With today’s rising cost of tuition, many college-bound students find themselves unable to finance a higher education on their own. However, additional financing options are increasingly becoming available, making it possible for students and their families to fund a college education. Below we will provide you with helpful advice on where to look to get a college scholarship as well as how to avoid becoming the victim of a scam.
You can also follow this link to find tips on obtaining college scholarship money.
The most important thing to keep in mind as you begin the research process to get college grant and scholarship money is to start your search early. While more options are becoming available for college-bound students and their families, the need for college scholarship money is also growing. A large amount of financial aid is handed out on a first-come, first-serve basis, and for this reason, it is crucial to plan ahead and fill out the necessary applications as soon as possible.
During a student’s sophomore year in high school, it is a good idea to begin gathering and organizing applications, recommendations, essays, test scores, and transcripts. In order to get college scholarship money, students will often need to include these credentials along with the application. It is also a good idea to begin saving for college as early as possible. Even if your after-school-job money only pays for your books, it will give you an advantage when you get to college.
While in your junior year, we recommend finding out when your high school is holding financial aid information seminars. These can provide even more insight as to the options available for obtaining college scholarship money. The more information you have, the better your chance of acquiring valuable financial aid.
Your senior year can be a hectic one when it comes to preparing for college. That is why it is important to get started right away. As early as November, you should apply for Free Application for your Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) pin number. In order to get college scholarship money, most schools require that you fill out the FAFSA so as to determine the amount of financial aid you will need. Follow this link for more information on filing the FAFSA for financial aid.
In January, you should start filling out the FAFSA. This information can be submitted by you or your guardian as early as January 1st. It is also a good idea to determine whether or not the schools to which you will be applying require any additional forms in order to get college scholarship money.
During the month of March, review your Student Aid Report (SAR) to verify that all of the information submitted with your FAFSA is accurate. You will also want to update any current tax information at that time.
You should receive your acceptance and financial aid award letters in April and review them to reveal which option best suits you and your family. It is important to remember the difference between loans and grant/scholarship money during your search. The difference is that loans are borrowed money which needs to be repaid whereas a college grant or scholarship is free money which does not need to be paid back.
Once you have verified which option will best meet your needs, sign and return your financial aid award letter during the month of May. You should also decline any additional award letters you received during your grant/scholarship search to schools you do not plan on attending.
Following this timeline will help to make your senior year a smoother one and give you a better chance to get the college scholarship you need, whether it is need-based or merit-based.
What is the difference between need-based and merit-based college scholarship money? Need-based aid is awarded to students who come from lower income families, and merit-based aid is given to students who excel in academics, athletics, debate, drama, music, community service, and many additional areas. Merit scholarships are also awarded based on certain categories such as club membership, ethnicity, interests, and career plans.
It is a common misconception that college scholarship money ordinarily funds the entire cost of tuition. The reality is that many scholarships, whether based on need or merit, are smaller awards and it requires several of them to add up. This is why it is important to apply for as much college grant and scholarship money as possible during your search.
It is also important to be aware of the many college scholarship scams out there, so as to avoid being cheated out of your money.
There are numerous scholarship scams which make promises but never materialize. To help you avoid becoming the victim of such a scam, here are some common warning signs to look for:
- Processing fees—If any scholarship application requires a processing fee, this should raise a red flag. You should never have to pay a fee to apply for college scholarship money.
- Guaranteed Scholarships—In the world of financial assistance, you are never guaranteed to get a college scholarship, and you should be wary of any assertion which claims otherwise.
- Rewards without Entries—Many scams state that college-bound students are able to receive scholarship money without having to submit any application. Be cautious of any rewards without entries.
- Free Seminar—It is not uncommon for students and their families to receive letters claiming guaranteed qualification for college scholarship money based on attendance of a free seminar. In reality, a fee is charged or deducted from your bank account and the guarantee never transpires.
Remember, scholarships are gifts and you should never have to pay a fee to receive one. Also, if it sounds too good to be true, be sure to proceed with caution. You can do so by obtaining more information about the organization offering the college scholarship money, or by calling the Better Business Bureau.
There are several legitimate options for obtaining financial aid, but there are several illegitimate ones as well. Keep your eyes open for these types of warning signs to help protect yourself during your important search for college scholarship money.
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