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Financial Aid 101: How to Get a Scholarship for College

College is a thrilling stage of life. But for many, affording it can be challenging. With tuition and fees getting more expensive every year, it’s no surprise that students are looking for ways to fund their education without taking on too much debt.

Getting a scholarship for college is one of the best ways to afford a quality higher education. Scholarships can help cover everything from books to tuition and fees—and even room and board!

But how do you go about finding these scholarships? Let’s dive into everything you need to know and how to apply for them.

Understanding Scholarships for College

Scholarships are an excellent way to pay for college because they don’t have repayment obligations. Additionally, you don’t have to worry about passing credit checks or other forms of collateral. At most, some may ask for a transcript to show your academic standing. Depending on the scholarship you apply for, you may have to write and submit an essay as part of the application process. The amount you get depends on how much money is available through each program at the time you apply.

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Types of College Scholarships

There are many different types of scholarships. Some are merit-based, while others have a financial need component. Select scholarship programs are open to all students. But a good number have eligibility requirements like GPA, extracurricular activities, and school major.

Need-Based Aid

Need-based aid is awarded by evaluating a family’s income and financial resources. Schools do this because they want to make sure students who don’t have enough money can still get an education. There are several types of need-based aid, including grants and work-study. Grants are funds that students don’t have to pay back. They are usually based on financial need, which means they can help make up the difference if you don’t have enough money to cover college costs.

Merit-Based Aid

Merit-based aid doesn’t take into account your income or assets. Instead, it considers things like grades, SAT scores, extracurricular activities, and leadership positions. Schools award merit-based aid because they want to reward students who have demonstrated excellence in school. They also hope that by offering free money, you’ll be more likely to stay in school and graduate on time.

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How to Demonstrate Financial Need on Your FAFSA

Demonstrating financial need is the first step to getting a scholarship. You must show that your family doesn’t make enough to pay for college. Therefore, you would benefit from the scholarship funds that are available to students with financial needs.

Show financial need by submitting a Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). The FAFSA asks questions about your family’s income, assets, the number of people living in your household, and other relevant factors. Your answers determine how much money colleges will offer you in scholarships and grants. Schools will award you based on how much assistance you qualify for under federal guidelines.

Don’t fret if you aren’t eligible for a federal aid package. You may still be able to get state or private scholarships. State aid is often more competitive than federal aid because there are fewer funds available. But it can be worth the extra effort to find a state scholarship that matches your academic interests. Private scholarships are usually awarded by businesses, organizations, or individuals. These can range from $1,000 to full tuition and living expenses.

How to Find Scholarships for Current College Students

Ready to begin your scholarship search? We’ve got good news. There are thousands of scholarships for current college students. Here are a few ideas to get you started:

  • School websites: Colleges and universities often post scholarship programs on their websites.
  • Scholarship search engines: Websites like Fastweb and Scholarships.com specialize in finding scholarships for you. You can create a profile that you use for future searches.
  • Financial aid office: Your school’s financial aid office has updated information about available scholarships. An advisor can answer your questions and guide you in the right direction to apply for the ones you qualify for.
  • Community organizations: Contact local groups like churches, synagogues, and mosques—you’d be surprised at how many of these organizations offer scholarships!
  • Professional associations: Get in touch with professional associations related to your field of study. Some offer scholarships for students pursuing careers in their industries.

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3 Tips for Getting School Scholarships

Now that we’ve covered the basics of how to demonstrate financial need on your FAFSA and how to source scholarships, let’s help you apply for them!

1. Apply for Scholarships that are a Good Fit for You

Scholarships are not all the same. Some are only available if you’re pursuing a certain degree or major; others have specific requirements regarding GPA and class standing. Make sure that the awards you apply for are worth your time and effort. For example, if a scholarship is specifically for biology majors with a minimum GPA of 3.75, make sure you meet both requirements before going through the application process.

2. Don’t Limit Yourself to One or Two Scholarships

Plenty of students think they can only apply for one or two scholarships at a time. But with countless opportunities out there, why limit yourself? The more money you can get from scholarships, the less money you have to pay out of pocket. As long as you meet the requirements, it’s in your best interest to apply for as many as possible.

3. Follow Instructions and Don’t Miss Deadlines

Following instructions is paramount to securing scholarships. If a deadline is approaching, make sure that you give it your all and submit everything on time.

Keep in mind that some scholarships require you to prove you meet certain criteria or fulfill certain requirements. For example, you may have to write an essay or submit a test score as part of the application process. This part is your chance to shine, so it’s imperative that you take the time to craft something you’re proud of. You may end up scrambling and possibly missing deadlines if you wait until the last minute.

College Students 2022: Begin Your Scholarship Search Today

It’s never too early to begin your college scholarship search. In fact, waiting until the last minute could be costly and stressful. If you set a goal to apply for one scholarship per day, it won’t seem like such a daunting task. Finding and applying for scholarships gets much easier as you become familiar with the process.

Finally, don’t let the thought of applying for scholarships intimidate you. Even if you aren’t completely certain that something is a perfect fit, it doesn’t hurt to apply. You never know what opportunities may arise if you take a chance.

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