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Thursday, July 07, 2022

It is the bane of almost every college student’s time in school. First the email reminders come out telling you that your tuition statement is ready to view online. Then comes the moment of truth — seeing what tuition, housing, fees, etc. would be like before scholarships and grants kick in and relieve some of the burden. Financial aid varies across the student body; some depend on scholarships (academic or needs-based), grants, loans or the goodwill of parents. It can be overwhelming to try and find scholarships so here are some tips on navigating the financial aid mire.

Before anything else, and if you haven’t already, register for FAFSA and Bright Futures. Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) will evaluate your financial situation and determine if you would be considered for needs-based scholarships. If you are not determined to be needs-based, you can still receive federal loans. Bright Futures is a statewide academic scholarship. Students are initially evaluated based on his or her high school GPA and then based on his or her college GPA. Bright Futures aid is not a loan and many students qualify for it. It is probably the easiest scholarship to receive.

There are many websites devoted to archiving and searching for scholarships. The best ones are Scholarships.com and College Prowler. Scholarships.com was the website I relied on the most when I began my scholarship search. The website will have you fill out a profile so as to make the search more personalized. It asks for academic info, academic interests and personal interests such as athletics and the arts. A long list of scholarships is then given to you to look through. You will also receive many email updates every month on scholarships that may interest you.

College Prowler is good for more than school reviews. Scholarships are categorized by areas of interest like academics, sports, personal interests like clubs and hobbies, race and athletics. The best essays are the “No Essay” essays.

A quick tip on keeping your scholarships organized: create a spreadsheet. If there was one thing my mom instilled in me over the years, it’s always keep track of everything in a list or spreadsheet. Map out the scholarships you want to apply for, when the submission deadline is, what is required (grades, an essay, letters of recommendation, etc.), and the website. This will make the huge list of potential scholarships much smaller.

Many of these scholarships really do want to just give away money. Many are needs-based but the rest are usually essay based. There are so many opportunities to receive money for school. It may seem both overwhelming and discouraging because you may not qualify for one scholarship after another. When I was looking for scholarships this past summer I found that I fell in a grey area. I wasn’t considered needs-based, but I didn’t have Mensa-status academics to win me thousands of dollars in aid. But so many scholarships are personalized so you will definitely find something to help you pay for college. 

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