The thought of college scholarships brings about many different emotions for a college student and their family. These emotions run the gamut from absolute relief and excitement at the prospect of having some, if not all of their college tuition for the coming year paid at no cost to them; to ughhh, I have to fill out an application, write an essay and spend lots of time working completing something that a whole bunch of other students are applying for and I may never receive a dime, what a waste of time.
Hold on……not so fast. You may have a rather inaccurate take on the reality of scholarships today. Did you know that in 2015 over $4.9 billion in grants and scholarships went unclaimed? Many of these did not have a single applicant apply for this FREE college scholarship money! Yes, I said FREE. You see, a grant and/or a scholarship is totally FREE money to you that you do not have to pay back ever. On top of that, if you break down the number of hours spent filling out college scholarship documents to amount received you’re actually earning income. On average, you will in actuality be paid somewhere at the low end of $23.75 per hour and at the high end over $1,000.00 per hour. How many College students do you know are making that kind of an hourly wage? When we look at this a little closer, you receive this money 100% TAX FREE, both federal and state. It just doesn’t get any better than this.
The sad reality is that many students and their families have misconceptions about the college scholarship search and how much easier it is today than at any time in history. Let’s take a close look at how you can maximize your ability to cash in on some of the $4.9 billion plus that is out there just waiting for you.
Absolutely make sure you complete the FAFSA (Free Application for Federal Student Aid). In 2015 over 51% of College students did not take the time, and of that total 7% failed to get the application in by the due date. It amazes me that just filling out a simple application could pay for 25%, 50%, 75%, or in some cases 100% of your tuition at absolutely zero cost to you or your family.
In addition to applying for federal aid, the FAFSA is used by many states as a universal application to award scholarship money to residents, usually limited to students who attend college in that same state. Be aware that the application deadline for your state may be different than the federal deadline for filing.
Your College of Choice
The most common types of scholarships are the ones offered by colleges. Awards can be offered on a university-wide basis or within a particular program or major of that university. Check out the college’s website, catalog and financial aid materials for information on the scholarships that particular school offers.
Or better yet, talk to the financial aid officer at your college of choice to find out what college grants and what college scholarships they have specific to your school as well as what becomes available throughout the school year. Your school financial aid officer is your BEST source to help you get as much FREE money as you possibly can AND they are paid to do this for you.
Many students simply do not take the time to get to know their advisor so they miss out on the immense help they can get, especially throughout the school year as new grants and scholarships become available. A good strategy is to stop by your financial aid office every 6-7 weeks just to say hi. Over time you will be in their mind and when a new grant or scholarship comes up, you may be pleasantly surprised when they call YOU with FREE money.
Personal Affiliations and Interests
Who are you and what do you do? In other words, do you have hobbies, a spiritual or religious affiliation, what about your ethnic and cultural background, hobbies, interests and talents. Believe it or not there are more and more college scholarships awarded in these areas than at any time before. So much so that over 40% of the scholarships today come from these many areas. Of course, we never want to overlook the academic and athletic scholarships that form the base of most scholarships.
Independent Student Status
Get with your financial aid officer and discuss the opportunity for you to become qualified as an Independent Student. Many times, after your freshman year you could very well be in a position that qualifies you for this Independent Student status which may cause you to be qualified for 50% more in the form of, not just scholarships, but also grants which require substantially less to do. Keep in mind that your financial aid officer is best qualified in helping you determine the benefits and costs, if any, for you to claim Independent Student status. Be CERTAIN to revise your FAFSA for even more benefits.
Search the Web
Seek help from the internet. Go to scholarships.com for your best place to start and follow the process on their website. This is an amazing resource to unlock virtually every scholarship that is offered in your state, at your school, in your community.
While going through this process be mindful that there are many places that offer to acquire scholarships for you. Keep in mind that NO ONE can guarantee you a scholarship under any circumstances. With today’s easy search capabilities, it is easier than ever to do your own searching. If you decide that you want to pay someone to do the searches for you, that is your decision. Just keep in mind there is NO Guarantee you will receive a college scholarship or in what amount.
Don’t forget about grants. There are numerous corporate as well as other types of grants up for grabs. As with scholarships, you will need to make sure to follow all the guidelines and meet the deadlines for application. Many grants will need to be renewed on an annual basis by completing some basic paperwork. Other grants may require that you re-apply every year by a specific date for renewal.
It is your responsibility to be aware of the requirements, critical dates and conditions that must be met by you for disbursement of grants or scholarships.