The Crunch: Attending college remains a vital step for students interested in growing career fields — such as STEM — even as the cost of tuition continues to increase. Scholarships can help bridge the gap by providing debt-free funding for college education, but many students are unaware of how to find scholarships they qualify for. Fastweb is a college and career resource site that offers free scholarship and internship matching. Fastweb equips students for success, through college and beyond, by bringing together more than 1.5 billion scholarship and internship opportunities and sharing articles, tips, and news related to education and career planning.
The growth in the number of jobs in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) fields makes them appealing — and promising — career paths for high school and college students planning their futures. Employment in these fields has grown 24.4% over the last decade, with more than 9 million Americans working in STEM in 2015.
Education and internship programs in these fields can equip students with specialized training for top careers, and prepare them for management-level positions in other sectors. The programs can also introduce them to the technical tools used in many workplaces.
But that education continues to get more expensive. The Consumer Price Index for college tuition and fees has increased 63% over the last decade. Even with the help of federal student loans, students often struggle to afford an education that can lead to a promising career.
Scholarships — whether based on merit, athletic ability, need, or a particular interest — can offer a debt-free source of college funding. The problem is students don’t always know that they exist, whether they qualify, or how to apply.
“As a high school student, I don’t think I paid enough attention to all the resources that were available,” said Kathryn Randolph, Contributing Financial Aid Editor for Fastweb. “I try to impress on high school and college students that there are so many scholarships out there. It’s okay if you just win a $500 scholarship — that’s $500 less you’ll have to borrow.”
Fastweb exists to share scholarship opportunities, resources, and next steps for students looking to fund their college education and enter the job market. Kathryn — who worked in college admissions before transitioning into a position with Fastweb 10 years ago — is passionate about educating students, parents, and teachers about the millions of scholarships and other college resources available.
Fastweb helps students set themselves up for lasting career success through personalized matching with over 1.5 million scholarships and internships, relevant articles and tips, and ongoing partnerships with educators.
Matching Students with Verified Scholarship Opportunities
Students file their Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) forms and apply for college financial aid in their senior year of high school, but the process of looking for scholarships should begin much sooner, Kathryn says. “A student as young as 13 or 14 can start searching on our website, and they don’t have to be a high school senior to qualify for many of these awards. We encourage students to sign up as soon as they can,” she said.
Students begin by filling out a free profile, which Fastweb uses to match them with the scholarship opportunities they qualify for. “You don’t have to comb through all the results and read all the requirements to see if you qualify. We do that for you,” Kathryn said. “It simplifies the scholarship search and puts everything in one place.”
Matching is an ongoing process throughout a student’s high school years. As test scores and GPAs change, they can improve a student’s qualifications. Fastweb regularly reaches out to students and encourages them to update their profiles so they won’t miss out on new opportunities.
Applying for scholarships is also free. In fact, Kathryn warns students that if they’re asked to pay a fee to apply for a scholarship, it’s a scam. “We have a real hands-on approach to making sure that every scholarship on our site is legitimate,” she said.
A dedicated Fastweb team scours the web for valid scholarships and verifies every listing before posting one on the site. The team follows up with students after scholarship award periods end to ensure they were real and that a student received the award.
Fastweb receives feedback on scholarship experiences, and it showcases scholarship winner success stories on the website as an encouragement to other students.
And students should keep applying for scholarships throughout college. “Ideally, you’re applying for scholarships for years and years,” Kathryn said.
Articles, Tips & Checklists for Every Step of the College Experience
Fastweb gives students an easy way to apply for the right scholarships and provides educational articles on related topics — such as how to write convincing admissions essays and prepare for scholarship interviews. The site also features sections for college, financial aid, and student loans that help students successfully navigate the entire college experience.
“We try to cover freshman year of high school through senior year of college, and even graduate school,” Kathryn said. “We have content for graduate students as well as older students returning to school.”
Students still deciding on which colleges to apply to can use the college search to filter and compare their top choices. Articles, written by a team that draws from their own experience, address topics that include test preparation, the application process, and what to look for in a college.
Sorting through the financial aid process is one of the most complex tasks for college students, and they should start early in high school, so aid potential is fully realized. “We have resources on our site for maximizing your aid,” Kathryn said.
Fastweb’s financial section also covers tax credits, savings options, filing the FAFSA, budgeting calculators, and advice on paying off student loans after graduation.
Internship Matching and Career Planning for After Graduation
Graduation marks the end of the college journey, but there are still steps to take in preparation for entering the job market. Polishing a résumé, practicing interviewing skills, and looking for an internship can open doors to careers in top companies and competitive fields.
Fastweb helps graduates with these important career planning steps through educational articles and up-to-date information on industries and salary expectations. “We have articles about time management, how to find internships, and how to use your summer more productively as you look toward your career after college,” Kathryn said.
“Monster’s vision for Fastweb is that it would be the precursor to Monster. Before you get your first full-time job, we cover everything from the scholarship search to starting that first full-time job search.” — Kathryn Randolph, Fastweb Contributing Financial Aid Editor
Fastweb’s internship matching service is similar to its scholarship matching but connects graduates with opportunities for on-the-job training in their career fields.Graduates in STEM fields often find internships with significant salaries, unlike the typical low-wage internships of the past.
Since its acquisition by Monster, Fastweb has expanded internship listings on the site, making it a resource that helps students at every stage of career preparation.
“Monster’s vision for Fastweb is that it would be the precursor to Monster,” Kathryn said. “Before you get your first full-time job, we cover everything from the scholarship search to starting that first full-time job search.”
Partnering with Educators to Keep Students Focused on the Future
Fastweb is passionate about making students aware of scholarship and internship opportunities they need to prepare for their future careers, and it continues to look for effective ways to reach and mobilize them.
One way the company reaches out is through Fastweb for Educators, a program that provides free printed materials about Fastweb and the financial aid process for teachers and admissions departments to distribute to students.
“It adds a personal touch because these students trust their high school guidance counselors or admissions representatives,” Kathryn said. “We count on them to spread the word about us and impress upon students how useful we can be for them.”
Students’ lifestyles are busier than ever, which is why Fastweb introduced a mobile app to help them keep pace. Users can now fill out applications on Fastweb and apply for scholarships from a mobile device or tablet. “We’re glad to offer that to today’s student who is on the go all the time,” Kathryn said.
As the job market continues to change, Fastweb keeps an eye on career trends and opportunities. “We’re seeing more STEM companies reach out to us, and, generally, those scholarships are large award amounts,” Kathryn said. “We write content about the top careers and the best starting salaries — nowadays, those are all in STEM fields.”
Whether introducing young teens to scholarship possibilities or providing a timely list of tips for a graduate’s first job interview, Fastweb connects students with the resources and knowledge necessary for long-term college and career success.