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Free College Scholarship Help For Students: “A 15-Step Success System To Get A College Scholarship Faster And Easier Than You Thought Possible”

Paying for college is a terrifying prospect for many families and students. Few families have enough savings and many families have experienced financial hardship or job loss. Scholarships can help you to pay the high cost of higher education without incurring student loan debt or draining your bank account. College scholarships are often competitive, so smart strategies can help you get the funding you need for college, from a wide variety of sources.

A large percentage of college students finish their degrees burdened by horrific debt. According to the Project on Student Debt, two-thirds of students complete an undergraduate degree with student loan debt. The average amount is $26,000. Substantial student debt reduces opportunities and leads many students to postpone marriage and family or struggling to simply pay their bills. In a poor economy, many graduates cannot find jobs that allow them to pay their loans and support themselves. Scholarships can reduce the financial burden of college, providing the help that can allow young people to complete an education without creating long-term debt.

Get Ready To Apply For College Scholarships

  1. Start Early

    Many college scholarships are based on overall grade point average and attendance, factored over all four years. Focused academic performance and regular attendance in the first two years are essential for these overall or cumulative records. Some state programs, like Missouri’s A+ scholarship program, require at least 95 percent attendance. Many others consider the student’s cumulative GPA as a basic qualifier for scholarships. This is particularly true of valuable state scholarships, some of which may cover much or all of the tuition for a community college or state university.

    • Students and parents should talk early and often about college plans, expectations and costs.
    • Make sure that students know how the cumulative GPA is calculated and recognize the importance of good grades. Struggling students should seek out tutoring and other help before grades fall.

    Sit down now and review grades and attendance. Make a plan to improve both of these scores if need be and time allows.

  2. Assess Your Strengths And Make Connections

    Understanding your or your student’s strengths and possible family connections will help you make smart choices when selecting scholarships and finding the most likely options for your situation. Not every student will have top-notch test scores, athletic skills or the best grades, but there are scholarship opportunities far beyond these basics.

    Include the following on your list of possible connections and scholarship options.

    • Skills and interest
    • Family background and heritage
    • Personal challenges or struggles
    • Academics
    • Athletic ability
    • Community service
    • Family connections, including organizations, churches or employers

    Understanding your skills and strengths will to guide the search for scholarships. Scholarships granted on the basis of artistic talent, community service or personal qualities may have lower GPA requirement or different eligibility criteria, making them an option for students who do not qualify for traditional academic scholarships. For instance, the Krylon Corporation, known for their spray paint, offers scholarships worth $1000 to talented young artists.

    Make a list of all interests, skills, family background and other attributes. Start your list with the most obvious traits, for instance, a strong interest in theater or music and move to less likely possibilities, such as membership in a local credit union. This list can guide your college scholarship search online.

  3. Take Advantage of Free Scholarship Help for Students At Your School

    Today, many parents and students do much of their scholarship searching online; however, you can miss out on possible scholarships. One of the best resources available for your scholarship search is the high school guidance counselor.

    Guidance counselors have files of scholarships, both large and small. They may be an especially good resource for state-based scholarship programs, like the Tennessee Hope Scholarship, which provides $6000 per year to eligible students in the state, and smaller community programs, as well as other free scholarship help for students. Some smaller scholarship programs may not be listed online and may only have a paper application, available from school guidance counselors.

    Attend any college scholarship or free financial aid sessions offered by school counselors. If your school counselors do not offer informational sessions for parents and students, make an appointment with the guidance office to talk about possible scholarships and options. You will be better prepared for your scholarship search with an ally in the guidance office.

  4. Take The Test

    The SAT or ACT are required for college admission, but are also required for many college scholarships, according to the College Board. A high score on either of these admission tests may provide new and valuable scholarship opportunities. A number of states and colleges offer scholarships specifically for high-scoring ACT And SAT scores.

    Students should not only plan to take the SAT or ACT, sometimes more than once, but should also take the time to prepare for the test. Familiarity with the tests improves scores and will help increase the chances of a test-based scholarship.

    Take an SAT or ACT practice test to assess your score. Plan your test preparation based on this baseline score before you take the test. Knowing your own weaknesses will help you improve your test score.

  5. Fill Out The FAFSA

    The FAFSA or Federal Application for Financial Student Aid is a critical step in funding college and applying for scholarships. Many scholarships, including state and school scholarships, require a completed FAFSA.

