Scholarships and Grants do not necessarily sound like quick ways to raise money. Many students dismiss these financial sources as excessively time-consuming or unlikely possibilities. Unfortunately they miss out on what could be very rewarding opportunities.
While Scholarships and Grants take varying amounts of time to pursue there are simply too many of them, with too much money involved, to ignore. More than 3 million scholarships are available in the United States and they are worth over $16 billion. Amazingly, that number pales compared to the amount of money awarded by the U. S. Department of Education each year through grants and other awards: more than $150 billion!
What is the most effective way to get started? First, make the decision to start now. If you don’t play you can’t win, and fretting about finding money for school won’t bring results. Get a quick overview at free sites that explain sources of student financial assistance and how to pursue them. Be sure you understand the differences among Grants, Scholarships and Financial Aid. They are not mutually exclusive and all should be important to you.
Second, never assume! Whether you think you might qualify or not, always apply for Financial Aid (which may include Grants and Loans) and Scholarships. Tackling both right from the start can get you more money faster website.
Here are some key additional tips for pursuing Grants and Scholarships:
File a Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) whether you think you are eligible or not. Many families with incomes over $100,000 end up receiving some financial aid.
File your FAFSA early. Early filing is important not just to avoid missing a deadline, but also to maximize the aid package you receive. Some federal funds are limited and are awarded on a first come, first served basis.
A fast way to lose aid money is to neglect to file a FAFSA in each academic year. You must fill it out and submit every year you are eligible in order to receive funds.
Scholarships are frequently overlooked as too intimidating or as having too distant a time horizon. In fact they vary greatly regarding eligibility, timeframes and requirements. There are even scholarships that are drawings based solely on luck. Some take place on a regular basis — such as monthly — and send the winner’s award right away.
Scholarships do not end in the fall so don’t limit your efforts to one time of year. Many scholarships are offered year-round, and those with winter deadlines often have less competition than others.
There are state aid packages that won’t automatically get awarded through your FAFSA application. You should pursue those separately as they can be lucrative and typically have less competition than federal funds. Your school guidance counselor should be able to identify those but you should also do your own internet search. Include the name of your state (or even your county or home town) and words like “college grants” or “scholarships”.
If you are offered a Work-Study program in your financial aid package, by all means take it. Work experience rewards you financially, enhances your resume, and has even been shown to be associated with students achieving a higher Grade Point Average.