How to Get Scholarship Money
College studies are so expensive in the USA, most students cannot afford to pay for it from their own pocket. On the other hand, there are many ways to find the money to support your studies and there is no reason why you should miss college for mere lack of funds. The most common forms are loans, grants and scholarships. Loans could be a burden, so let us keep this as the last resort and examine the other two options of grants and scholarships.
In her column in MSN money, author Liz Pulliam Weston states that about 40% of student aid in USA comes from grants. Grants can be categorized into Federal, State and Institutional grants. Grants are most often offered on a first-come, first-serve basis and the usual criterion is need. It is therefore important to research into grants you can avail and apply early enough. If you wish to explore this option, you are advised fill out the online Free Application for Federal Student Aid at http://www.fafsa.ed.gov/
Scholarships may be in the range of a few dollars or an amount that covers the entire tuition fee. Federal and state governments, employers, companies, individuals, religious groups and communities, institutions and colleges and universities themselves offer scholarships based on different criteria.
There are different scholarships based on academic performance and artistic or athletic achievement. Some institutions or companies may offer scholarships as a way to encourage the better students of certain communities or religious sectors. Another reason is to retain employees or to recruit new ones. Colleges and universities grant scholarships to encourage a diverse student community or to attract good students.
You can maximize your chances to win a scholarship by starting early and following a focused, diligent method. Get as much information as possible. It may not be possible to apply to every scholarship scheme, so narrow down your choices to those that you are most likely to win. The body awarding the scholarship will make a decision based on your application, so it is important to tailor your application to their criteria. Spend time to write good application essays and get recommendation letters. Also make sure to include all relevant details including your academic records and relevant documents as proof of achievements in other areas.
The FastWeb scholarship search may be a good place to search for scholarships that suit you, as it returns the closest matches based on the background information you provide.
Besides these, the blog of collegescholarships.org has several smart tips to enable students graduate debt-free, like choosing a college based on costs, finding part-time work and minimizing costs.
You may also want to check out, Upromise, a scheme that helps you and family to save money for college while shopping for your everyday requirements.
Finally, a word of caution from smartmoney.com financial expert Anna-Maria Andriotis would not be out of place here. She urges students and parents to read the fine print as they explore various financing options. Quite often the college or scheme that offers the most money may not be the best choice for you. Look into how much of the financial aid is really free, what are the costs the package covers, and whether some private loans are included in the loan package. These factors can make a difference to the tune of thousands of dollars to what it finally costs.
By Claudine Vainrub, Principal of EduPlan