Member Spotlight

Stephanie Speiser, Senior Lecturer at SIU College of Agriculture, offers advice for scholarship strategies



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College Scholarships 101
Just the thought of starting to look for college scholarships can be overwhelming.  Don’t let procrastination set in, the early bird gets the worm!   Once you organize your materials to apply for one scholarship, you can easily make adjustments to apply for others. Scholarships are available at national, state and local levels based on varying criteria, including horse activities!   Do your homework, seek out any and all scholarships and apply!  Can you believe some monies are not given out because no one applies?

During the junior year of high school, investigate colleges that you are interested in attending.  You may want to attend open houses or zoom informational meetings.    Research the application requirements and scholarship deadlines for individual colleges because they vary.  Some colleges will require American College Testing (ACT) or Scholastic Aptitude Test (SAT) scores to apply while others may admit from your high school grade point average. It is common to take any required ACT or SAT tests the spring semester of your junior year.

 Most of the work for scholarship application takes place the summer prior to or very early during your senior year of high school.   Apply to your desired College (or Colleges if you are undecided) starting in July and wrap it up before late September.   This timeline will prepare you to apply as early as possible for the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FASFA) which becomes available October 1.  There are different FASFA deadlines for federal, state and college scholarships, by applying early you won’t miss any opportunities.  Most colleges require you to apply to FASFA to determine eligibility for their financial aid programs or to be qualified for student employment, so just do it!  Did you know that in Illinois, money is awarded until funds are depleted?  Apply early!

In addition to the FASFA and scholarship programs from the college of your choice, you can seek out countless other scholarship opportunities.  For example, national scholarships can be found connected to the American Quarter Horse Association, National Collegiate Equestrian Association or the Intercollegiate Horse Show Association/Intercollegiate Equestrian Foundation.  You will find membership to state organizations such the Illinois Quarter Horse Association or Illinois Farm Bureau will qualify you to apply for scholarships.  Others may be sponsored locally by banks, power companies and local saddle clubs such as the Illinois Western Horse Show and Racing Association.  Look online for free sites that list scholarships.  If awarded, some scholarship checks will be written to the college, check with the college financial aid office for procedures.

Do your homework. Use your resources.  Submit applications as soon as they open.   Think of scholarship application as a job-you could be paid for it! 

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