Hey everyone! We're in the heat of summer here these days, and between the cookouts and parties, parents and new freshmen looking to the future have financial aid for college on the brain. The hard truth is that while we keep our chins up and push forward, the economy is still down. Many families have likely wondered how in the world they would pay for school. In fact, Pittsburgh news stations recently featured stories about children affected by their parents' layoffs and job losses. Struggling though they may be, many of these students have rebounded and found their way to an educational future. But how? By actively pursuing any and every opportunity for financial aid for college! Let's break down the list of what you can do to secure adequate financial aid for your college education.
- FAFSA, FAFSA, FAFSA. Before you do anything else, get this completed. It is the single most important document in the financial aid process. Supplying such information as familial income and tax records helps the government in determining how much/what kind of aid you qualify for. It can only help you to submit this--government education loans and grants play big parts in financing a college education, and your resources will drop significantly without filing it.
- Research scholarships. What do you do well? Do you have a certain talent such as writing or athletic abilities in a sport like soccer? Use these to your advantage. There are organizations which reward contest winners with scholarships in the thousands, and you can also be paid to play a team sport at the college level.
- Think about your community connections. The old adage is, "It's who you know." Maybe you volunteer for a medical organization or your parents are members of an ethnic society. There are also opportunities for aid due to medical conditions. This writer, upon thinking about college 5 years ago, applied for a scholarship through an epilepsy organization. Find out whatever you can from your personal connections--nonprofits and other companies offer grant money and scholarships to qualified applicants (often with some competition, of course). The best part of grants and scholarships is that you don't have to pay them back!
- Already chose a school? Great. Give the financial aid office a ring and ask about university-specific aid opportunities. Some schools have funds set aside for outstanding freshmen. You may even find that a generous alum had a grant or scholarship set up in their name.
- Get a J-O-B. Certainly no one wants to think about being a full-time student and working at the same time. That's one busy schedule! But consider the fact that you are giving yourself financial aid in doing this. The more you help your own cause now, the less debt you will have to pay back in a few years. No extra job is too small--tutoring you peers, student employment opportunities in various university offices and the campus bookstore are all great options, and any little bit helps. Think about part time work at a restaurant or popular store as well. Many employers will work around your academic schedule to help get your hours in.
Bottom line: Look at all of your options. Do not leave a single stone unturned and think about who you are as a whole. What you know how to do, who you know, and what you're willing to do for your own finances will guide and benefit you in your search for financial aid for college.