The days of summer often alternate between lazing around in the sun and frenetic celebrations. For rising high school seniors the days can also be packed with college decisions, especially this year. For the first time the FAFSA (Free Application for Federal Student Aid) will be online beginning October 1. This is crucial information to know if you will be attending college during the 2017-18 academic year. It could change the very timeframe you put together for applying to college and seeking financial aid.
In spite of all this, it is still highly recommended that you take time to search for college scholarships as well. Scholarships are perhaps one of the best forms of financial aid. They have wider qualifying criteria, usually don’t rely on income factors, and don’t have to be repaid if you meet the academic requirements. Most students look at this as “free” money, because it can really help meet the financial requirements or even provide a little spending money. That’s why it is worth the effort to search for scholarships, even during the summer when there are a lot of other options available to you. Here are a few tips that might help:
• Go local: Always check with your high school’s guidance office and town library first, but be aware that many community groups also have scholarships available for local high school seniors. Watch the local newspaper, check with community organizations such as the Kiwanis or Lions Club, and inquire at banks and other hometown businesses. Ask everyone in your family’s circle of friends or on social media to let you know if they hear of anything that might be good for you.
• Be creative in your search: Scholarships aren’t just available for academic prowess. There are many other factors which might make you eligible. Think about your hobbies, medical condition, ethnic heritage, future career and start searching for scholarships that might apply. There are scholarships available for everything from being an Eagle Scout or creating a resume for a fictional or nonfictional character, to crafting a prom dress out of Duck Tape®.
• Be careful: You should not have to pay money to obtain help in finding scholarships. There are plenty of free services available from reputable sources such as Scholarships.com, Discover Student Loans, and the College Board.
Seeking scholarships is not just for high school students; there are many scholarships that want the applicant to be actively enrolled in college. Whatever your current level of education, be sure to set aside some summer time to work on these tasks.
Learn more tips for finding scholarships in my new book, Secrets of a Financial Aid Pro. It takes you through the various types of college financial aid and student loans, explains how to search for college scholarships, and answers questions about how to talk to students of any age about money. Order it now, no matter how old your child is, and get the money discussion started with your student.