Ask any bride how stressful and time consuming it was for her and her family to plan her wedding, and I guarantee it didn’t even touch in comparison to how stressful college planning is for families. Some spend 18 years doing so! There are so many avenues to be considered, for others it is often aversive to even start. From SAT/ACT Testing and retesting, touring colleges around the state or possibly the country, declaring a major, tuition, scholarships and housing, there is so much to consider. Then, once all that is decided, what will your child eat while away? Will they grocery shop and cook on their own? Or will you finance a meal plan? Those are the basics, then you have orientation, open house, parents weekend, school supplies, and textbooks. The list of things to do and their accompanying expenses are incredibly long. Some extremely proficient and well-organized parents will begin saving for college as soon as their child is born, while others may procrastinate until senior year to even begin thinking about it. If you fall into the latter, don’t worry about it, it’s still going to be ok. There are a few tips the experts have given us to help you make college planning a bit easier, and get the most of what you can with free scholarships.
If you can, pre-plan your college education, for some that could mean the beginning of the senior year instead of the end, and that’s ok! There is never a “too early” when it comes to scholarships. Yes, it is true that there are some scholarships open to kindergarteners, but options multiply to seniors in high school. Just shift your search to early senior year if you can. Waiting until the spring will bring you the unfortunate results of missing many scholarship deadlines.
Even after graduation, and admission into the college of your choice, keep searching for awards. There are plenty open to college undergraduates.
Be Cautious With What You Accept
Check on your college’s displacement policy on outside sources of scholarships. When you are receiving need-based aid, and you become the recipient of a private scholarship, guess what? Your need just decreased….and some colleges may offset grants and loan aid.
FAFSA is Your New Best Friend
FAFSA is one of the most important avenues for financial aid in college, if not the most important. Complete this form even if you don’t think you will qualify. It is a requirement for all federal student loans, state aid, and many college merit programs.
Make the Most of All Scholarship Search Sites
It becomes very confusing as there is a multitude of scholarship sites and applications that get recommended for your immediate attention. But it’s worth it to fill out any site you come across and set up alerts and reminders whenever possible.
By Golly, Follow Directions and be Thorough!
With the competition amongst award winners so tight, please, follow all directions. Missing deadlines, submitting incomplete applications, under or overwriting essays, all leave the door wide open for disqualification.
For Once, and Only Once, Think Small
When it comes to scholarships, people tend to overlook the small prizes. However, the small awards add up! Even a $200 award can help cover books for a semester or a couple of weeks of food.
Your high school should have the resources to help you find all kinds of awards. They would probably be incredibly happy to have a student inquire about that! Use your local resources and check if any of the local groups your family is involved in has funding for scholarships to aid in tuition payment.
Don’t Get Scammed
The rule of thumb is, if you have to pay money to get money, it is probably a scam. Most legitimate scholarships DO NOT include an application fee. Your total expense for applying should consist whatever the running rate of a stamp may be.
You can rock your scholarships without all the hassles and worry if you are organized and ready to take on college for what it is, a step towards your new life that awaits you. Don’t view college planning as a dreadful task, view tuition as a lifestyle change that can help mold you into the person you’d like to be with a career that can make you successful in more ways than just a substantial income.