Playing Winning The Financial Aid Game

Playing Winning The Financial Aid Game

OK, you don't have a​ 4.0 GPA, you're not the senior class president, you can't throw a​ football fifty yards, and your SAT scores aren't generating letters or​ phone calls from Harvard, Yale or​ Princeton. So, you'll never qualify for a​ college scholarship, right?

Not necessarily! There are lots of​ scholarships, and other kinds of​ financial aid for which you might qualify. Some colleges may offer you academic grants with a​ GPA of​ 3.0 and SAT scores of​ 1000. Ashland University offers scholarships to​ twins. Many church affiliated colleges offer grants to​ students who are members of​ their religious denomination. And that's just the beginning.

If you are the son or​ daughter of​ a​ military veteran, if​ either of​ your parents work for a​ major corporation, if​ your mother or​ father is​ a​ member of​ a​ fraternal or​ civic organization, or​ if​ you are preparing for a​ career in​ a​ particular profession, there may be substantial scholarships for which you can apply, even if​ you're not a​ top student or​ student leader.

Are you good at​ writing essays? if​ you are, your writing skills may be the ticket to​ a​ scholarship. There is​ even a​ scholarship for students who agree to​ abstain from using tobacco and alcohol while in​ college.

You may even qualify for a​ scholarship because of​ where you live, your last name, your ethnic heritage or​ race, or​ a​ disease or​ handicapping condition you may have. Get the idea yet? There are all kinds of​ scholarships, grants, and financial aid programs out there. Some require economic need or​ have other restrictions, others do not.

You can search through hundreds of​ thousands of​ possible scholarships (free!) in​ more than twenty different data bases. While you're there, you can sign up for a​ free email newsletter with articles on college admission, scholarship and financial aid programs, college survival tips, and income opportunities for college students. at​ another site you’ll find scholarships given by individual college to​ all enrolled students meeting the listed criteria. Student-athletes may visit one good site to​ find the information needed to​ secure an​ athletic scholarship (or an​ opportunity to​ compete in​ a​ Division III or​ other non-scholarship program).

Don't forget your school counselor, as​ he or​ she can be a​ great source of​ information about local scholarship sources. in​ fact, most high school guidance offices maintain a​ list of​ locally based scholarships. Parents and students would be well advised to​ explore the range of​ scholarships for which they may qualify as​ early as​ the ninth or​ tenth grade so they can plan to​ meet the requirements of​ as​ many as​ possible.

You should be aware that many private colleges offer substantial scholarships and grants in​ order to​ be more competitive with lower cost public institutions and/or attract students who might otherwise enroll elsewhere. These monies are often offered to​ students with very little or​ no demonstrated financial need. in​ fact, many private colleges frequently "rebate" 30%-35% (or more) of​ their tuition revenue in​ the form of​ institutional financial aid. When these funds are factored in, private colleges may ultimately be little or​ no more expensive for some students to​ attend than public colleges and universities with lower published fees.

If you can demonstrate financial need, as​ established by your answers on the FAFSA form at​ , you may want to​ apply to​ at​ least a​ few colleges which meet 100% of​ demonstrated financial need and do so with a​ reasonable proportion of​ gift aid to​ self-help aid (loans and/or work-study funds). Take note that although some relatively small number of​ colleges will meet the full need of​ all enrolled students, many more will be far more likely to​ meet or​ nearly meet the full need of​ stronger students.

To position yourself well to​ be a​ competitive candidate for scholarships, students should take the most challenging classes available, work diligently to​ learn as​ much as​ possible (not just to​ get grades), and get involved in​ co-curricular, community, charitable and/or public service activities. Here’s a​ good rule of​ thumb for all students; the more you have to​ offer the more you're likely to​ be offered.

Remember three words - research, research, and research. The more time you spend investigating scholarship opportunities, the more likely you are to​ find scholarships for which you may be eligible.

Don't let anyone discourage you. There are lots of​ people "out there," including some educators, who are inadvertently spreading their serious misconceptions about who may qualify for financial aid and what is​ required to​ do so. Most important of​ all, do not fail to​ investigate or​ apply to​ a​ college you like because you think it​ is​ too expensive. That is​ one of​ the most common and worst mistakes a​ family can make. Remember, you never know what kinds of​ scholarships and/or financial aid you might receive.

However, just like you should have "fall back" or​ "safety" colleges in​ case you are not admitted to​ your first choice institutions, you should choose and apply to​ colleges that will be affordable if​ you do not receive the financial assistance for which you hope.

Obvious as​ it​ may be, I feel obligated to​ remind you to​ pay attention to​ details and deadlines when applying for scholarships because so many students fail to​ do so. I could hardly believe it​ when an​ independent educational counselor who probably earns in​ the neighborhood of​ $1,000 for helping a​ student identify and gain admission to​ appropriate colleges asked (on an​ email list serve) how many words above the limit one of​ her counsulees could go on his college application essay. Don’t make the mistake that she did by assuming there will be no penalty if​ you "come close" to​ the requirements or​ are "only a​ few days beyond the deadline". if​ you don’t pay attention, be prepared to​ pay for your mistakes. But, do it​ right and you have a​ great chance of​ getting some scholarship and or​ financial aid help. Good luck.

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