I know lots of top students who graduate with huge student loans and sadly, the main reason is not that they were turned down for financial aid or for scholarships while they were in college. No. The main reason is that they didn’t know where to find the money! So, let’s get a few things straight so that you don’t carry the same burden on your shoulders when you graduate.
1. Every year, you must fill out the FAFSA as soon after January 1st as possible, so the government and your school can establish how much grant money you’re eligible for.
2. Visit the Financial Aid office regularly and befriend the staff there. Explain your situation and ask for tips on scholarships you can apply to (sometimes they know about local scholarships that few people know about,) special programs they are familiar with, etc. I know many students who got most of their scholarships this way, by making their presence felt at the Financial Aid office.
3. Use a few different Search Engines and Websites to look for scholarships. For example, use www.fastweb.com and www.scholarships.com. Fill out the form with as much information about you as possible. These engines will find all sorts of scholarships available to your situation: religion, geographic location, major, labor affiliation of your parents, etc.
4. There are scholarships available after Freshman year as more corporations are interested in supporting students entering their industries and make money available for Engineering, Math, Science, Medicine, Business, Agriculture, Green Technology, etc. The secret is for you to continue searching.
5. Ask locally. Many small businesses want to support their local college and offer scholarships that are not listed on the search engines. Your librarian or Financial Aid person in your school should know. In addition, many alumni set specific funds for certain students. For instance, I know of someone with different colored-eyes who set up a fund for students with her same condition.
6. Consider applying for scholarships as an year-round sport. Schedule time to research, write your essays and put your packages together. Make sure you calendar any deadlines. When you look at the alternative, it’s time well invested!
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