Finding and Applying for Culinary Scholarships and Grants
As with any educational training opportunity, culinary school can come with a hefty price tag. In addition to tuition costs, students typically have to include living expenses, educational materials, and a great set of knives into the total cost of school – all of which can add up to tens of thousands of dollars per year.
Fortunately, most culinary schools are well aware of the costs of higher education. Since they work with an educational process that has costs known to exceed those of most public universities, there are a number of grant, loan, and scholarship opportunities available through individual schools.
When rounded off with online funding databases, there are actually quite a few resources available to students looking for a way to pay for culinary school.
Start with the School
Your first resource should be the financial aid department at the school of your choice. Most of them are more than willing to help you discover what your options are as far as private and federal funding go.
For starters, most schools will ask you to fill out a FAFSA (Free Application for Federal Student Aid). This form will determine your eligibility for federal funding in the form of grants, loans, and work-study programs. Eligibility is based on your income, your parents income (if you are under 23 and unmarried), and the amount of money the school has available.
While these options are a great starting point, they may not be for everyone. Some students don’t qualify for enough student aid to cover their expenses, and the loans do require repayment. That’s why scholarships and grants continue to be one of the best ways to pay for school.
How to Find Culinary Scholarships and Grants
Scholarships and grants are generally preferred by students because they are “free money.” Although you have to meet certain criteria to be eligible, you don’t have to pay them back.
In many cases, scholarships are highly detailed, meaning that you may have to a specific income, background, and/or demonstration of things like community service in order to even compete for the funds. It all depends on who is offering the money and why.
Many culinary schools have their own scholarships, which they post either on their websites or in the financial aid office. These can be highly competitive, since the other students at your school are probably looking to secure the same funding sources that you are.
Other great places to look include professional culinary organizations, your high school, libraries, and the Internet. Scholarship boards and companies dedicated to culinary resources like ReluctantGourmet.com offer a great one-stop solution for finding scholarships unique to the field.
Although scholarships are essentially free money, they aren’t easy money – you will have to dig deep to find scholarship opportunities that are relevant to you, your career goals, and even your location. Here are some tips to make your search a little easier:
• Don’t be afraid to ask other students and school alumni about their scholarship successes. Don’t talk dollars and cents – simply ask where they looked for scholarships and what (if anything) they would do differently this time around.
• Consider all scholarships – no matter how small. A $50 scholarship may not seem like it’s worth the effort of applying for, but it is. Four or five of those, and you’ve covered your course materials for at least a quarter.
• Look locally. While online scholarships sites are incredibly valuable as a tool for finding funding sources, they are visited by students all over the country. There may be money available within your own city that is much less flooded with applicants.
• Find press clippings and news releases. Scholarship winners and providers are notorious for announcing their good luck in the newspapers and online. Use these as a way to build up a list of resources to consider.
The Application Process
Applying for scholarships and grants can be a time-consuming process. All of them have their own criteria that need to be met before you can even get your application in the front door. This means that a successful student is a well-organized student.
Although you can create a template scholarship letter (since many of them ask for a letter about you and your dreams for the future), remember that you need to personalize your approach to each application you send out. Fulfill all of the requirements they set out, and do it before the final due date.
It can take months before scholarship and grant committees decide who will be receiving the final funding, so it’s important not to lose heart if you don’t hear back right away. Don’t consider a non-response a failure and give up before you’ve even started trying. Instead, continue finding scholarship opportunities and apply for them to the best of your ability.
Getting Ready for School
In the end, you should have a better idea of where you stand financially as you enter your culinary education. Between federal grants, possible loans, the scholarships you were awarded, and the financial packages that many schools put together as way to entice you to sign up for their curriculum, you should have a good idea of what to expect to pay as you enter this new phase in your life.
If you would like to read more articles about entering the culinary world or life in a professional kitchen, be sure to visit Culinary School Resources for articles, schools sources and books to read.