As the summer draws to an end, many students have already started applying for classes for the fall semester. But the search to ease tuition expenses through financial aid and scholarships can be just as stressful if you don’t know where to look for these opportunities. 

Most colleges offer a myriad of scholarships based on merit, talent, and financial need, but there are many more available on a national and local level that can often go overlooked by students who could otherwise qualify for these opportunities. Colleges can assist you even more so in finding the perfect scholarship opportunities.

“There are a plethora of people and organizations willing to help their peers by giving them an opportunity to get a decent education,” said Marcel Roberts, an assistant professor in the department of Sciences at City of New York (CUNY) John Jay College of Criminal Justice. “Potential and current students should contact their academic advisement centers to find out about all of the scholarships available.” 

Common misconceptions on eligibility surround when exactly in a student’s academic career that they should begin looking into scholarships and who qualifies for them. Oftentimes it is perceived that scholarships only apply to students who are either at the top of their class or are star athletes in their school, but financial opportunities for college money go well beyond these limited criteria. 

Before scoping out your prospects, sit down with a trusted peer or mentor and list strengths, talents, and interests that you have. This can apply to any extracurricular activity you participate in or hobbies, including art, sports, martial arts, dance, writing, and more. It is also important to note that you can apply for as many scholarships as you desire if you find you meet the criteria.

Local and community organizations are a great place to start searching for scholarships. There are nonprofit groups and initiatives focused on empowering the community, like the “Stay on Long Island” campaign, which offers scholarships for academically inclined graduates of Suffolk County Community College to ensure graduates continue their education by transferring to a four-year school on Long Island. 

Other scholarships from the area pertain to personal interests and hobbies, like The Long Island Caddie Scholarship Fund, which was founded in 1962 and has awarded more than $4.3 million to young men and women from Long Island who work in service to golf for a need-based scholarship. Individuals must work a minimum of two years in service golf and be in good standing with the club. 

According to Johanna Gavin, the Senior Director of Caddie Scholarship Funds, the scholarship enforces a good work ethic and a chance to learn about the integrity of golf.

“Our applicants are caddies who as young adults learn about the importance of networking and meeting new people,” said Gavin. “It demonstrates hard work and perseverance because you’re not always guaranteed work [as a caddie], so you have to stick to it and become responsible along the way.”

BENEFACTOR INSIGHTS

James Metzger, the founder, chairman, and CEO of Whitmore, a leading insurance brokerage on Long Island, offers his professional advice for students seeking scholarships. He is a major contributor to academic and athletic programs in high schools and colleges such as Hofstra University, Half Hollow Hills, and St. Anthony’s High School. Metzger has dedicated himself to helping student athletes better their college experience and their education through his efforts.

What inspires you to continue to be so involved in helping to fund education? I see giving back as a responsibility and a privilege. Helping others is something my parents instilled in me.When I see the looks of gratitude from families that get support, it’s all worth it.

Do you have any advice for students who are looking for scholarships? There are numerous angles to pursue to find scholarships. It requires preparation, dedication and hard work. I’d suggest encouraging families to start thinking about developing a history and record of achievement as you are leaving grade school.

How can students stand out in their applications? Scholarship applications help school administrators identify a potential student’s character, academics, and extracurricular achievement. Character is a keyword. How you demonstrate these things will differentiate you from your peers. Being able to work with others, leadership, and community service are game changers.

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