The great scholarship search can begin earlier than you think, as early as your freshman year of high school. That being said, it only makes sense that a clear, organized system is needed to help you keep track of your searches, applications and essays as they collect over the years. Organization (and preparing your kid for college) looks different for everyone, but however you choose stay on the ball, there are plenty of tools and tricks to help you keep track of your college financial aid.
Find the Right Gadget
If you are a staunch believer in writing by hand, grab a notebook, pen and a pile of sticky notes and you will be on your way to mastering the masses of scholarship data. However, if the digital world is more your M.O., free tools such as Trello or Evernote are a great way to track your scholarships and keep that information handy on your smartphone and computer at the same time. Trello even allows you to create boards, color-code your lists and create sublists, so it’s almost like using a real sticky note. Almost. Don’t forget the all-too-useful Google Apps. If you aren’t familiar with Gmail, now might be a good time to create a free email account specifically for scholarship applications (tip: to look more professional, use your email@example.com instead of a nickname). That way your emails, calendar and notes are all in one place. Your method aside, the key is that you have a single place to begin tracking your scholarships. Remember, no scholarship left behind.
Choose a Strategy
Now that you have the necessary tools, one way to keep track of your scholarships is to organize them by status. Keep separate lists of scholarships you’ve already won, those you’ve applied for, and those you are considering. Use your calendar to track deadlines and set reminders so you don’t miss an opportunity. This is also a good way to track interviews down the road. If most of your scholarships require essays, keep your essays organized by topic so you can reuse them for future applications. Finally, keep track of what you have earned so far—as well as your financial target—so that you have a clear destination in mind. A little work up-front goes a long way in keeping you on top of your scholarship goals.