3 Ways To Get The Money You NEED for College

Finding the money to attend college is a concern that most high school students have. Even if you have all of the money to pay for college out of pocket, everyone could still use a little extra help to pay for those additional college expenses.

Here are some tips that you can use to get the financial aid you need for college.

#1 – Don’t wait until the last minute to fill out your FAFSA Form.

In recent school years, the Federal Government has committed approximately $170 billion dollars in financial aid for students to go to college. Most of this money will be disbursed in the form of government awards and scholarships. In order to be eligible to receive this money, high school students must fill out the FAFSA form.

The FAFSA or Free Application for Federal Student Aid is the financial aid application that allows students to apply for federal and state student grants, work-study, and loans. These forms are available online at fafsa.gov. High school seniors should fill out their FAFSA forms early in order to get the most financial aid. The earliest these forms can be filled out is January 1st.

If you are having trouble filling out your FAFSA form, watch these videos.

#2 – Seek FREE Money First, then Debt.

If you start searching for financial aid early, then you will have more time to seek out FREE money in the form of scholarships. As I talked about in my post: Find Scholarships Using Fastweb, there are tons of charitable organizations and private parties out there who are ready to award scholarships to college-bound high school students…the challenge is taking the time to sort through all of these opportunities to identify the ones that you are eligible for.

Since there are so many scholarships out there, I recommend that students begin searching for scholarships as early as their sophomore year. Most scholarships are recurring (meaning the same scholarships are awarded each year), so if you start making a list of scholarships that you want to apply to during your sophomore year, it will be much easier for you to meet deadlines, complete any scholarship essays, and make sure that all of your paperwork is done perfectly.

To help you out with this process, try to follow this scholarship calendar during your senior year of high school. You should spend about 10-12 hours a week on scholarship applications.

February 15th – Start figuring out who you will ask for letters of recommendation.  Notify these individuals so that they know that you plan to apply to multiple scholarships and may need their assistance on more than one of them.  If you’ve built a good relationship with them, then this should be no problem and they will appreciate the advanced notice.

March 1st – Search for scholarships and mark the deadlines on your scholarship calendar

March 15th – Complete 3 scholarships by this date (1-3)

April 1st – Complete 3 scholarships by this date (4-6)

April 15th – Complete 3 scholarships by this date (7-9)

May 1st – Complete 3 scholarships by this date (10-12)

May 15th – Follow-up on scholarship applications submitted

June 1st – Send out thank you letters for scholarships that you received

June 15th – Contact the financial aid department at your college so that they know to expect scholarship funds on your behalf

Once you’ve tried your best to get as many scholarships as possible, then you can consider taking out federal or private student loans. You should also consider college work study programs, but you’ll typically have to wait until closer to the school year to find job opportunities.

#3 – Ask for help.

The financial aid road can be tricky to navigate, but always remember that you are not alone. There are tons of resources out there to help you with this process. If you are having a hard time finding scholarships or filling out your FAFSA form, make an appointment with your high school counselor. I’m certain that he or she would be more than willing to help you.

Also, don’t be afraid to reach out to the financial aid department at the colleges or universities you’ve applied to. They will likely have a lot of financial aid and scholarship resources for you to learn about and take advantage of.

Finding the money you need to afford college is not difficult, it’s just time consuming. The key to success is starting early. If you use the strategies outlined in this post, just about any student can be successful.

Good luck!

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Lauren Anderson is a certified school counselor who's passionate about helping students all over the world successfully transition from high school to college! After spending 6 years as a business professional, she obtained her Master’s degree in School Counseling and now spends her spare time helping students.

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