Money, Money, Money.

by Elizabeth
(Pine Valley, CA, United States)

Financial aid for college is a topic discussed from the moment a child is born to the time they graduate, but it is a subject that affects one's entire life. Some families are lucky and require very little financial aid, but most need assistance in paying the ever-rising college tuition. I personally have had trouble finding financial aid despite my family's low income because I did not have an early start and missed important deadlines. As a result, I have learned from my mistakes and it is now one of missions in life to prevent others from falling into the same circumstances that I did.

As applying for financial aid for college often takes a back seat to college admissions essays, applications, SATs, my first piece of advice is to start early. I cannot stress this point enough. Students and their parents should start applying for scholarships in at least the student's freshman year of high school; there are even college scholarships available for elementary and middle-school students. The more scholarships you apply for, the better chance you have of meeting your financial aid goals and the less money you have to borrow later on. Look for scholarships from local organizations, stores like Nordstrom and Wal-Mart, and fast-food chains such as McDonald's, Burger King, and Taco Bell. These are great sources of small to large-sized scholarships. Of course, the bigger the name behind the scholarship, the more competition there will be for it. A great way to discover and access these and smaller scholarships is through scholarship websites. They will match you to scholarships, and tell you if you are eligible, how much they are for, and when applications are due.

Once the student is in his or her senior year of high school, it is time to apply for the FAFSA. Although many low-income families receive a great deal of financial aid from the government, it usually does not cover the entire tuition costs for that year. This is where grants come in. Some grants are determined by the FAFSA, such as the Federal Pell Grant, but some states have their own grants, such as California, where students can apply for the Cal Grant. Most high schools will apply for these grants for you, but other students, such as homeschoolers, have to make sure they do not miss the deadline. If there is still a gap after federal and state aid, compare the various financial aid packages from the colleges that the student has applied to. Inquire whether the school has any special scholarships based on need or talents such as musical abilities or sports; It does not hurt to ask, and the sooner you do so, the more likely that they will have money. Also, the “more expensive” colleges are often the colleges with better financial aid packages. When all other financial aid has been exhausted, then the first loans students should take out are the Perkins student loans and subsidized Stafford loans offered by the school because the government pays the interest while you are in school.

course, financial aid is a very important factor when choosing a college, but if the student's dream college is just a little out of reach, it is worth consideration if the student's experience will be more enjoyable.

Read more College Financial Aid Advice from other students and parents who have been through process.

Comment from your friendly team at College Financial Aid Advice

Thank you Elizabeth for sharing your college financial aid advice. It helps for other students to hear from someone who has been there and made those mistakes

Never Too Early To Start

(by Isis)

My biggest tip for applying for scholarships is to start early. When I say early, I mean as early as you can. The scholarships worth large amounts of money usually close the earliest, which should prompt you to begin filing.

If you’re a Junior or Senior in high school start applying for these scholarships as early as the first day of school. Once you receive the money it’s good until you need to use it. So don’t be afraid to apply for a scholarship as a Junior if it’s open to you.

The next biggest thing is to look for scholarships that are unique to you. Meaning if you’re a minority, left handed, tall, short, an athlete whatever the case may be apply for those scholarships. The amount of people who can apply for them are lower than the general owns open to the public which increase your chances of winning.

Also never pass up any scholarship, what does it hurt to apply? If you meet the qualifications to just take the time to fill it out, money is money and we all need a little bit more of it. I would also suggest to spend every weekend of your senior year applying for one or two scholarships. By the middle of the year you could possibly have accumulated thousands of dollars for school!

The biggest thing that helped me is that my mother knew a family friend who specialized in getting scholarship information together. My mom met up with her and she gave us 3 full pages worth of scholarships to apply for. If you have a school counselor or career center who provides the same services, use them. They usually know of websites that aren’t well known who has tons of scholarship money to give out. Seek help from every resource that you can.

Read more financial aid for college tips from other students and parents who have been through process.

Comment from your friendly team at College Financial Aid Advice
Thank you Isis for sharing your tips about applying for scholarships. We agree it is never too early to start. Check out our lists of Scholarships for High School Seniors and Scholarships for High School Juniors. Good luck to you.

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