If you are a junior or senior in high school, figuring out a way to pay for college can be a bit worrisome, especially if your family’s income is too high to qualify for need based grants and too low to cash flow the cost of tuition. Applying for help through FAFSA (Free Application for Federal Student Aid) is one way to secure financial aid for college. Searching for scholarships is another option.
What exactly is a scholarship?
Scholarships are special awards that will help pay for a student’s education. Unlike FAFSA which is a federal assistance program based on financial need, scholarships are awarded for many different reasons. It wasn’t until high school that I discovered what a wide range of scholarships were available for my teenagers even though some of them had GPAs hovering around 3.2 – 3.5.
Do I qualify?
While it’s true that some scholarships are awarded for excellent grades, others are awarded for many different reasons such as community service or club involvement, ethnic background, religion, employment history, or artistic talent. There are even scholarships for people who are left handed, want to study Klingon, work at McDonald’s or are taller than average.
Where do I look for scholarships?
A high school guidance counselor is a good place to start the search for college scholarships that are a good match for your academic interests and the college you want to attend. For example, a student who excels in Advanced Placements (AP) Biology could apply for a biology scholarship. The same goes for practically any subject a student excels in including elective courses such as music, art, and drama. Plan on attending an in-state college? There are awards for that too.
The guidance counselor shouldn’t be your only resource for college based financial aid. The public library also has a number of great books that list lesser known scholarships that even your school counselor doesn’t know about. Other places that might point you in the right direction for scholarship information includes your employer, the leader of your club, your youth minister, or local service organizations such as the Lions Club or Knights of Columbus. You could even sign up for a free membership at Fastweb.com to access their amazing scholarship directory.
There is no arguing that college is expensive and for students who need help, applying for scholarships will help fill the gap that a FAFSA won’t cover. Be sure start soon however since deadlines will be here before you know it.
More by this contributor:
How keeping your college student on the family plan saves money.
Navigating the scary world of college finances.
Easy ways to cut college costs..