Looking for Scholarships? Start EARLY!!May 1, 2001 Write an essay on this topic.
The Bottom Line Start early, be thorough, and be careful!
Avoid The Mistakes We Made
We have a intelligent child, she is a senior in high school with a 3.75 GPA, and plans on attending a local college. During her junior year we learned of a state sponsored program that gave a full scholarship to an in-state school to the top 10% of each graduating class. We did not know about this! Unfortunately, she was tied for that last spot, and the state had dished out scholarships in the past to all who had a tie in their GPA. No longer, they now had to come up with a tie-breaker method, and she lost out because she didn't take as many honors classes. We made the mistake of planning on her getting that money and didn't look into other possibilities sooner. I suggest your child apply at least in January of the school year they need the scholarship for. The earlier the better!
Start Early, Scholarships Have Deadlines
When she was accepted to the school of her choice, we went to a Freshman Early Admit Day and spoke with a financial aid counselor. Unfortunately, several of the scholarships meant just for incoming freshmen with good grades had already passed the deadline date. Although she is graduating with honors, she missed the deadline and can not apply for the scholarships that she would have had a very good chance of getting. Most scholarships we would have liked to apply for had a deadline in March or April, and we were a few weeks late.
Ask Your College or High School Counselor about FAFSA
FAFSA, meaning "Free Application for Federal Student Aid", is an important paper to file! Many colleges rely on this information!! Again, we never heard of this from our daughters high school (even though we found out later that they had a stack of them laying around), we learned it from her college. With this one form, students can apply for several types of student aid, including grants (FREE money that does not have to be paid back), loans, and work study programs. The FAFSA is a long form, about 8 pages, and it asks for parents income (some tax return information is requested) and the students income. It will tell you what you, (the parent/student) are expected to contribute financially to your childs education. Above that amount is money you are eligible for. To submit a FAFSA on the web, their website is: www.fafsa.ed.gov. After you fill out the form, you will need to print off a signature page and mail it in. If you do it online, get a confirmation page and print it out! The online form gets your application in sooner. Once you have completed the FAFSA, have it checked and double checked. The financial aid department at our college reviewed ours. I was told that 60% of these are discarded for having incorrect information!! Even though it comes with directions, they can be confusing, have someone check it out before you mail it in! We filled out the paper copy, had it checked, then entered that information onto the FAFSA at their website and submitted it online.
Unsolicited Scholarship Help
We recently received a letter in the mail from a company wanting to help my daughter with her scholarship search. I didn't know who this company was, and I did not ask for any information from them. Out of curiosity, I called the toll free number, and learned that there was a fee of several hundred dollars for their service. I told them I was skeptical of paying for this, when this information is available else where for free. They guaranteed that if she didn't earn any scholarships or grants through them, 100% of the enrollment fees were refundable. However, this company just sends you the possible scholarship information that the student may be eligible for, it is up to the student to write the essays, fill out the forms, and all the other work associated with obtaining the scholarship, these companies do NOT assist the student in actually getting any of the scholarships!!
Check Them Out!
How would I know if this company, or the many others like it, were legit? I looked them up on the Better Business Bureau on the internet, under the state in which they are doing business. In this case, a file had been opened on this particular business in question, but all complaints had been dealt with to the BBB's satisfaction, so the company did not have a black mark as far as the BBB was concerned. This did, however, tell me there was a history of dissatisfied people, as complaints had been made. I also found some very valuable information at the BBB website. The Better Business Bureau advises that parents be cautious about any unsolicited offers from scholarship search services that ask for a fee. They cannot promise the student a scholarship, because the scholarship in NOT coming from them. (Even with a money back guarantee, it can be a headache to actually get the money refunded). The Better Business Bureau suggests that you beware of companies who:
* Guarantee a scholarship or your money back.
* Give you customized information that is not available elsewhere.
* Ask for a credit card number to hold any scholarships.
* Tell you you've been selected for a scholarship that you never applied for.
* Tell you they do the work for you - only the applicant can apply for each scholarship themselves.
Ask for, as I am going to do when they call me back tomorrow (they are persistent!!) all the information in writing, including their "guarantees" and refund policies.
If you have been taken advantage of by an unethical company concerning scholarship aid, report them to your local (and even their) Better Business Bureau, State Attorney Generals Office, the Federal Trade Commission, and if done over the internet, the Internet Fraud Watch.
Tips for Financial Aid
Students, work hard and get good grades! I am a proponent of students challenging themselves in school, but had my daughter taken less Honors classes, she would have ended up in the top 10% of her class and gotten the FREE four year scholarship!! It seems she would have done better to take some easier classes! This doesn't really make sense, there is something wrong with this!!
Check out any local state scholarships. Find out if your local Lions Club, VFW, or other organizations such as charitable organizations, churches, businesses, clubs, etc. are offering scholarships for students in your town or city.
Don't disregard any possible scholarships. They are not all based on academics! We have found scholarships available based on the students major (in our case, scholarships just for nursing programs), based on religious affiliation, ethnicity, race, athletic talent, artistic ability, along with the academic scholarships.
Ask your college about Work-Study programs. We found that these programs will pay $7 to $11 an hour, and they are willing to work with the students schedule. They are flexible with the hours and days off. If you work at a store in town, they may not care if you need a few days off to study for exams - but in the work study programs they are very understanding and helpful. These jobs can be full time during the summer and part time during the school semester. (I suggest on campus jobs, it's easier on the student.)
These are available, after you submit your FAFSA as I understand it, for low income undergraduate students. Be sure and check into them!
If you are unable to obtain any scholarships, and need to apply for a student loan, please look at the interest rates that apply to these loans. Certain loans, such as the Perkins Loan, are low interest federal loans available to students who can demonstrate financial need. Be aware that with loans, some have to be repaid immediately - others will give you a grace period of several months to give you a chance to get a job and get on your feet. If you do not pay back your student loans, it can haunt you and ruin your credit. This happened to a friend of mine - it took a few years for it to catch up with him, but it did!
Financial Aid Search: http://www.fastweb.com
College Board: http://www.collegeboard.org
Financial Aid: http://www.finaid.org
US Dept. of Education: http://www.ed.gov
FAFSA Student Aid Application: http://www.fafsa.ed.gov
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