If you are a student, applying to colleges or thinking about graduate school, then you are already aware that every dollar of scholarship money you can find is worth the time and energy it takes to apply for. Student loans are becoming bigger debts for college graduates these days than credit cards. And, let's face it, paying back money you could have gotten for free doesn't make any sense.
Finding scholarships isn't easy, and that makes organizing your search crucial. Here are some tips for getting the most money from your scholarship search:
- Build your social network – You should search all of the available databases as a first step, but don't forget to let your social network know about your scholarship search. High school counselors, employers, parents and grandparents can be vital to your search. You should talk to the financial aid offices at the college you are applying to and ask them for help in your search. They can point you to scholarships that are specific to your field of study, your background and even your life situation. You may even find that it is helpful to talk to guidance counselors at your high school even if you already have graduated. Find out if your parents employer offers scholarships. There are many companies that offer scholarships for employees or the children of employees. Also, if you are already working in your industry, you may find that your employer has some sort of tuition assistance program. It is important to read the fine print on this type of assistance, because many of them require you to keep a certain grade point average, and may require you to stay employed with the company for a certain amount of time after having received the assistance or else you may have to pay the money back.
- Fill out a FAFSA – For any sort of need based scholarship or grant, you are going to have to fill out one of these financial aid assessment forms. In fact, no matter what your situation is, it is a good idea to fill it out anyway. You may not think that you qualify for any sort of assistance, but you could be wrong. Even if you don't meet the guidelines for federal grants, there are many other types of assistance and scholarships that you may qualify for. Also different colleges have different ideas on what constitutes need. For example, universities like Stanford provide free tuition for students whose parents earn less than $60,000 a year.
- Keep copies of your forms and keep them organized – Every scholarship has different filling deadlines, and it is important to keep good records about which ones you applied for and which ones come with specific stipulations. This way, you will know what requirements each award has.
Financing college can be a struggle, but finding the right blend of scholarships, grants and student loans can help you plan a way to reach your education goals without leaving you with more debt than you can repay.
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By Melissa Kennedy- Melissa is a 9 year blog veteran and a freelance writer, along with helping others find the job of their dreams, she enjoys computer geekery, raising a teenager, supporting her local library, writing about herself in the third person and working on her next novel.