” But how many scholarships should you be applying for right now? It’s a question I hope to answer for you in this post.

College costs are rising. We see this information in the news and online. And we hear this information from our counselors and college advisors. It’s stressful just thinking about the number of student loans that will be or have already been taken out. I’m not even going to mention the sacrifices that our families make.

Let’s get real – nobody wants to pay back tens of thousands of dollars in loans, so to reduce these costs, we go after scholarship dollars. We honestly have no choice but to turn to scholarships to help us reduce the stress and strain that our families face each semester.

How Many Scholarships Should You Apply For?

The late, legendary boxer Muhammad Ali was repeatedly asked about his workout routine. When asked how many sit-ups he did each day, here was his reply: “I don’t count my sit-ups; I only start counting when it starts hurting because they’re the only ones that count.”

Instead of asking how many scholarships you should be applying for each week, month, or semester, the better questions to ask are:

  • Why have I not been awarded any scholarships up until this point?
  • What kind of effort have I been putting into my application process?
  • How many of my applications did I copy and paste?
  • How much time have I spent per application?
  • Have I really been working hard on my applications?
  • How many scholarships do I need this semester?

If you’re a parent, your questions should look like this:

  • What level of support have I been giving my son/daughter in their scholarship process?
  • What information have I been studying and reading to guide our scholarship process?
  • What is our scholarship plan over the next semester?

Undoubtedly, the question that creates the most pressure for students and parents is: How are we going to pay for college now and into the future?

How to Plan for Paying for College Each Semester

This post is not about fluff. It’s a serious conversation that examines the costs of college and how scholarships can reduce that cost. But first, you must understand that the total cost of a degree should be put into perspective depending on the institution you or your student is considering or already attending.

Here’s how many initially look at paying for college:

  • Total Cost of Undergraduate Degree from The University of You Rock: $100,000
  • Total Cost of “Other Expenses” (Housing, Food, Books, Etc.): $20,000
  • Scholarships Awarded Because You Rock ($10,000 Each Year): $40,000
  • Grants Awarded Because You Really Rock ($2,500 Each Year): $10,000
  • Total Left to Pay ($100,000+$20,000-$40,000- $10,000) = $70,000?

(From the U.S. News to the Wall Street Journal and CNN Money, multiple national outlets report student debt averages between $35,000-$45,000. For the sake of our example, I’m using a realistic example that fits our readers.)

Next, determine when your scholarships are going to be awarded. Broken Down Per Year/Semester, these are our totals:

  • Total Per Year ⇒ Total Per Semester
    • Tuition/Fees: $25,000 ⇒ $12,500
    • Other: $5,000 ⇒ $2,500
    • Scholarships $10,000 ⇒ $5,000
    • Grants $2,500 ⇒ $1,250
    • Left to Pay: $17,500 ⇒ $8,750?

Although that’s still close to $10,000 a semester, it’s a lot easier to think about earning $10,000 in scholarships this semester versus feeling the pressure of receiving $70,000 in scholarships all at once.

The per-semester scholarship amount is the number you want to keep in mind. It will significantly reduce your stress.

Don’t be blind to the fact that we’re looking at $70,000 when it’s all said and done (assuming it takes 4 years to graduate).

Real Talk: What traps and hurts students is when they attach scholarships with a $70,000 plan instead of the $8,750 strategy. Stop focusing on trying to earn all your scholarship money at once. Even if you plan ahead, your scholarship strategy and plan could be influenced negatively or positively each semester.

I find that when students become caught up in how many scholarships they’re applying for, their application quality drastically suffers. Students try to complete too many applications or take too much time on one, and loans become inevitable.

“Consistency in the scholarship application process is what separates scholarship winners.”

Consistency is what determines how many scholarships you should be applying for each semester, week, and month. Focus on what’s immediately needed, but also keep in mind what is required in the future. You can also use our FREE Scholarship Calculator to see what may be holding you back.

Predicting Scholarship Availability

Things change. Grant amounts, availability of programs with a scholarship or financial awards attached to them, a university/college’s aid for specific projects, and other events can create monetary opportunities for students.

I want you to understand that there can be significant fluxes from semester-to-semester and year-to-year.

This actually happened to me one summer school session. I was awarded a graduate school grant of $2,000 one year; the next summer – ZERO! The reasoning that financial aid gave me? Changes in our state’s legislature.

In the past, some semesters, I had a chance to take courses for free because of university initiatives. Other semesters I had to account for paying for a $200+ textbook to be used all year long. Steadiness won the race for me, and it can do the same for your family.

Scholarship Winner Application Averages

For those that want solid numbers, on average, many of the students I work with are applying for anywhere between 3-7+ scholarships, each, per week. Some weeks those numbers are much higher, and other weeks students are preparing or taking the week off to recharge mentally.

You have to determine what number is doable for your family. Starting at 1 scholarship per week is very doable, but isn’t going to give you the long-term results you’d like. Get those applications numbers as high as you can while retaining quality.

My Recommendation If You’re Still Overwhelmed, Frustrated, or Worried

I know that some of you out there reading this are downright tired of the scholarship process. I got tired too, but I’ve learned something as I continued to earn scholarships and work on my doctorate.

Remember this: While others may put on a facade, claiming that everything is alright, they’re probably struggling too. Just because someone appears to have gotten “plenty of scholarships” doesn’t mean that you’re doing something (or anything) wrong.

Everyone has a unique case and set of circumstances that determine financial aid packages and scholarship awards. If the answers were that simple, word would’ve gotten out by now. Pace yourself, speak with us in chat, and keep going!

Feature Image Artwork Credit: iStockPhoto/Sashkinw

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