Parents. There are ways your student can go to college for free. Even to the best colleges in the country. Westinghouse scholars, Olympic champions, and tween founders of multi-million dollar companies all qualify.
But, there’s hope for the rest of us! It’s all about maximizing your financial aid and minimizing your costs.
Top ways the expert college counselors at International College Counselors recommend to make college more affordable include:
1. Government Loans
As International College Counselors wrote about in our last blog, the US government loans money to every student who needs it. To receive FAFSA aid, a student (or parent) needs to fill out and file the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (http://www.fafsa.gov). This federal application for financial aid is also used to apply for aid from other sources, such as your state or school.
For our clients with the United States from San Francisco to Miami, our expert college counselors recommend that ALL students fill the FAFSA out regardless of their house-hold income, if they even have the remotest need.
Grants are better than loans because students don’t have to pay the money back. (Free money!) But they’re not available to everyone.
Pell Grants are federal grants awarded strictly on the student’s financial need. Other federal grant programs include the Federal Supplemental Educational Opportunity Grant (also based on financials), and grant programs for students with good grades in competitive high-school programs or specific fields of study, such as math, nursing or teaching. States and colleges also have their own pools of grant money. Like loans, grants are awarded based on the FAFSA results.
3. General and School Scholarships
For students who are seniors, juniors, sophomores and freshmen, whether in public school, private school, or home schooled (meaning everyone in high school) scholarships are available. They’re highly desirable because recipients do not have to pay them back and a good number of scholarships are not based on financial need.
Thousands of scholarships are available. Sources of scholarships can be national organizations, employers, corporations, professional associations, local clubs, contests, and the schools themselves. The trick is finding the ones that best match the student. If you’re not a Native American there’s no point in going for the scholarship. You’d be better off knitting a clever outfit out of wool, measuring less than 4’ 10” in height, having the last name Zolp. All are scholarship worthy. Here are the details on those scholarships and other unusual scholarships.
There aren’t many of these scholarships with unusual eligibility requirements, but it doesn’t hurt to see what may be out there. Some scholarships are based on financial needs. Others are awarded to students with special abilities qualified as academic, artistic, or athletic achievement. Still more are reserved for people who have certain religious affiliation, ethnicity, memberships, hobbies, or special interests.
School-specific scholarships, where a student can usually receive the largest amount of scholarship aid, are typically given to top athletes, top test score recipients, and other outstanding students. In order to apply for these scholarships, you need to contact each school individually. A rule of thumb is that if you are in the top 25% of the admitted class, there could be some scholarship money waiting for you. So, a student who can get into MIT with no scholarship money may receive a full ride at Georgia Tech (still a great school!), and a student who can get into Penn could get a full ride at Drexel (a terrific option!).
HOW TO FIND SCHOLARSHIPS & APPLY FOR THEM
Students don’t have to look farther than their computer to find scholarships to apply to. Several free scholarship databases are available online, offering millions of different scholarships worth billions of dollars. For International College Counselors students, please be sure to look to Naviance for scholarship options. With thousands of scholarships to choose from, any student can find a scholarship to which to apply.
For non ICC students, and for ICC students who would like an additional resource, ICC recommends the scholarship database FastWeb.com. It’s large, most often accurate and frequently updated. Students should also look to their high school’s website for LOCAL scholarship opportunities. Clearly, a scholarship for students at your school, or your community will be easier to get than one that draws a national applicant pool.
Please remember during your search, if you are considering a legitimate scholarship site or scholarship you will not be asked for any money to apply or receive details.
Florida students should not forget to apply to the Florida Bright Futures Scholarship Program. The Florida Bright Futures Scholarship Program provides scholarships based on high school academic achievement, and could cover up to 100% of a public college’s tuition.
Scholarships pay off in more ways than just Free Money. College advisors can say with certainty that they also look impressive on your college applications.
Getting out of college with little or no debt is hard, but not impossible, and with initiative, you and your student don’t have to rob a bank to do it.
Next week, I’ll write about How to Apply for Scholarships.
If you need help, contact a private college counselor at International College Counselors to help you with college admissions and finances.