I wish Mark Kantrowitz's Secrets to Winning a Scholarship had been around when I was getting ready for college. Mark Kantrowitz knows what the secrets are to winning a scholarship. As the founder of FinAid!, and the publisher of Fastweb, the most comprehensive scholarship matching site, he is more than qualified to write a book about how to crack the scholarship code and get your kid as much free money as possible.

Secrets to Winning a Scholarship is packed with resources on where to find and apply for these scholarships, as well as tips on how to better your chances at winning them. Scholarships look not only at grades, but at the difficulty of classes. It is better to get a B in an advanced placement class than an A in a regular one, something I was amazed to find out.

What Scholarships Are Really Based On

This is a fact-based book, bringing everything down to bare-boned statistics. This is reaIty at its finest, enabling you to cut through the misconceptions of who we all think gets scholarships, versus who actually does. I was surprised at many of the statistics. White students receive more scholarships than minorities, and you don't have to be poor to receive a scholarship. In fact, middle-income students receive more scholarships than lower-income students.

The tips and directions laid out within this book are easy to follow, and even easier to conceive a game plan around. The advice is solid, sensible, and practical. This isn't a "if you wish hard enough and long enough it will come true" book.

Never Too Early or Too Late to Get Scholarships

There is excellent advice, throughout, without a page of wasted information. The main thing is to get started as early as possible. This book can be purchased for your teenaged child as well as your kindergartner — there are competitions and scholarships that start as early as that. Also, it's better to start earlier rather than later, considering many scholarship cut-off dates are early. Also, if your child is already in college, there are still scholarship opportunities available. It may not be too late to get free money.

Create a Scholarship Plan

There are excellent organization tips and strategies that every scholarship applicant should be aware of. For example, it's good to apply for small scholarships, since the odds of winning them are much higher than the large gifts. There is even a formula for determining which scholarships are best to prioritize based on grant offered and chance of winning.

The section on essays has an excellent list of applicable ideas to help your student get over the fears (and writer's block) that plague most essay competitions. There is also a helpful lists of topics to avoid when writing essays. There is a wonderful breakdown of essay "do's and don'ts" that I wish I would have had in my early writing career.

This thorough, easy-to-read guidebook covers everything:

  • how to handle yourself in an interview, what words are most effective to use in an application
  • how to avoid scams
  • coming up with essay ideas
  • how to deal with rejection

In the competitive world of scholarships, this book is a necessary tool to get the edge to win. And when considering every dollar will be about $2 by the time you pay back a student loan, every scholarship won counts.

There are helpful tools at the end of the book, such as a valuable list of resources for scholarship information, a glossary and a "Top 10 List" for the most unusual scholarships, most prestigious scholarships, most generous scholarships, most generous graduate scholarships, scholarships for ages 13 and under, and more.

I will definitely be using the ideas in this book to prepare for my children's college, although they are only 2 and 5 years old. There are scholarships they can apply for as early as next year. This book should be in every high school, and even grade school student's home. I'm encouraged that Mr. Kantrowitz has taken the mystery out of scholarship winning and placed the answers in such an easy to use guideline. There's no reason to feel overwhelmed about the process. In fact, it can actually be kind of fun.

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