"Of course!.. I should go to college!!.. Why didn’t I think of that?.. The problem is I don’t have any money, my folks are strapped and I don’t know if I will ever earn enough to pay back all those student loans after I graduate. How can I get some money for school that I won’t have to repay?"
Many potential students might rule out the possibility of attending college altogether because they are not aware of how much or what type of financial aid might be available to them. It’s not like there aren’t a zillion people in the financial aid and college admissions field working diligently every day to help students get into college, but there are so many students and so much information to digest and pass along. It seems the only sure-fire way to ensure each student is tapping every available resource is to get them involved and convince them that whether they attend college or not is really up to them. Help is out there, if they are willing to search for it. If we can do that, we are educating prospective college students about the actual education process and what (including but not limited to money) they are going to need in order to get the college education they desire.
It’s not too late for high school seniors, or even college freshmen, who have yet to volunteer their time to better their community or achieve a 3.5 cumulative GPA or higher, but for high school freshmen and sophomores, now is the perfect time to start building a great resume for future scholarship applications. They can help others, join clubs and get good grades to increase their chances of receiving a scholarship. Some may feel they can’t go to school because their family just doesn’t make enough money, but this is one of a huge set of criteria that just may give a scholarship provider more reason to help you. Many scholarships require proof of financial need and still others factor it in, even if it is not a required criterion. What I think should be impressed upon those looking for scholarships is this:
Find scholarships for which you stand a decent chance of getting, no matter what combination of criteria makes you a candidate or by whom it is offered.
Often people want to know about a particular scholarship or scholarships and I think that is looking at the process sort of backwards. Why pursue a particular scholarship rather than find out which of all the scholarships out there might be available to you? After all, does it matter who gives you the scholarship, just so long as they give it to you? This is why we have scholarship searches that can take your personal skills, interests and myriad other criteria into account and deliver a customized experience that will yield results specific to each student. Of course, if there is a particular scholarship for which one qualifies and it fails to appear in your search results, I would certainly encourage that student to contact us or the scholarship provider about it.
First, students should go to www.scholarships.com and conduct a free college scholarship search. They should browse the site, too, for all manner of financial aid information, including student loans, grants, the FAFSA and many other resources and helpful tips. Scholarships.com also offers a college search, which can help students determine which college or university best suits them. There are many other sites on the internet that claim to offer similar information and services and a scant few of them may actually provide them. Unfortunately for the student, though, most of these sites are just tantalizing folks desperate for the means to get an education with an underdeveloped search tool and/or under-managed and outdated information. There are websites out there that actually require students agree to several commercial offers before even allowing them to see what they are offering for a "service". To me, this underscores the importance of sending students to known, reputable scholarship search sites such as Scholarships.com, a NSPA member that has been awarded the NACAC seal of approval. Educators should link to reputable sites such as this to point students in the right direction and protect them from the aforementioned sites just out looking to exploit those who are trying to fund their education. For information on linking to scholarships.com, you can visit www.scholarships.com/link.
In summary, it’s up to each student to locate and apply for as many scholarships as possible to ensure they can pay for college, ideally without even having to take out a loan, but always borrowing as little as possible and doing both in an informed way. First, students should find all the free money they can and weigh their options. If the student can’t get enough to go to a $35K a year private school, they should consider a state school. If they don’t get all they need, money-wise, to get them through college, they need to find out what their loan options are and factor the net amount they will need to borrow into their decision about what type of school they will attend and what price range they are comfortable with. College is an investment in the future and each student should make sure they know the return the school they’ve chosen will provide. It’s not just about getting scholarships, but spending that money wisely once you’ve got it.
The over-arching theme, I believe, is that information is always extremely valuable. It is important that every student knows that education is often crucial to getting into the career they desire and that information about education or a lack thereof could be the difference between whether a student does or does not attend college. Having something available to you does you no good if it is something of which you are completely unaware.
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