If you’re applying for any financial assistance, you and your parents should fill out the FAFSA form as soon as possible. The forms for this year have been available since October 1, but it’s not too late to fill them out and submit them.
It’s important to inform your guidance counselor that you’re seeking financial aid. Your counselor and the guidance office may be able to direct you to scholarship opportunities on national, state, county, and district levels. Also, they’re likely to know about scholarship offerings by local community members, organizations, and alumni. You might also be surprised to discover that there are scholarship opportunities offered by individual states to students who are pursuing specific careers or high-need fields of study like nursing and teaching.
Don’t overlook books like Peterson’s Scholarships, Grants and Prizes. This 900+ page resource lists individual scholarship opportunities by academic subject areas. For example, Peterson’s lists dozens of scholarship opportunities in nursing alone, complete with the requirements, deadlines and contact information. There is also an entire section of financial assistance for students who fulfill non-academic criteria such as medical impairments or whose parents served in the military.
If you’re applying to colleges through Common App, take a good look at the tabs at the top of your account. One very important resource at the top upper right is called “Financial Aid Resources.” If you click on this tab, you’ll find a huge amount of information and directions regarding financial aid through the federal and state governments as well as the individual schools to which you’re applying. The section that is labeled “Apply for Financial Aid” includes a subtopic called: “Learn more about the financial aid process at the colleges on your My Colleges list.” There, you’ll see the list of schools that appear on your dashboard. If you click on the name of any of your colleges, you’ll be directed to the Financial Aid section of each school’s website, with contact information, directions, explanations, and criteria for financial opportunities. You may inquire or apply well before you learn whether you’ve been accepted to the school.
You may also apply for financial aid using the College Board’s Financial Aid Form. If you need expert advice, contact Financial Aid Coach Blaine Blontz, who recently wrote a valuable blog post about currently available scholarships.
A note of caution: Be sure that you have checked out the validity of resources that guarantee you thousands of dollars in scholarships. Don’t be taken in by scam artists! If you are asked for a fee or for private information, beware! There are enough legitimate ways to find financial aid, so do your due diligence before you apply for something that seems too good to be true.