    Having your FAFSA completed and submitted early will help increase your chances of state-funded or school-specific scholarships. The online FAFSA deadline is June 30 for fall aid; however, you can submit your FAFSA as early as January of each year, according to the Federal Department of Student Aid.

    Gather appropriate paperwork, including parents’ most recent tax forms and income information to fill out the FAFSA. Fill out the online FAFSA and submit, including the codes for each of your potential colleges as early as possible. Your financial aid information will be sent to each of the colleges you include.

  6. Choose Your College

    Even if you don’t have a college acceptance letter in hand, you can explore school-specific scholarship opportunities. Many schools offer substantial aid, particularly if you’re planning on attending a private university.

    The National Association of Student Financial Aid Administrators states that the “financial aid office on campus should be your first stop when you are considering how to pay for a college education”. Your university financial aid office has the information on school-specific scholarships and can help you find scholarships and fund a college education, providing another source of free scholarship help for students. In many cases, private colleges offer more substantial scholarship packages than public universities.

    During college visits, make time to talk with the financial aid office. They can provide you with information about school-specific scholarships and typical aid packages and costs.

  7. Pick a Major

    Many individual departments or majors, along with professional organizations and other groups, also offer scholarships for students entering specific professions and fields of study. Some of these are federal or state-supported, providing a substantial and reliable source of aid.

    While relatively small scholarships are available in many university departments or fields, larger ones are primarily in particularly essential fields, like education, health care, or STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics).

    Talk to your university department and explore professional and not-for-profit options for subject-specific scholarships. While some of these can be quite valuable, students should keep in mind that some may be contingent upon graduation or working in the field and can require repayment if the terms are not kept.
  8. Get Started With Your Applications

  9. Get Organized

    Applying for scholarships requires you organize applications, dates, follow up, interviews and recommendations. Staying organized will help you meet deadlines and get applications in, allowing you access to essential aid for college. Deadlines and due dates are critical. Missed deadlines mean missed opportunities. Smart organization also allows you to make certain that you have met all requirements for the application and submitted everything required for eligibility.

    While you can opt for old-fashioned pen and paper, a database is a smarter solution for managing scholarship deadlines, applications and information. Enter each scholarship, the application URL, due dates and requirements into a database. Use the database to track your applications, completion of all requirements and any feedback received or additional dates for interviews or requests for information.

  10. Prepare The Applications

    While some scholarships are determined solely on the basis of test scores or GPA, most require more than simply meeting merit-based qualifications. There are many students applying for each scholarship and your answers to the scholarship questions distinguish you from the other applicants.

    Many applications contain the same questions, regarding your interests, personal qualities, skills or community service. It is acceptable and helpful to use the same answers to these basic questions for many different scholarship applications. Write your answers and edit them carefully. Ask a teacher or skilled writer to review your answers. Since many applications are online, it is helpful to have these typed and ready to include. Do be conscientious that your answer applies to the question, creating a specific answer if appropriate or adjusting your prepared response. Getting ahead of the curve by preparing your answers will make it faster and easier to apply for college scholarships.

  11. Master the College Scholarship Essay

    Essays are a common requirement. A well-written, meaningful and compelling essay can secure the scholarship funds you need. Poorly written essays are likely to send your application to the bottom of the pile, as are form essays not well-matched to the application or scholarship.

    Winning essays require more than just good grammar and correct spelling. Your essay needs to communicate information about yourself, your goals and your aspirations to show the judging committee why you are the best possible candidate for the money.
    Review due dates and essay requirements in your database. Outline the essay, including all major points and providing personal and relevant context for your essay and answers. Find an excellent writer in your life and ask him or her to read your essays prior to submitting your scholarship applications.

  12. Secure Letters Of Recommendation

    Letters of recommendation or references are required for most applications. These references should speak to your work ethic, skills, and positive personal qualities.
    While your application and essay provide information about you, the letters of recommendation confirm your character. The scholarship judges can see that your teachers, members of your community and others have seen these personal qualities in you and believe that you are a worthwhile candidate.

    Ask people who know you for letters of recommendation. Choose favorite teachers, volunteer supervisors, or employers. These personal letters are much more effective than any official form letter. Be polite when you ask for a letter of recommendation and send a thank you note after the letter is written.

