Paying for College Part II: 5 Scholarship Tips

Paying for College Part II: 5 Scholarship Tips

Last week, I shared some helpful hints about the FAFSA and the financial aid process in general. Now it’s time to address the part of paying for college that so many students and parents really wonder about…SCHOLARSHIPS.

Let’s talk about the money you don’t have to pay back.

Let’s talk about your chance to be recognized for your hard work.

By now, high school seniors know that each college or university has a different application process with different deadlines. Likewise, each school has a different scholarship process with new deadlines. Seniors should take some time now and think about which schools are beginning to round out some of the “top choices” on their list. Look at the schools where you know your admission status. If you are admitted, you want to be sure you are doing all you can to put yourself in the best position for any scholarship consideration.

Here are some scholarship tips:

Tip #1: Each year, we hear and see the figures about scholarship money that is available but goes unclaimed. This is true. You must first know “it” (scholarship money) exists but you must also be proactive about seeking out opportunities that fit your qualifications.

Please note that my opinion varies from those who tell you to apply for everything. I don’t know that frequency necessarily always helps to reach the goal. I suggest doing your research and aiming to complete applications for scholarships that are really applicable to you as an individual. For example, if your dad’s company has a scholarship supporting students who will pursue an engineering degree at College XYZ and you only want to study English at College ABC, I don’t recommend it. Certainly your father can inquire further about these parameters, but it is not likely to change.

Tip #2: Many colleges and universities, Loyola included, award merit scholarships at the time of admission or shortly thereafter. Merit scholarships are based on your academic achievement i.e.: some combination of your standardized test scores, GPA, and/or class rank. At Loyola, the awards range from $9,000 to $17,000 annually and are renewable each year based on maintaining a certain GPA.

People often ask, “What if I didn’t receive a scholarship?” If you didn’t receive a scholarship, you likely do not qualify for merit-based funds at that particular school (or the school doesn’t offer academic scholarships). Remember, each school has different admission criteria and they also have different merit criteria. And, don’t forget you can always look at other options for earning scholarship dollars.

Hint: Make sure that the schools you applied to have your most up-to-date academic transcript on file as well as any new test score information for consideration.

Tip #3: When you begin gathering your acceptance letters and scholarship offers, take a moment and be proud of your achievements. These letters acknowledge your hard work in the form of admission to a particular college or university and in some cases, in the form of a scholarship.

Students and parents often forget that not every student who applied was granted admission to a particular school and certainly not every student admitted was granted a scholarship.

Tip #4: You were admitted. You were awarded scholarships. You are now comparing the offers. STOP, or at least, PAUSE.

Before you do this, take a few minutes and think back to when you started the college selection process. What was important to you? What was non-negotiable?

Keep these things in mind as you begin to compare scholarship awards and likewise, the colleges or universities you are considering. In other words, the bottom line, while very important, needs to be looked at relative to the right choice for you. The goal is not to get in the door the first semester, but rather to do well and graduate in four years while having an experience that prepares you for your “next step.”

Besides, you likely don’t have all of the financial information yet anyway. Until you file the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA), you won’t know if you qualified for any additional funds (some may include additional grants or scholarships). Be sure to compare your complete aid package within the context of the total cost of attendance as well.

But, for now, you are back to comparing scholarship offers. Students often ask about the chance of increasing a scholarship. Please realize that schools put their best offer on the table up-front. An award is given in recognition according to that school’s academic standards, not as a step toward negotiation. Also note, it is a challenge for any college or university to work with limited funding (state, federal, and institutional) to support all the students looking to enroll for a particular term.

Tip #5: There are opportunities to earn scholarships throughout your undergraduate career. You may or may not have been awarded a scholarship at the school where you plan on attending, but it doesn’t mean that it can’t change in the future. Many colleges and universities work to save funds that can assist continuing students who might have additional need and/or have excelled within their academic program. There are also outside scholarships available only to students in their sophomore or junior years for example.

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