This time of year marks the end of most academic years across the nation. Graduations are among us and thoughts of higher learning are at an all time high. What’s the first thing that comes to mind after knowing that college is next on the horizon? How can I pay for it? How can I get a degree for free? How many grants and scholarships are out there? These are all common questions but it’s rare that people really know the answer to them. This article will discuss the misconception of Financial Aid applications, scholarships and give tips on how to make your individual search and process easier.
FAFSA is a term that everyone hears about as soon as they reach high school. School officials from the Principal on down have been trained to prepare students for their future which usually includes college. FAFSA stands for the Free Application for Federal Student Aid and can be completed on its dedicated website at www.fafsa.ed.gov. What’s often mistaken is that FAFSA is an organization that hands out money for students to use for higher ed. It is not an entity in itself; it is simply an application to see if a prospective student is eligible to receive Title IV Funding (from the federal government). Once submitted, the information is sent to whichever school the student has listed on his or her application. Schools that are eligible to receive this funding have additional steps and forms they need completed to assist you in what is available via their options. Although schools have to follow the same federal regulations, there will be additional information needed for policies that they have implemented specifically for their institution and for the students who attend there. If the student has several schools listed on their application, it is imperative that each school is contacted to see what the next step is in their awarding process.
Scholarships bring in another dimension of confusion because the word is tossed around frequently and in many different arenas. There are many different types of Scholarships and there is no master application for this free aid. When searching for scholarships one can always start with https://www.fastweb.com/ . This is the official site that has been approved through the Department of Education. Another resource for scholarships is at most local libraries. The Ultimate Scholarship Book 2018 (or whichever the most current year is) has been a verifiable help to many in their search for free assistance. If you want a more convenient version it can also be purchased online or at any bookstore. There are billions of dollars in scholarship aid in this book, but it is often overlooked because it is not an instant application. Private organizations such as churches, fraternal organizations and big corporations often sponsor scholarships for local students in their communities or to members and their children. Make sure to check with any organization or company you have any ties to. Check the local bulletin boards in Wal-Mart or other grocery stores and their respective websites.
Finally, do not get discouraged or confused by all of the financial aid information available. Take your time to read the applications/forms and fill the information out truthfully and efficiently. Once you have your school search narrowed down to three or four schools begin to acquire information from those individual schools, too. Contact their Financial Aid Office and see if they have information to send to you explaining their processes and procedures. Stay calm throughout the search and completion processes. Remember that you are not alone and that there are others just like you wondering how to get the most help to achieve their educational goals. Reach out to Financial Aid professionals that may be in your community as well. There are plenty of organizations and people who volunteer their time to explain anything that you do not understand. Like Matthew 7:7 says “Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you.”