  13. Ace The Interview

    Scholarship interviews are a lot like job interviews. While you will be nervous, you need to put your best foot and best face forward to the judges or review board. If you make it to the interview process, you’re on the short list for the scholarship and are one of several possible contenders. Making a good impression in the interview can help to secure the scholarship you need.

    Prepare for your interview by dressing in modest, conservative and professional clothing. Think about likely questions and answers and review your application, including the essay prior to the interview. Try to relax and remember that the interviewer or review board clearly thought well of you for you to reach this point in the application process.
  14. Go To College

  15. Putting Together An Aid Package

    College expenses include more than just tuition. You will also have costs for room and board, books and fees. Some scholarships apply only to tuition, while others can be used for a variety of incidental expenses, including living expenses or dormitory costs. You may also find that you can combine both scholarships and grants, like the federal Pell Grant, to cover more of your educational expenses.

    The college financial aid office, once you’re accepted and planning your admission, can help you determine how to pay for living expenses, including dormitory costs and meal plans, as well as which types of aid can be used for these costs. When you’re applying to scholarships, look for options that can be used to cover living expenses or incidentals, especially if you have already qualified for tuition scholarships.

  16. Renewing and Maintaining Your Scholarships

    While some scholarships are a one-time award, many can be renewed for multiple years of study, typically two to four. Maintaining your funding for your second year of college and beyond is just as important as securing those scholarships for your freshman year.

    Check the renewal requirements for each scholarship you receive. You may want to track these in a calendar or database as well. Note any application or paperwork requirements, as well as any GPA requirements.Subject-specific scholarships typically disallow any change of major, while athletic scholarships require you continue your participation in the sport at the college level. It’s much easier to keep your current scholarships than have to begin the process all over again.

  17. Securing Scholarships for Non-Traditional Students

    Non-traditional students, or adults returning to college, are eligible for many scholarships, some specific to non-traditional or adult students. While you do not have access to a high school guidance counselor, most community colleges, private and public universities have a non-traditional student office dedicated to helping students returning to college as adults. These offices can help you navigate potential scholarships and financial aid.

    Adults returning to college often have to pay for college while supporting a family and typically do not have parental support of any sort. While many adults do not apply for scholarships, as for traditional students, scholarships can help to fund your education while avoiding debt and financial struggle.

    Talk to the support office for non-traditional students at your college. They can help you access possible scholarships. Review applications for more traditional scholarships to see if you qualify and apply, just like any other student. Your additional life experience can be a benefit.Your employer and other social connections may provide you with unexpected opportunities.
Make Free Scholarship Help for Students Work For You
Sit down today and make a list of your own skills and strengths that might make you an appealing and eligible candidate for scholarship money. Start your scholarship search by looking at eligibility requirements and downloading applications that match your qualifications. Get prepared, get organized and get moving with your scholarship search. This first step will set you on the way to funding your college education, keeping dollars in your pocket and taking advantage of every resource available to you.

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References:
  1. “3 Steps to Getting Financial Aid”. Big Future by the College Board. https://bigfuture.collegeboard.org/pay-for-college/financial-aid/3-steps-to-getting-financial-aid (accessed on August 25, 2013).
  2. “A+ Scholarship Program.” Missouri Department of Higher Education. http://dhe.mo.gov/ppc/grants/aplusscholarship.php (accessed on August 23, 2013).
  3. “Finding and Applying for Scholarships.” Federal Department of Student Aid. http://studentaid.ed.gov/types/grants-scholarships/finding-scholarships (accessed on August 23, 2013).
  4. “Krylon Clear Choice Art Scholarship Winners.” Krylon Clear Choice. http://www.krylon.com/community/krylon-clear-choice-art-scholarship/ (accessed on August 25, 2013).
  5. “State by State Data”. The Project on Student Debt. http://projectonstudentdebt.org/state_by_state-data.php (accessed on August 23, 2013).
  6. “Tennessee Hope Scholarship.” Tennessee Student Assistance Corporation. http://www.tn.gov/collegepays/mon_college/lottery_scholars.htm (accessed on August 25, 2013).
  7. “What Do Financial Aid Administrators Do?”. National Association of Student Financial Aid Administrators. http://www.nasfaa.org/students/What_Do_Financial_Aid_Administrators_Do_.aspx (accessed on August 25, 2013).