When it comes to finding and winning scholarships, some things never change. Good grades, school and community involvement and leadership always pay off. Starting your searches and applications early is always the right idea. Applications that ask you for upfront fees are pretty much always suspect.
But that's not to say that the scholarship world never changes. Shifts in financial aid rules, government funding, workforce demands and even the popularity of certain college majors mean that no two scholarship years are quite the same.
As one of the nation's largest managers of scholarship programs, Scholarship America has a front-row seat to these changes and trends. Here are three we think will become even more prominent in 2014.
[Seek out scholarships for high-paying college majors.]
1. Scholarships for specific majors: At the current pace, the U.S. will have at least 3 million fewer college graduates than its workforce needs by 2025, according to Georgetown University's Center on Education and the Workforce.
In response, a higher percentage of the companies and foundations that sponsor college scholarships are focusing increasingly on individual, in-demand majors. More corporate scholarship programs are providing awards to outstanding students majoring in the company's field - helping the student succeed and the company find its next generation of leaders.
The Buick Achievers Scholarship Program, for example, devotes its 1,100 scholarships solely to students in majors relevant to the auto industry.
As the American workforce becomes more technology-based, it's not surprising that science, technology, engineering and math majors, the so-called STEM fields, are the most noticeable examples of this trend.
Big-name, big-money awards like the Intel Science Talent Search and the Google in Education scholarships are just two examples of the funding available for these subjects. It's a trend that shows no sign of slowing down.
[Find resources and scholarships for aspiring STEM students.]
2. Renewable and multiyear scholarships: Getting into college is important, and graduating with a mountain of student loan debt is bad. But the real worst-case scenario is getting into college, building up debt and then having to drop out before getting a degree to help you pay down that debt.
Financial issues are the most common reason students have to drop out of college, according to a study conducted by the nonprofit Public Agenda. Family contributions, higher household income and scholarship aid all drastically reduce the dropout rate.
To help counteract the dropout trend, scholarship providers are beginning to recognize the importance of awards that go beyond students' freshman years and provide them support throughout their college career. Scholarship America recently introduced the Dream Award, a program open only to current college students who need funding for their second, third and fourth years of college.
In addition, if you're a college sophomore, you should make friends with your academic department's adviser. With many majors kicking into high gear for upperclassmen, having this person as a mentor is your best chance to find department-specific scholarships for your final two years of school.
3. Transfer and trade-school scholarships: Scholarship providers are also adapting to the increasingly popular money-saving strategy of students beginning their studies at a junior college and then transferring to a four-year college to reduce tuition costs and decrease overall debt upon graduation.
Two-year, community and junior colleges tend to be cheaper and have more flexible schedules than four-year universities, making them excellent choices for students who want to live at home, balance work and school or spend less on tuition. Earlier this year, The Scholarship Coach covered a variety of scholarships for students ready to transfer from two-year to four-year schools.
One of the biggest, the Jack Kent Cooke Foundation Undergraduate Transfer Scholarship, closes this week, so if you're a great student at a community college, don't miss out.
Finally, if you're attending a two-year school for an associate degree or certification before embarking on a career, scholarships for you are increasingly prevalent and include fields such as cooking, cosmetology and automotive tech. Like the other workforce-driven scholarship trends, expect these to continue in 2014 and beyond.
Matt Konrad has been with Scholarship America since 2005. He is an alumnus of the University of Minnesota and a former scholarship recipient.
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- Scholarship America